Texas drought reveals 113-million-year-old dinosaur footprints in Dinosaur Valley State Park
Truly living up to its name.
In an area of Texas between Austin and Dallas, there's a riverbed that holds real, honest-to-goodness dinosaur footprints, bringing out the 5-year-old in all of us.
How did they get there, you ask? When dinosaurs roamed the area 113 million years ago, the land was at the edge of a tidal sea. Shells from crustaceans that lived in the sea created calcium carbonate deposits, forming a lime-rich mud that was the perfect consistency to preserve the tracks of dinosaurs that occasionally crossed the tidal flats.
Since then, the dinosaur tracks have been preserved under layers of sediment and silt. They were first discovered in 1909 by a young boy named George Adams, who found some odd three-toed tracks in a limestone riverbed. But it wasn't until 1937 that paleontologist R.T. Bird explored the area and recognized multiple trackways from therapods and sauropods whose footprints had been preserved almost perfectly under layers of mud.
Today, these trackways can be viewed in Dinosaur Valley State Park. The Paluxy River regularly has dry spots that allow some tracks to be seen at different times, but, according to ABC News, the drought in Texas has revealed tracks that even the park rangers haven't been able to see in at least 20 years.
To be clear, the footprints don't appear looking like this when the river dries up. Workers and volunteers have to meticulously clear away the dry mud and sediment with water, leaf blowers and brooms so that the definition of the tracks becomes visible in the limestone. But once they do, they look like something straight out of a movie.
The tracks above are found at the Taylor site, one of multiple track viewing sites in the park.
"The Paluxy River has pretty much gone dry this drought," a worker shared in a video posted on the Friends of Dinosaur Valley State Park Facebook page. "What's cool about the river is what you'll find in the river. Sweep a little bit of the dirt and dust away and this is what you'll find…dinosaur tracks. You see claw marks. These are awesome, awesome tracks. They are normally underwater so you normally don't get to see these."
The revealing of these particular tracks is exciting for researchers, who are mapping the dinosaur trackways in the park. Park Superintendent Jeff Davis told ABC News that the tracks at the Taylor site are possibly the longest tracks made by a single dinosaur in North America. Tracks that aren't usually visible in other sites have also been revealed in this drought, enabling people to see exactly where these enormous creatures walked millions and millions of years ago.
Drought isn't a good thing, but dinosaur tracks are an interesting silver lining. For more information about how these tracks came to be, visit the Dinosaur Valley State Park website.