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Hidden Dinosaur Tracks Emerge in Texas State Park During Drought

Visitors to Dinosaur Valley State Park have been treated to a rare sight of 113-million-year-old dinosaur footprints.

A long series of dinosaur tracks emerged in Dinosaur Valley State Park in Texas after extreme drought dried up a river.
Paul Baker/Friends of Dinosaur Valley State Park

Severe drought across the western US is largely terrible news, but Texas saw an interesting side effect when hidden dinosaur tracks appeared in Dinosaur Valley State Park southwest of Dallas. The paleontological treasure came to light in a dried-out riverbed. 

"Due to the excessive drought conditions this past summer, the river dried up completely in most locations, allowing for more tracks to be uncovered here in the park," Texas Parks spokesperson Stephanie Salinas Garcia told CNET in a statement. "Under normal river conditions, these newer tracks are under water and are commonly filled in with sediment, making them buried and not as visible."

The exposed dinosaur footprints at Dinosaur Valley State Park in Texas will likely soon be covered by water and mud again.

Paul Baker/Friends of Dinosaur Valley State Park

Most of the tracks that appeared in the river belong to a bipedal theropod called Acrocanthosaurus, which would have stood around 15 feet (4.6 meters) tall and weighed up to seven tons.

Friends of Dinosaur Valley State Park, a nonprofit that supports the park, has been posting updates to its Facebook page. Volunteers recently helped to clear mud and debris from exposed footprints on what the group called "one of the longest dinosaur trackways in the world."

The visibility of the tracks won't last. The park closed trails on Monday due to rain, but reopened them on Wednesday, saying the tracks were still visible. The park encourages reservations since it often reaches visitor capacity.

The dry spell has marked a rare opportunity to map and measure the tracks, but rain will be welcomed in a state facing prolonged drought. The upside, according to Garcia, is that sediment deposited by the river will help protect the tracks from weathering and erosion, preserving them for the future.