Official website for the City of Aurora, Illinois. Mayor Robert J. O'Connor

Phillips Park - Mastodon History

About Mastodon Peninsula and Mastodon Recreation West Area

“Phillips Park: A Rich History - A Bright Future!” was the theme adopted for promoting the yearlong Centennial Celebration at Phillips Park in 1999 and continues into the Millennium. Construction work was completed in July of 2000 on the Mastodon Lake Recreation Area. The project includes two sites, each adjacent to Mastodon Lake.

The Mastodon Peninsula site showcases a life-size mastodon sculpture on the island, along with interactive exhibits geared towards youngsters that include life-sized mastodon footprints, a tusk maze and a mastodon slide. The new gazebo, complete with tiered seating, will be made available to local schools for their educational programs. The site is easily accessible from the pedestrian bridge on the east side of the lake, along Wyeth Drive. Ample parking is available across the way at the Phillips Park Zoo parking lot.

The Mastodon Recreation West Area, located southwest of the lake, features a playground, sand volleyball courts, horseshoe pits and a pavilion. On-site parking is available off of Parker Avenue and can also be used by walkers and joggers to access the Mastodon Trail. In addition, you’ll find three new fishing piers located around the lake.

A Brief History

On March 7, 1934, prehistoric Mastodon bones and tusks, between 10,000 and 22,000 years old, were discovered during the Phillips Park Lake Excavation Project. Over 555 workmen from the Civil Works Administration began the federal work project in 1933 to combat the effects of the Great Depression. Designed by local engineer G. Walter Parker, the excavation created an island, in addition to the natural one already in existence. At that time, the official name for the lake was Townsend Lake, after the former Mayor and Park Commissioner. Though everyone then, referred to it as Mastodon Lake and continue to do so to this day. In 1988 the Mastodon Trail, a 1-mile pedestrian and bicycle path was constructed around the 28-acre lake. The bones and tusks were originally displayed in the park greenhouse, then the birdhouse, before being moved to a permanent display at the Aurora Historical Museum in 1938. The exhibit remained there until a second museum location opened in 1996, in downtown Aurora, where they are currently on display.

Now located on more than 280 acres, the park attractions include the recently restored waterfall, the Sunken Garden, the Aquatic Center, the Phillips Park Golf Course, the Phillips Park Zoo, World War I cannons and numerous veteran related monuments. You’ll also find a large state-of-the-art playground, a system of bike trails, horseshoe courts, 12 tennis courts, sand volleyball courts, 2 pavilions, an ice skating pond and a sledding hill.

For information contact the City of Aurora’s Department of Parks and Recreation.