The Longest Dinosaur Trackway in North America!

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Glen Rose, Texas is noted for its rich, early history of the settlers and the natural artesian water that flowed freely from the ground. It wasn't until one of the worst flash floods recorded that would put Glen Rose into the history books. In 1908, the Paluxy River rose to an astounding 27 feet. Little did residents of this small town realize what had been lurking underneath the limestone layers of the Paluxy. As the water receded, mysterious three-toed tracks appeared!  

Young George Adams, brother of the legendary Earnest "Bull" Adams, is credited with discovering the tracks in 1908. They were originally thought to be giant "turkey" tracks and therefore of no significant importance. George Adams reported his findings to his local high school teacher, Robert E. McDonald who identified them as belonging to dinosaurs. This would later be recognized as theropod tracks, those of a carnivorous dinosaur.  In 1918, another flood occurred which washed away additional rocks exposing more of the layers.

 

In 1932, Charlie Moss of Glen Rose discovered the first known sauropod tracks, commonly referred to at that time as "Brontosaurs" tracks.  Scientifically, it is called Sauroposeidon proteles (formerly called Paluxysaurus jonesi). Sauroposeidon is most similar to Brachiosaurus.  However, It wasn't until Roland T. Bird, paleontologist for the American Museum of Natural History in New York, visited the area in the fall of 1938 that would put Glen Rose on the paleontological map and eventually bring his findings to national attention in 1954 with an article featured in National Geographic magazine.

When I moved to Glen Rose in 1997, I became fully involved with researching and studying the history of the Glen Rose dinosaurs. My experience includes excavating  dinosaur tracks on the McFall property with the Creation Evidence Museum as well as excavating several different dinosaurs in Colorado & one in Montana. In 1999, we excavated a Tylosaur near Farmersville now on display at the Creation Evidence Museum in Glen Rose.

In the summer of 2000, the area went without rain for 84 consecutive days from July1-September 23, 2000. This caused the waters of the Paluxy to cease flowing and leave behind only stagnant pools of shallow water in low-lying areas. This made it an excellent opportunity to explore the riverbed. The upper portion of this dinosaur trackway was documented by the late Mike Turnage in 1971.  He was able to place his feet in over 100 of the dinosaur footprints while walking in chest-deep water.

 

I began to investigate this area of the river previously explored by him. In 2000,with a group of volunteers, we began the arduous task of removing all the silt and debris that remained on the surface and within the tracks. This was accomplished by washing, sweeping, and clearing the surface over a three week period. On October 5, 2000, as the trail began to be revealed, I began mapping the original 100 tracks that Mike Turnage had counted and extended the trackway to 157 dinosaur tracks! The trail was laid out in a long consecutive pattern right up the middle of the riverbed. On October 14, 2000, I completed the documentation and mapping of this glorious trackway. This work took approximately 200 hours to complete.

The "Turnage Trail" (now dubbed the Lone Ranger Trail by Dinosaur Valley State Park) measured 527 feet in length and consistedof 157 total tracks. The average depths of the tracks are 6 inches. The average length is 15 inches. One hundred thirty-six contiguous tracks are disrupted by an area of extreme erosion measuring approximately 56 feet.  On November 6, 2000, Martin Lockley, Ph.D., renowned Ichnologist and professor for the University of Colorado at Denver, in a phone conversation with me, confirmed this trackway is the single, longest contiguous dinosaur trackway existing on the North American Continent! (There is one longer in Colorado, but is broken up by three different sections so it is not contiguous.)  Other trackways were discovered in the immediate area as well. One particular trackway that intersected the main trail consisted of 21 tracks that are "pigeon-toed" in track rotation and are very well preserved showing incredible claw markings. This is known as the “Judkins Trail”.   2011 was the last time this trail was partially exposed due to the extreme Texas drought.

 

This year, 2022 has proved to be the second hottest July on record and the sixth longest stretch of triple-digit days at 21. It was the second driest July on record and the second longest stretch of consecutive days without rainfall at 58 through the end of July this year. Due to the extreme drought conditions we seem to experience at least once every decade, we have been able to study these tracks again. Glen Kuban, along with volunteers from the Dallas Paleontology Society spend considerable time this year (2022) to explore this site.  In a collabortive effort, we were able to reexamine this trackway comparing my data from 22 years ago to the new data we are now learning. Unfortunately, the area of erosion I documented in 2000 had extended from 56' to approximatley 100' loosing over two dozen dinosaur tracks in this trackway. I have shared my data with the State Park officials so they may have a documented history of this site.  We will learn even more about the "Lone Ranger Trail" as we continue to study it and help preserve it for future generations to come.

 

Glen Rose is indeed the Dinosaur Capitol of Texas! 

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