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Mining History For Our Books


Mining History For Our Books  


Paisley Kirkpatrick wrote a wonderful article on a gold mine near her. I am writing about a different kind of mining—one where we dig up characters and experiences. Jeanmarie Hamilton has a book in which the heroine investigates dinosaur tracks near her home in El Paso. She inspired me to write this article about visiting the dinosaur tracks not too far from my home. I hope it inspires you.   

Dinos near entrance

Dinosaur Valley State Park is four miles from Glen Rose, Texas on the Paluxy River. This is in North Central Texas in Somervell County. My husband and I used to take our children there, and we’ve taken numerous houseguests there over the years. Unless you’re from Texas, it’s probably not particularly beautiful, but I love the rolling hills around it, and the peaceful, shady areas on the river bank. Longhorn cattle graze on the parklands. This park is a protected wilderness, though, and one has to be alert. Cougars, bobcats, coyotes, and other varmints live there. While hiking down the riverbed, our friends heard a woman screaming, and hurried to her rescue. As they approached the sound, though, they got way too up close and personal with the cat whose scream is similar to the sound of a distressed woman’s scream. Christine, the mom in the group, said it took over twenty minutes to hike there, but they covered the distance back to the main site like greased lightning.  

Historically, Roland T. Bird is credited with the discovery of the tracks, but in truth he merely identified them. Charlie Moss, a local resident, recognized them to be ancient, but thought they were likely mammoth or prehistoric elephant tracks. In fact, the first tracks were discovered in the Paluxy River after a violent flood in 1908. Tracks may be found in the bandstand on Glen Rose’s town square and as cornerstones for many business buildings in the area. With a team of WPA workers in the late 1930’s, Bird excavated and crated tracks from the riverbed and shipped them to several museums. Most went to the American Museum of Natural History in New York City, and may be seen there in a fourth floor exhibit. 

 A couple of weeks ago, my Hero and I were suffering from cabin fever, so we took a drive to the park. It hasn’t changed much over the years except for one thing. I was horrified to observe how eroded the dinosaur tracks have become from the river, but the Ranger said that the same waters are uncovering more tracks. Whew!  I’d hate for the prints to be lost to future generations.  

View from main viewing site with access to river

 The tracks were likely made by three different types of dinosaurs: acrocanthosaurus, pleurocoelus, and an as yet unidentified species and range from twelve to thirty-six inches in length and nine to twenty-four inches in width and are found at seven locations in the park. In the small museum at the entrance to the park, some pristine examples of the tracks are displayed. Each is about six to eight inches deep, which accentuates how much those in the riverbed have eroded. Even with the erosion smoothing down the edges, wading into the river and standing where a dinosaur stood 100 million years ago is an awesome feeling.  

Ranger stations


The park, officially created in 1969, opened to the public in 1970. Originally it occupied 350 acres; in 1990 it covered 1,523 acres, mostly located within a large bend in the Paluxy River. Recreational facilities include nature and hiking trails, picnic areas, campgrounds, and five scenic overlooks. A herd of the state’s longhorn cattle lives in the park. There is a fee to enter. Since we first started going there, steps and a ramp have been added to the main viewing site for easier access.The best time to visit is late summer when the river’s water is low and visitors can wade into the clear waters of the Paluxy River. Could your hero or heroine be a paleontologist who discovers new tracks? Would your hero or heroine like to visit and fight to save the existing prints? Would you?      

Any formatting problems are Isabel’s…Carolyn did a lovely job with this post, but I had strange internet problems.      



  1. This is so interesting. My daughter ran the gift shop at the LaBrea Tarpits in Beverly Hills, CA and I got to spend a day there with her. It is amazing the bones they have drawn out of those pits. Our planet is such an interesting place to learn about.

  2. Caroline Clemmons says:

    I’ve been to the tar pits. Love their museum with the hologram of the woman who died there. That was the first hologram (I think it’s spelled wrong) I’d seen in person and I was fascinated with that and the other exhibits. Our family took my grown nephew who had lived near there all his life and had never been to the site. He was fascinated, too.

  3. This looks like such a cool place, Caroline! No doubt, kids would love it!

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