Dinosaur Valley State Park

September 2016

Dinosaur Valley State Park was 49th on our Texas State Park list and the 4th park on our week-long Texas State Park adventure. We had just come from Lake Mineral Wells State Park, a little over an hour north, where we had spent the past couple of days hiking, fishing, and telling stories by the campfire.

Dinosaur Valley State Park
Dinosaur Valley Brontosaurus

We arrived at Dinosaur Valley State Park around 1 p.m. and got set up in campsite #18. The temperature was in the mid-nineties - too hot for a hike - so we drove about a 1/2 mile to the park store and bought a refrigerator magnet and ice cream sandwiches, then strolled over to the nearby Brontosaurus and Tyrannosaurus models that were donated to Dinosaur Valley State Park by Sinclair Oil many moons ago. After reading that story, I recalled, in my high school years, pumping gas at a Sinclair station. (or was it a Shamrock station?)

While exploring the grounds, we noticed a sign near the entrance to the store: Join us for a "Hike to the Past" nature walk at 9 a.m. Saturday. We will do that for sure, I thought.

Dinosaur Valley State Park
Paluxy River

On Saturday morning, we met Jenna, a local geologist and dinosaur expert, in front of the park store for the scheduled tour of the park's dinosaur track sites. After brief introductions, we packed some extra water in our backpacks and began our hike toward Track Site #2.

Before we visited the park, I hadn't read anything about Dinosaur Valley and didn't know what to expect. I supposed we would see a few fossils or perhaps just the Brontosaurus and Tyrannosaurus models, but not once did we think we would get to see authentic dinosaur tracks!

Dinosaur Valley State Park
A few Dinosaur Tracks

The first tracks we sought were on the opposite side of the Paluxy River. Fortunately, the water level in the river was low enough at several spots to cross by stepping across stones, some of which were not too stable and made crossing the river a little challenging. It seems that some hikers prefer not to get their feet wet.

Dinosaur Valley State Park
Crossing the Paluxy River

We learned, from the guided tour and the informational signs posted along the park's trails, that the tracks were those of smaller relatives of the dinosaur models; the Sauroposeidon, a Brontosaurus relative, and the Acrocanthosaurus, a relative of the Tyrannosaurus. We learned about the many discoveries of theropod and sauropod tracks along the Paluxy River. My favorite was Roland T. Bird's discovery of the first distinct sauropod tracks found in the world! The tour with the park's guide was the perfect way to begin a weekend at Dinosaur Valley State Park. Once we knew what to look for, we could confidently identify dinosaur tracks at the other track sites.

After the guided tour, we said our goodbyes and hiked upstream to Track Site #1 at the Blue Hole. It was nearly noon, and the temperature was in the nineties. Next time we will remember our swimsuits.

Dinosaur Valley State Park
The Blue Hole

On the last day of our stay, we woke to the sound of raindrops splattering on the roof of our travel trailer. BAM!! Suddenly, a bolt of lightning, instantaneously followed by a loud clap of thunder, struck nearby. That was close, I thought. We won't be cooking breakfast outdoors today. A few minutes later, the bottom dropped out and flooded our dirt-based campsite with a few inches of standing water. We waited several hours for the muddy ground to harden before we could pack up and head home. Hmmm. Maybe we should leave our tracks in the mud for the dinosaurs to discover when they take over the earth again in a few million years.

After the mud dried, we left Dinosaur Valley State Park around lunchtime and drove to Glen Rose to enjoy delicious Mushroom and Swiss burgers at the Big Cup Eatery.

Dinosaur Valley State Park
Maybe next time you can stay for dinner?

Our visit to Dinosaur Valley has inspired us to read more about the dinosaurs and other archeological discoveries in the area before we return, someday soon, to Dinosaur Valley State Park.

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