Severe drought in the western United States 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 was discovered in a dry river bed.
“Due to excessively dry conditions this past summer, the river has completely dried up in most places, allowing for more trails here in the park,” said Texas Parks spokeswoman Stephanie. Salinas Garcia, to CNET in a statement. “Under normal river conditions, these new tracks are underwater and are usually filled with sediment, making them buried and less visible.”
Most of the tracks that appeared in the river belong to a bipedal theropod called Acrocanthosaurus, which is believed to have stood about 15 feet (4.6 meters) tall and weighed up to seven tons.
Friends of Dinosaur Valley State Parka non-profit organization that supports the park, released updates to its Facebook page. Volunteers recently helped clean up the mud and debris exposed footprints on what the group called “one of the longest dinosaur tracks in the world”.
The visibility of the tracks will not last. The park closed the trails Monday due to rain, but reopened them Wednesday, saying the traces were still visible. The park encourages Reservations since it often reaches its capacity.
The dry spell marked a rare opportunity to map and measure tracks, but the rain will be welcome in a state facing prolonged drought. The upside, according to Garcia, is that the sediment deposited by the river will help protect the tracks from weather and erosion, preserving them for the future.