Visitors at a Texas state park last week were treated to a rare glimpse of 113 million-year-old dinosaur tracks exposed by the extreme drought gripping much of the U.S. Southwest.
The tracks, preserved in limestone at Dinosaur Valley State Park near Fort Worth, are usually covered by water and sediment. Months of hot, dry conditions, however, have reduced rivers and creeks to puddles in places, revealing the ancient prints.
Park Superintendent Jeff Davis told Nexstar that some of the longest-tenured employees, who have been there for eight to 10 years, have never seen the tracks so clearly.
“The most distinct trackway is called the ‘Lone Ranger’ (seen in the video above), and the last time it was exposed like this was in 2000,” Davis said. “It’s special because it was made by a single dinosaur, in this particular case there were about 140 tracks.”
The massive tracks belonged to an Acrocanthosaurus, Davis said, a theropod dinosaur believed to have been nearly 40 feet long.
Recent rains have diminished the view of the trackway, Davis said, but they are still visible.
The lack of rain made it possible for park rangers to clean out the tracks and help protect them, but park officials say over time weathering and erosion will naturally destroy the layer of limestone they were captured in.
“We do anticipate and know there to be more tracks that are buried to this day – so while we will lose the tracks we currently have, more will be discovered in the process!” the park posted on Facebook.
The historic glimpse of the trackways also happens to have come during the 50th anniversary year of Dinosaur Valley State Park, and Superintendent Davis encourages people to visit what he calls a world-class site with stunning detail.
“You won’t find them anywhere in the world,” Davis said. “You can actually see their individual toes, their individual claw marks. You can even see where they slipped as they were running.”