Enormous Dinosaur Footprints Discovered in Texas Riverbed Dried by Drought

Previously submerged dinosaur footprints have been uncovered in Texas in the wake of drought-driven drying of a river.

The Paluxy River, which flows through Dinosaur Valley State Park in Texas, has shrunk due to the intense drought conditions gripping the state and others in the U.S. southwest, revealing previously unseen dinosaur footprints beneath the waterline.

Dinosaur Valley State Park, around 60 miles southwest from Fort Worth, is home to a variety of dinosaur prints, mostly from ancient sauropods and theropods. This is the first time that the riverbed tracks have been seen. A video posted by Dinosaur Valley State Park on social media shows the newly uncovered footprints, appearing as deep grooves in the muddy riverbed measuring several human hands across.

dino prints
Stock image of a dinosaur footprint. New footprints have been uncovered after a river in the Dinosaur Valley State Park in Texas dried up due to drought. iStock / Getty Images Plus

Sauropods include herbivorous dinosaur species like Diplodocus and Brontosaurus, and had large flat elephant-like feet. Theropods such as Tyrannosaurus rex and velociraptors instead had characteristic clawed, three-toed feet. Both sauropods and theropods are amongst the last dinosaurs who were eventually wiped out by an asteroid strike 66 million years ago.

According to the Dinosaur Valley State Park website, many of the theropod tracks in the park do not show their distinctive three-toed pattern because the tracks were made in runny, deep mud, burying the toe impressions.

The tracks in the park were thought to have been left around 113 million years ago, in the mid-Cretaceous Era, when the Dallas region of Texas was at the shore of a sea. According to the park website, the mud at this shoreline made the ideal consistency to preserve tracks as a result of calcium carbonate deposits from the shells of crustaceans.

"Right now, due to the very low river conditions, more tracks are now visible than under normal conditions," the park said in a comment under the video. "So if you are wanting to find tracks and explore that aspect of the park, it is a great time to visit!"

Dinosaur Valley State Park has been designated a National Natural Landmark by the National Parks Service due to its display of the dinosaur tracks.

According to the U.S. Drought Monitor, Texas is nearly entirely in some degree of drought condition, with around a quarter of its area being in a state of "exceptional drought."

The drying up of the Paluxy River isn't the only effect of the megadrought currently plaguing the southwest U.S., with Texas and many other states experiencing extremely high temperatures, frequent wildfires and rapid evaporation of water from important reservoirs.

The drought-driven water recession has revealed other strange things previously hidden beneath the surface. Most notably, Lake Mead on the Nevada/Arizona border has seen five sets of human remains uncovered by the shrinking reservoir, one of which was found inside a barrel, riddled with bullet holes.