Ever go searching for a sauropod? We hadn’t either and felt that it was about time to do so. In order to accomplish this, we took a day trip to Dinosaur Valley State Park. It is about an hour and a half drive away. I can’t believe we hadn’t gone before. It was so much fun and I think we all learned a lot.
At Dinosaur Valley, we found trackways and prints from theropods (three toed dinosaurs, thought to be carnivorous) and sauropods (very large, plant eating dinosaurs). It is believed that the theropods were probably Acrocanthosaurus, a smaller relative of Tyrannosaurus rex. This dinosaur probably ran on two legs and was 20 to 30 feet long. The tracks from Acrocanthosaurus ranged rom 12 to 24 inches long and 9 to 17 inches wide. J’s whole foot fits down inside of these tracks. These tracks were first found in 1909, a year after the river flooded, probably exposing these tracks.
The sauropod tracks are probably from a dinosaur species, Paluxysaurus jonesi, that was named in 2007, after a find in Hood County in 1996. Hood County is upriver from Dinosaur Valley and they believe that the sauropod tracks were made by the Paluxysaurus jonesi because the bones seem to fit the tracks. This dinosaur is believe to have been about 20 tons, standing 60 to 70 feet long and 6 feet wide at the shoulder. It had a 26 foot long neck! This species was named the official dinosaur of Texas in 2009. These tracks were so large that sometimes you wondered if you were looking at a track or just a large hole.
We climbed up and down the river bed, searching for tracks. We found out that the river was fairly low and a number of tracks were exposed that might not have been at other times. It was hot but what would you expect at the beginning of September in central Texas? In the shade and down by the river, it wasn’t too bad. We learned about the history of this site – from the native tribes that used this area to the current use as a state park and historical site.
We got there around 10:30 and paid the entrance fee (only $7 per adult, no charge for the girls). We hiked for about an hour, studying various tracks in the river bed. Then we sat under the shade and ate a picnic lunch, which you should definitely take with you since the park is a couple of miles from town. After lunch and a lot of water, we hiked for about 2 more hours, seeing a lot of tracks and having fun.
We found ourselves in the riverbed, the girls jumping from rock to rock, playing with the minnows and exclaiming every time a they saw another dinosaur print. When we were ready to go, we had to work to find the trail and then it ended up going up and heading back the way we came. So, we decided to be adventurous and go rock climbing. We found a ledge that wasn’t too far from the top and just took turns scrambling up it and helping the girls up. It was fun to hear them exclaim their surprise when they stood at the top and looked straight down the side of the canyon we had just come up.
I definitely recommend a trip to Dinosaur Valley State Park. It was a lot of fun and I really enjoyed it. I would like to go back when it is a bit cooler and spend more time on some of the longer trails, maybe taking the binoculars with me so I can search for some of the birds that have been spotted there. It was fun going searching for sauropods and theropods. At Home.
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