Holding center stage inside the visitors center are the bones of Max, the largest and most complete adult mastodon to be uncovered in the western United States. Max was unearthed in 1993, as the first stage of construction was under way. Christened "Max" due to his large size, the mastodon is believed to have stood more than 12 feet high at the shoulders. Radiometric dating placed Max and other paleontological finds from the site from the latter part of the Pleistocene Epoch (the Ice Age), from 11,000 years to 60,000 years old, possibly even older.
So many mastodons were found that the area is known as the valley of the mastodons. But the area was home to people, too. As you take your eyes away from Max, you will soon notice pictures of the European settlers. Below are displays of artifacts from the Native American people who earlier settled the area.
If youre curious about the nuts and bolts of building three dams the size of those at Diamond Valley Lake, watch a video of the process or peruse photos of some of the astoundingly large equipment used on the project. There are also samples of the different kinds of rock that were used. One wall holds a 43-foot-long picture of the cross section of a dam, and explains how all the elements work together to hold in 810,000 acre-feet of water.
Outside the center, native and drought-tolerant plants are scattered throughout the site, reminding people that, while the lake goes a long way to ensuring sufficient water for Southern California, water remains valuable. Visitors are encouraged to climb into a 12-foot section of pipeline, to get a clearer picture of how much water moves in and out of the lake, and a 10-foot diameter tire, taken from the smallest dump truck used on the project.
The Visitor Center, 2325 Searl Parkway, Hemet, CA 92543. Open to the Public Saturdays and Sundays, from 10 am to 4pm (closed Monday through Friday). No charge for admission. (951)765-2612.
***The Visitor Center will be closed Dec. 24, 25, 31 and Jan. 1. The viewpoint will be closed for maintenance Dec. 18-22, 24-25, 31 and Jan. 1.