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Drought reveals 113 million-year-old dinosaur tracks in Texas

Prints mostly left by a creature that stood 15 feet tall, weighed 7 tons and roamed the area 113 million years ago have emerged as the Paluxy River has disappeared.

A drought that has turned vast swaths of the American West into a tinderbox and revealed several sets of human remains at the nation’s largest reservoir has unveiled another discovery in Texas — dinosaur tracks.

Prints mostly left by the Acrocanthosaurus — a theropod that stood 15 feet, weighed 7 tons and roamed the area 113 million years ago — have emerged in recent weeks as the Paluxy River has dried up almost entirely in most parts of Dinosaur Valley State Park in Glen Rose, a spokeswoman with the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department said in an email.

Dinosaur tracks in Dinosaur Valley State Park.
Dinosaur tracks in Dinosaur Valley State Park.Paul Baker / Dinosaur Valley State Park

A video posted last week by a nonprofit organization that supports the park shows close-ups of the triangle-shaped tracks and claw marks pressed into the parched riverbed. 

The spokeswoman, Stephanie Salinas Garcia, said it wasn't clear how many new tracks have been found. Nor is it clear how long they will be visible.

"With rain in the upcoming forecasts, it is anticipated that the tracks uncovered during the drought will soon be buried again," she said.

Hundreds of theropod tracks were discovered in the area, southwest of Dallas, roughly a century ago. The first distinct tracks of a far larger dinosaur — the Sauroposeidon — were also found in the area, according to the park.

Some of the tracks in the park are visible from the banks or in the river, while others can be seen only when water levels are low.

Dinosaur tracks are measured in Dinosaur Valley State Park in Glen Rose, Texas.
Dinosaur tracks are measured in Dinosaur Valley State Park in Glen Rose, Texas.Paul Baker / Dinosaur Valley State Park

Under normal conditions, the recently discovered prints are filled in with sediment — a condition that helps protect them from natural weathering and erosion, Garcia said.

The drought, at least for now, has changed that. According to the U.S. Drought Monitor, Somervell County, the county home to the park, is suffering from an "exceptional" drought.

The monitor, a partnership between the federal government and University of Nebraska-Lincoln, says that category — the most devastating in its classification system — includes everything from historically low water levels and shortages to widespread tree death and crop loss.