Dinosaur Valley State Park
Copyright © 1992 by Glen J. Kuban
[This article is being mirrored from http://paleo.cc/paluxy/dvsp.htm.]
Dinosaur Valley State Park is located in Somervell County Texas, near the town of Glen Rose, Texas. Covering over 1500 acres and designated a National Natural Landmark in 1969, the park is great place to view the fossilized dinosaur footprints, as well as to hike, camp, picnic, fish, swim, and enjoy beautiful scenery and wildlife. The world-famous dinosaur tracks in the park occur in a branch of the Brazos River called the Paluxy, which winds through the park. The park is open year round, but late summer is the best time to visit for viewing the tracks, when the river level is generally low. Those planning a visit are advised to contact the park to check on current river and weather conditions: Dinosaur Valley State Park, P.O. Box 396 Glen Rose, TX 76043 Phone: 817-897-4588
Getting to Glen Rose and DVSP
Glen Rose is located along route 67 about 70 miles southwest of the Dallas/Fort Worth airport. DVSP is about 3 miles west of downtown Glen Rose, along highway 205. Just before a major curve to the left along 205, the park's entrance road is on the right. About 1/2 mile along the entrance road you will come to the visitors center, where you need to stop and pay a modest entrance fee, and where you can view many interesting interpretive displays, including trackway replicas, foot skeletons, photographs, murals, and trackway diagrams.
Camping facilities in DVSP include tent and RV plots with water and electrical hookups, and nearby showers. Camping and cabins are also available at Oakdale Park (phone 817-897-2321) located just south of town. The Glen Rose Motor Inn (phone 817-897-2940) is a clean, modern motel with pool and air conditioning, located right on route 67 as you enter Glen Rose. You can also stay at any of several older motels and "bed-and-breakfasts" in town, such as the historic Inn on the River (phone 817-897-4003) and Ye Ole' Maple Inn (phone 817-897-3456). For the more adventurous, there is the Foothills Safari Camp at Fossil Rim Wildlife Ranch (described in more detail later), located just west of town (phone 817-897-3398). For more information on accommodations and attractions near Glen Rose, contact Glen Rose Chamber of Commerce at P.O. Box 605, Glen Rose, TX (phone 817-897-2286).
What Kinds of Tracks are Found in the Park?
The fossilized tracks in the Paluxy belong to two main types: many are three-toed, sharp-clawed prints made by two-legged meat-eating dinosaurs called theropods. Most of these prints (which are typically 15 to 25 inches long) are thought to have been made by Acrocanthosaurus, a 20-30 foot long carnosaur whose bones have been found in nearby areas. Others tracks in the Paluxy are even larger footprints (some over a yard long) made by huge, four-legged, long-necked plant-eating dinosaurs known as sauropods, or informally, "brontosaurs." The rear prints somewhat resemble giant bear tracks with large claws angling rearward, while the front prints are more round and elephant-like, with less distinct, peg-like toes. Sauropod tracks were unknown to science until discovered in Glen Rose in the 1930's. The most likely trackmaker candidate for the sauropod tracks is a dinosaur named Pleurocoelus, which was 30 to 50 feet long.
When and How were the Tracks Formed?
The early Cretaceous track beds in DVSP are dated by geologists as approximately 110 millions years old. The original environment in which the tracks were made is usually reconstructed as a vast tidal flat or lagoon along the margin of a large shallow sea. The theropod dinosaurs which left their tracks there may have come to feed on other dinosaurs or shore animals, while the sauropods, whose tracks consistently occur in parallel trails, may have been on a migratory trek. Soon after the dinosaurs left their tracks in the moist limy mud, the track surfaces were gently buried with a somewhat different sediment. There they hardened and remained buried through geologic time until re-exposed in modern times by when overlying layers were removed by the action of the Paluxy river (and in some cases, human excavators).
Where in the Park Should I Look for Prints?
Charts and brochures at the Visitors' Center show several places where dinosaur tracks can be viewed in the park when water levels are low. Two of the best places are the Blue Hole and the Main Site. The Blue hole is a deep sink-hole at a bend in the Paluxy, where one can swim, fish, and view many theropod tracks (which cover the surrounding limestone shelves) all in one place. One can get to the Blue Hole from a path near the western camping area, or by walking upstream (toward the visitor center) from the Main Site. The Main Site is located across the northwest parking lot in the park. To get to the tracks, you must descend a stone staircase to the river, and then cross a series of stepping stones to the other side. The tracks in this area, which the park staff tries to keep clean, include both sauropod and theropod tracks, as well as a rare tail impression. Just south of this area are additional sauropod tracks, including the remains of the famous trackways removed by paleontologist Roland Bird decades ago; although these are in a lower part of the river that is usually under water even in summer.
What about the "Man Tracks?"
Most of the Paluxy sites once claimed to contain human prints are outside DVSP, and have been shown to consist of a variety of misidentified phenomena (see the Paluxy web site). However, one of the "man track" sites called the "State Park Shelf" is next to the Main Site described above, on a shelf about a meter above the main track layer. Unlike other alleged "man tracks" outside the park, many of which are forms of elongate dinosaur tracks, the State Park Shelf markings are not prints of any kind, but rather are erosional markings and other irregularities of the rock surface. Often these were selectively highlighted with water or other substances during photography to encourage human shapes. However, without such selective highlighting their human resemblance is largely lost. Indeed, the entire shelf is covered with countless depressions of all shapes and sizes, but no distinct or convincing prints of any kind. In contrast, the nearby Main Site contains many well-preserved dinosaur tracks.
What should I Bring?
Along with your natural curiosity, some recommended things to bring include a camera, a hat and sun-screen to avoid sun-burn, insect repellent, and a broom or wish brush to clean off the tracks (the park personnel try to keep some of the tracks cleaned off, but changing weather and river conditions make this difficult). If you will be spending some time hiking around, long pants are recommended (prickly bull nettles and poison ivy are abundant, and snakes are not uncommon). Naturally, if you plan to camp, swim, or fish, bring along the appropriate gear.
What Not to Do
Any removal or damage to tracks is against Texas law, and any casting, or other disturbance of the tracks beyond light cleaning requires a permit from Texas Department if Parks and Wildlife. Fossil collecting is also forbidden in the park. Please check with park personnel if you are in doubt about any intended activities.
What Else is there to Do Around Glen Rose?
Although growing quickly in recent years, Glen Rose is still a small town with laid-back, southern charm. In Glen Rose one will find several restaurants (including good Tex-Mex, Bar-B-Q, and southern cooking), the Somervell County Museum (displaying local artifacts and antiques), and several quaint shops. A few miles west of town along Hwy 67 is Fossil Rim Wildlife Ranch (817-897-WILD), a large, drive-through African wildlife ranch with herds of giraffes, ostriches, gazelles, and dozens of other exotic animals. Several other parks and attractions are located within easy driving distance of Glen Rose. Contact the Glen Rose chamber of commerce at the address listed earlier for more information.
For Further Reading
For more information on Dinosaur Valley State Park, a color booklet by James Farlow entitled The Dinosaurs of Dinosaur Valley State Park (1993) is available from Texas Parks and Wildlife Department at 4200 Smith School Road, Austin, TX, 78744. For general information on the study of dinosaur tracks and additional places to see dinosaur tracks, please see Overview of Dinosaur Tracking. For those interested in learning more about the geology and paleontology of the Glen Rose formation, please see the geologic bibliography. For more information on the "man track" controversy, please visit the Paluxy home page.
Thank you for visiting the DVSP page. I wish those who visit the DVSP a safe and fun trip.
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North Royalton, OH 44133
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