Footprints in time
By: Aaron Judkins, Omniologist
Dedicated to the late Jacob and Dorothy McFall
My story begins in 1996, when I made a trip to Dinosaur Valley State Park to visit the tracks of the Lone Star Dinosaurs. My interest in rocks, encouraged by my grandparents, began at an early age. I was simply amazed that there were fossilized footprints literally fixed in time. This was the first time I had ever seen anything like this, footprints in solid rock. I scurried about the riverbed finding more dinosaur tracks and trails leading under limestone ledges. I was walking with dinosaurs! I began to imagine what these huge creatures were doing at that time.
Squish, squish, squish. The large theropod dinosaur walks in the limey mud. The thick goo oozes between the animals toes. Each foot sinks in the mud under its massive weight. Water seeps in under the newly made tracks. The dinosaur pauses for a moment, her nostrils sniffing the wind, eyes keenly scanning the area for any activity, while a pterodactyl surfs the skies overhead. A group of sauropod dinosaurs recently crossed here leaving their enormous pothole prints behind them as they travel across the coastal plain. The acrocanthosaurus would instinctively follow, continuing her search for food and higher ground. The foreign material has slowed her down, but she continues methodically leaving her own three-toed prints behind; history in the making.
Glen Rose is noted for its rich, early history of the settlers and the natural artesian water that flowed freely from the ground.
It wasn't until one of the worst flash floods recorded that would put Glen Rose into the history books. In 1908, the Paluxy River rose to an astounding 27 feet. Little did residents of this small town realize what had been lurking underneath the limestone layers of the Paluxy. As the water receded mysterious, three-toed tracks appeared!
Young George Adams, brother of Earnest "Bull" Adams, is credited with discovering the tracks in 1908. They were originally thought to be giant "turkey" tracks and therefore of no significant importance. George Adams reported his findings to his local high school teacher, Robert E. McDonald who identified them as belonging to dinosaurs. This would later be recognized as theropod tracks, those of a carnivorous dinosaur. In 1932, Charlie Moss of Glen Rose discovered the first known sauropod tracks, commonly referred to then as "Brontosaurs" tracks. However, it wasn't until Roland T. Bird, paleontologist for the American Museum of Natural History in New York, visited the area in the fall of 1938 that would put Glen Rose on the paleontological map and eventually bring his findings to national attention in 1954 with an article featured in National Geographic magazine.
My wife Robin and I moved to the Glen Rose area in the spring of 1997. It wasn't until 1998 that I became fully involved with researching and studying the history of the Glen Rose dinosaurs. My experience includes excavating dinosaur tracks on the McFall farm on the Paluxy and excavating dinosaur skeletons from across the country as a volunteer with the Creation Evidence Museum of Glen Rose and the Mt. Blanco Fossil Museum of Crosbyton, Texas.
In the summer of 2000, the area went without rain for 84 consecutive days from July1-September 23, 2000. This caused the waters of the Paluxy to cease flowing and leave behind only stagnant pools of shallow water in low-lying areas. This made it an excellent opportunity to explore the riverbed. Don Patton Ph.D., consulting geologist and researcher for the Creation Evidence Museum and myself began to investigate an area of the river previously explored by the late Mike Turnage.
In 1971, he waded in chest high water eventually tracing 100 dinosaur tracks with his feet. Despite the current drought conditions, this low-lying area had retained a pool of water over the tracks making the site difficult to study. On September 9, 2000, in order to further investigate the site, Don Patton brought in a group of volunteers to pump the water out to allow access to the tracks. After this was done, we then began the arduous task of removing all the silt and debris that remained on the surface and within the tracks. This was accomplished by washing, sweeping, and hand shoveling of the surface. This took three weeks to prepare the site. On October 2-6, 2000, the Creation Evidence team was brought in to excavate and extend the trail. As the trail was uncovered, it extended beyond the original 100 tracks that Mike Turnage had counted to a present 157 dinosaur tracks! The trail was laid out in a long consecutive pattern right up the middle of the riverbed. What a glorious site! We knew at this point that this trail was unique. This was the first time human eyes had ever seen the trail exposed in its entirety. The trail was then named by the Creation Evidence Museum director, Dr. Carl Baugh, the "TURNAGE- PATTON TRAIL". My research continued on the site by scientifically documenting, measuring, and mapping the trail completing it on October 14, 2000. This work took approximately 200 hours to complete.
The "Turnage-Patton Trail" measures 527 feet in length and consists of 157 total tracks. The average depths of the tracks are 6 inches. The average length is 15 inches. One hundred thirty six continuous tracks are disrupted by an area of extreme erosion. These 136 tracks, according to Martin Lockley, Ph.D., renowned ichnologist and professor for the University of Colorado at Denver, on November 6, 2000, in phone conversation to the author, agreed that this trail is the single longest contiguous dinosaur track way existing on the North American Continent! Amazing! Other track ways were discovered in the immediate area as well. One particular track way that intersected the main trail consisted of 21 tracks that are "pigeon-toed" in track rotation and are very well preserved showing incredible claw markings. For my work in the excavation and mapping of the main trail, I was honored to have this trail consisting of 21 tracks named the "JUDKINS TRAIL"
As the sun drops behind the cedar hills of the Paluxy Valley, a feeling of serenity comes over you. This is a special place. A world not forgotten. It reminds us that life was here before us and life will continue after we are gone. It propels us to realize that we make an impact while on this earth, leaving our own footprints in the sands of time on the Eternal Trail.
"Thy word is a lamp unto my feet and a light unto my path." Psalm 119:109