NRA Family Fun: Dinosaur Valley State Park

You can't exactly hunt dinosaurs, but you can track them along the shores of an ancient sea at this Texas park.

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posted on February 7, 2024
Dinosaur Valley State Park

It's true that you can't really hunt dinosaurs. After all, they've been extinct for about 66 million years. That said, there's a spot in Texas called the Dinosaur Valley State Park where you can track them. Located a short drive from Fort Worth, the park occupies 1,587 acres on the Paluxy river, complete with the usual accoutrements: campgrounds, a visitor center, equestrian tours ... and something quite unique: dinosaur tracks. 

Like treasure, those tracks were buried for untold millennia, until something happened in 1908. A flood of Biblical size scoured the Paluxy, washing out all bridges and culverts, and revealed in its wake was something amazing--theropod tracks. Nine-year-old George Adams found them in the river one year later in 1909, and the rest was (and is) history. It was quite the scientific revelation for its day: These were the first distinct sauropod tracks ever found. For the first time, scientists could see that sauropods walked on all four legs, rather than relying on water to support their weight.

Today, all of the tracks are found in the Paluxy riverbed, which can make them hard to find during the rainy season. However, the Paluxy usually dries to a trickle in the summer months, which is when you can not only see the tracks, but walk in them. The theropod tracks were most likely left by the carnivorous Acrocanthosaurus, a smaller relative of Tyrannosaurus rex. This dinosaur chased its prey on two legs, was 20 feet tall and 30 feet long, and weighed 3 to 5 tons!

For many years, scientists thought the brachiosaur Pleurocoelus made the sauropod tracks. But new bones found nearby in 1996 changed their minds. Graduate student Peter Rose determined the bones were of a new species of dinosaur that he named Paluxysaurus jonesi in 2007. Even more recently, scientists have determined that the sauropod tracks belonged to the Sauroposeidon proteles. Whatever its name, it was big! The sauropod was 70 feet long and 13 feet high at its hip, and it weighed 40 to 44 tons. It left hind footprints over a yard long, with smaller, clawless horseshoe-shaped front footprints.

There's much more to the park than dinosaur tracks, of course! The park store offers Junior Ranger Explorer packs as well as birding kits and fishing kits available to borrow for free. Admission is $8 per adult and free for kids under 12. For directions and more, click here!

 

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