Once upon a time, hundreds of millions of years ago, dinosaurs roamed the earth. Fast forward millions and millions of years to our modern-day world where we road trip around the country to explore incredible sites such as waterfalls, volcanoes, great barrier reefs, and yes, even… dinosaur tracks.
Nestled approximately one hour southwest of the Dallas-Fort Worth metroplex in Somervell County lies a rare piece of tangible history from the dinosaur age. Dinosaur Valley State Park features a once-in-a-lifetime chance to witness dinosaur fossils and tracks in person and to learn the incredible history of this ancient time.
History of Dinosaur Valley State Park in Glen Rose, Texas
The first occupiers of the land now known as Dinosaur Valley State Park were Indigenous people from the Tonkawa, Kickapoo, Witchita, and Comanche tribes. A large population of Comanches spent winters in modern-day Somervell County and use the limestone bluffs to shelter them from the cold northern winds.
History states that French traders eventually colonized the area, drove the Natives out, and the land was then settled by Anglo Charles E. Barnard. In the year 1860, he purchased a piece of land on the Paluxy River and constructed a grist mill and store.
Post-Flood Sauropod Discovery
In 1908, a disastrous flood completely washed everything out, including the riverbed. A year after the floods, a nine-year-old boy happened to discover tracks in the riverbed. But these were not just any old animal tracks — they ended up being theropod tracks.
Two decades later, R.T. Bird, a fossil collector from the American Museum of Natural History, saw a picture of the tracks and decided to visit Texas to investigate the tracks for himself. He identified not just Sauropod tracks, but theropod tracks as well. The Sauropod tracks were the first proof in the history of man that this dino species walked on land.
Dinosaur Valley State Park Opens
This historic site was opened as Dinosaur Valley State Park in 1972 with a firm mission to preserve the valuable tracks and allow people to enjoy and learn from them.
There are models of an Apatosaurus (70 feet) and a Tyrannosaurus rex (45 feet) near this Texas State Park’s headquarters. These fiberglass models were even sent to New York from the world fair in 1964-65. You can see copies of the tracks at the American Museum of Natural History in New York City, as well as at the Texas Memorial Museum in Austin.
What to Do at Dinosaur Valley State Park
Dinosaur Valley State Park provides a space to enjoy abundant outdoor activities, including track hunting, biking, swimming, camping, hiking, horseback riding, and geocaching.
Scour the river bed for dinosaur tracks and see for yourself the wonder of when dinos ruled our world. You can download the map on your smartphone to help assist in your discovery.
This area is also an ideal place for equestrians to go horseback riding. The South Primitive area provides 100 acres of free-roaming space. This natural area is perfect for mountain biking and hiking with over 20 miles of trails that meander through the limestone ridges and the Paluxy River Valley.
Kids and adults alike will love geocaching in this Texas park. Swimming and paddling can be done in the river. Another great thing about the park is the number of picnic areas with picnic tables, perfect for a mid-day lunch break!
If you are able to stay overnight, campers will enjoy having walk-in primitive sites, campsites with electricity, and even some hike-in sites to choose from. There are also group campsites and RV hookups as well.
Important Information for Dinosaur Valley State Park
For a day-use pass, the entrance fee is just $7 for adults and free for children 12 and under. Visit the gift shop and park store to buy a souvenir or chat with a park ranger about the region’s magnificent history. The park is open daily from 8 AM to 5 PM and it is encouraged to make reservations online or by calling the customer service center.
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