"The Search for the Giant Sloth"  LbNA # 20549 (ARCHIVED)

Placed DateFeb 24 2006
LocationIowa City, IA
Planted ByGollnick Family    
Found By Hart x6
Last Found May 20 2007
Hike Distance?

Difficulty: EASY (dress warmly in winter, as it tends to get windy!)
Owners: The Gollnick Family ("Gollnicks of the Shire")

Please note: The box is temporarily out of commission while Iowa Writer, the mom of the Gollnick Family, works on a project at the University of Iowa. We will replace the box by April 27th, 2007. Thanks for your interest!


Thomas Jefferson, a paleontologist amongst other things, gave the name Megalonyx to these giant ground sloths in a 1797 presentation to the American Philosophical Society. It was later named Megalonyx jeffersonii in honor of Thomas Jefferson. Jefferson gave Meriwether Lewis a specific directive to look for fossils during the Corps of Discovery expedition.

The discovery of giant sloth bones in southwestern Iowa and their relocation to the University of Iowa Museum of Natural History provides new evidence about prehistoric sloths in Iowa. Discovered in the summer of 2002 near the town of Shenandoah in southwest Iowa, the bones immediately caught the eye of discoverers and landowners Bob and Sonia Athen. They pulled fragments from a creek bed and began gluing them together at home, but it wasn't until they brought the bones to the UI that they learned what they had found—the remains of a giant sloth. The sloth was a furry, plant-eating mammal that weighed 2-3 tons and lived during a time when glaciers covered much of Iowa, until becoming extinct thousands of years ago.

"Sloths were so massive -- ranking in size between a bison and a small Indian elephant -- that their bones are unlike anything else," Holmes Semken said. "Anytime you find a complete or largely complete specimen, it's of scientific significance. This find is one of a few in North America and a first-of-its-kind find for the state of Iowa."

So far, the team of more than a dozen scientists, museum volunteers and the Athens have unearthed a significant portion of the sloth skeleton, including the chest with the shoulder blades and collar bones, atlas (the topmost neck vertebra), a thigh and a tail vertebra.

http://www.state.nd.us/ndfossils/Education/animals/sloth%20030612.html http://www.uiowa.edu/~nathist/Site/slothexpedition/winter_dig_press_release.html


Your search begins in Iowa City near the Old Capitol building at the corner of Iowa and Clinton. It's technically on the University of Iowa campus, but since the campus blends in with Iowa City streets, it's open to the public and is easily accessible. To get to the starting point from I-380, go south from Cedar Rapids to I-80 (or north if you are coming from the south side of I-80), then head EAST on I-80 for four miles to Dubuque Street (Exit 244). Follow Dubuque Street down hill, through lights, up hill, crossing Bloomington Street, Market Street, and Jefferson Street; drive under a colorful pedestrian bridge and turn right onto Iowa Street. Park at any one of the parking meters (1 hour for 60 cents).


1. Start at the southwest corner of the “STATE” and a FORMER PRESIDENT. You should see Phillips Hall to your right. Near the corner, look for tractor tracks in the cement. Note the inscription and fill in the blanks:

“From the high seat of the ________________,

I, not yet a teenager,

blithely navigated my father’s fields

while my mind ________________ the task

and drifted off into dreams.”

2. Walk in the direction of the Golden Dome.

3. See two lamp posts marking the gateway. Three paths lay before you. Choose the one that is 90 degrees to the street with the former president’s name.

4. A large sentry sits to the right, marked “1880.”

5. A second sentry sits to the left, marked “1870.” Continue walking.

6. At the end of the path, turn toward the building marked “MacBride Hall.”

7. Enter the wooden double doors, take 6 steps downhill.

8. Find the large lobster, grasshopper, crab, beehive, and the giant clam & conch shells.

In the next _______________ (first word in the sidewalk inscription from earlier), you will find

G __ __ __ __ __ __ . Height: ____________ Weight: ______________.

9. "What does a teenage boy grow into?" Look for this sign and take 9 steps up.

10. Take 14 more steps up.

11. Find the entrance to the Iowa Hall Museum of Natural History & Industry, and proceed inside. (IT'S FREE.)

12. FIND THE MYSTERIOUS SLOTH. What is his name? _______________

13. Proceed through the rest of the exhibit, and browse the Gift Shop.

14. Time to exit—-but don’t retrace your steps. Find another set of double doors.

15. See four pillars. What you seek is near. Hint: What was the last blank you found in the sidewalk inscription?

16. Walk __________ (number) of steps down.

17. You should see a large Black Walnut tree straight ahead. Turn around 180 degrees.

18. See the elk and bison overhead. Look down and find the small pillar.

19. Find the “Tree of Three.” (Note: Tree was removed in fall 2006 for disease. All that is left is a flat, ground-level circular stump, so locate this.)

20. Approach. Contemplate the three paths one may take in life: love of money (business), love of self (pride, intelligence, academia), or love of truth (God). Which one is most important above all? (Micah 6:8)*

21. The treasure you seek is approximately 7 paces away to your left, lying low in a green prickly hiding place nearest the gray fortress. HINT: What was the word in the last blank from the sidewalk inscription?

. . . When finished, be sure to cover carefully so the box will not be spotted by ground crews trimming or cleaning the area. Email us to let us know you found it or to inform us of its condition. Thanks!

NOTE: This is our first letterbox, planted in honor of our son Mark who turned 16 years old this weekend. Happy Birthday, Mark! From your loving family.

* “And what does the Lord require of you? To act justly,
to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God.” ~ Micah 6:8