State Park Series
You have heard us say “Dinosaur Valley State Park” many times since we started posting and we are sure you have wondered what it is about this place that causes us to think of it as Our “Home” Park. Let us take you there and show you why.
History Runs Through It
Acrocanthosaurus and Pleurocoelus tracks are found in the riverbed of the Paluxy River
The Paluxy River is formed by the meeting of the North Paluxy and the South Paluxy Rivers near Bluff Dale, Texas. It flows twenty-nine miles and empties into the Brazos River just east of Glen Rose, Texas. Most of the time the Paluxy is a quiet little river flowing through many picturesque gorges, but after a heavy rain, it can become immensely powerful and deadly.
In 1908 the resort town of Glen Rose had recently built a bridge over the Paluxy River. Before that, Glen Rose and the surrounding communities had relied on shallow fords to cross the river, and these became impassable during wet weather. On April 17 of that year, the new bridge was washed away in a record-setting flood that destroyed or damaged every bridge in Somervell County.
A few months later in early 1909, a young boy named George Adams was exploring along Wheeler Branch, a creek that empties into the Paluxy, when he found huge birdlike tracks in the limestone bed. He reported this find to his teacher, who brought it to the attention of the scientific community and it was soon confirmed that these were the tracks of a large, bipedal dinosaur, These tracks had likely been uncovered by the flood of the previous year.
Tracks much like the ones George Adams found while exploring the area.
The Paluxy giveth and the Paluxy taketh away. According to Kathy Lenz, former Park Ranger / Park Interpreter for Dinosaur Valley State Park, “The River is always eroding away old tracks and uncovering new ones, so far it has been uncovering new tracks slightly faster than it erodes the old ones.”
The dinosaur footprints were not the first discovered in the United States, but they were, and still are some of the best preserved and easily accessible. The footprints lie in the bed of the river, and can only be accessed when the river is low. Fed by hundreds of local springs, most of the time the river is only a few inches deep, and the water is cool and clean. Even a little rain in the area will cause the Park to close the track sites. The entire area sits on a bed of limestone, and the river can go from calm to flood frighteningly fast.
The various layers of limestone causes a shallow river to have mini waterfalls.
The obvious attraction is, of course, the dinosaur footprints, and they are impressive, but there are many other reasons to visit this amazing park. The Blue Hole, near when the river enters the park, has been a favorite swimming hole since the founding of Glen Rose. It is very popular in the hot Texas summer months.
The Blue Hole quietly waiting for summer guests.
More To See From Above
There are many miles of hiking trails throughout the park, ranging from easy, to moderately difficult. Wildcat Falls is well worth the hike but seeing it can be tricky. It is on the far side of the river, and only flows when it has been raining; however, when it has been raining, you can’t cross the river. There is a back way into the park that few people know about. The Park staff use it to access this area of the park without having to hike in. We never had any difficulty getting permission to use it when we asked at the office. Unfortunately, it seems I never took a good photo of the waterfall.
Ren visiting with friends on the hiking trail
In the spring, this is an excellent place to come see the wildflowers. You will find Indian Paintbrush, Bluebonnets, and Prairie Verbena. There will be fields full of them as you drive to the park’s headquarters. It is almost as good as the Texas Hill Country show of wildflowers.
A beetle enjoys a rest on a Prairie Verbena.
One of the many beautiful birds found at Dinosaur Valley State Park.
Most people avoid the park during the rain. During and after a heavy storm you will find the park nearly empty. This is a shame. You owe it to yourself to see this river in full flood. The power of the river is awesome in the truest sense of the word. It will fill you with awe; the pictures and videos do not do it justice.
The wind whips through the trees as the rain pours down, filling the Paluxy up causing it to rush towards the Brazos River south of Glen Rose. Here you can see the power and strength of water as it pulls trees and dirt from the sides of the gorge. This river is known as the only whitewater rafting spot in North Texas; however, with the huge boulders all throughout the riverbed, it can be extremely dangerous.
The water flows quickly through taking trees and debris with it.
When we lived in Texas, we considered Dinosaur Valley to be our home park. This is the park we would make a mad dash for after getting off of work just to take a short hike or sit and watch the river. It was our park for more than just this, though. The park was founded on October 4, 1972, making its anniversary day the same as our wedding anniversary, so we liked to spend it there among the dinosaurs and camp above the river.
A 50-foot tall Tyrannosaurus rex and 70-foot long Brontosaurus statues entertain guests.
It’s even reasonably good for Stargazing.