When Dinosaurs Roamed Texas
Dinosaur Valley State Park
by Robert E. Gentet
Dinosaurs! The very word stirs excitement! In June of 2010, Edward C. Lain and I were invited to accompany a Church group to Dinosaur Valley State Park. Here, in a simple question and answer format, is the result of that visit.
Why was a field trip planned to the dinosaur park?
Many Christians wonder how dinosaurs integrate with the Bible. We were invited to accompany the group to the park to provide both a biblical and scientific meaning.
Where is Dinosaur Valley State Park located?
The 1,523 acre state park is located near Glen Rose, Texas. You can view a map of the area here.
What's the history of the park?
Visitors primarily come to the park to view dinosaur footprints in the Paluxy riverbed. George Adams is the first person reported who noticed the dinosaur tracks. This was in 1908 while he was playing hooky from school. In 1938, Roland T. Bird of the New York American Museum of Natural History viewed the tracks. He later supervised the excavation of a trail of tracks which are now in the New York museum. The land was later purchased from local residents and made into a state park in 1969. The Paluxy River is the fastest flowing river in Texas (during wet periods!). New dinosaur tracks in the limestone are periodically uncovered by flash floods while other tracks are continually worn away by the river's current.
What's the origin of the dinosaur tracks?
At first glance one may get the impression the dinosaur tracks were originally made in the Paluxy riverbed. This would be a very wrong conclusion! The dinosaur tracks were made in ancient times long before the Paluxy River was at this location. They were made along an ancient sea coast and quickly preserved and buried under sediment. Much later, in modern times, the Paluxy River eroded through the overlying ancient rocks and uncovered the fossil dinosaur prints.
The dinosaur fossil footprints are found in what geologists classify as Lower Cretaceous limestone. Within the park, these Lower Cretaceous rocks rest on top of about 6,500 feet of older rocks. These older rocks contain other types of fossils. Living dinosaurs left their footprints on top of 6,500 feet of other fossiliferous rocks. Many young-earth creationists believe all these strata were deposited during the Genesis Flood Event (GFE). How could dinosaurs still be alive if 6,500 vertical feet of strata had just been suddenly laid down under their feet?
So, a lot happened before the dinosaurs made the footprints?
Yes, exactly. A biblically-based, geologic timescale must recognize all the events recorded in the rock record. The biblical record and the geological record do agree, when properly understood.
I will be using some Bible detective work along with scientific findings to explain the origin of the dinosaur tracks in the park and elsewhere. The Bible says: "Speak to the Earth and it will teach you" (Job 12:8). This new geologic model considers what both the Bible and the rocks have to say.
What are the time frames given in the Bible for geological events to occur?
For young earth creationists, the time frames could be summarized as follows:
In summary, this means there are four principle time periods within which we can date the strata and/or fossils: (1) Creation Week, (2) the pre-Flood cursed World, (3) the GFE, and (4) the post-Flood world. In addition, each major division can be further subdivided as one studies in detail any local, geological sequence.
For more information about the geologic timescale from a biblical perspective, see the following article:
What do we have to remember about Creation Week?
The Earth itself was created very quickly during Creation Week. The events of Genesis One describe miracles. Science doesn't and can't analyze or consider miracles. Science does not allow the supernatural into the picture for the simple reason that the supernatural is the spirit world. The spirit world is beyond the scope of our human senses. We can see the effects of the Creator by what He has made, but to describe the creation acts of Genesis One according to the scientific method is impossible. This means that the acts of creation which led to the Earth, and indeed, the entire physical universe, must be accepted by faith. Yet, it is not an empty faith. It is a faith based upon the sure Word of God and upon the evidence presented by the creation itself. The whole universe witnesses of His divine power and majesty.
This would mean, however, that some rocks – indeed the bulk of what we call the Earth – came into existence suddenly during Creation Week. Many of the rocks labeled Precambrian, for example, seem to date from Creation Week. These Precambrian rocks are called basement rocks. They underlie the 6,500 feet of strata under the dinosaur footprints.
The 6,500 feet of strata and the Lower Cretaceous limestone containing the dinosaur foot prints would date from the pre-Flood world. The Curse brought on many geological events, particularly around the margins of the early continents.
Why do you date the formation of these dinosaur footprints and 6,500 feet+ of strata to the pre-Flood time period?
These rocks contain "time indicators." Dinosaur tracks are a perfect example of a time indicator. Scientists tell us that millions (and even billions) of dinosaur tracks are found around the world in specific and limited strata! Dinosaur nests complete with eggs have also been found in other areas of the world. Nest building, egg laying, and track-making are time consuming events and could hardly be expected to date from a violent, worldwide flood! Rather, they occurred during times of relative quiet and then suddenly the nests and eggs were buried by some local event.
Furthermore, throughout the world, strata containing dinosaur fossils (including footprints, nests, eggs, etc) have been subjected to vast continental erosion, often to great depths. Such vast erosion of strata laid down before the Flood is exactly what should be expected from 40 days of rain flooding the Earth with vast quantities of waters rushing toward sea level. Other factors such as rising ocean floors/sinking continental lands would cause the ocean waters to eventually flood the continents. But, the primary cause of worldwide continental erosion was the 40 days and nights of ceaseless heavy rains. Huge amounts of sediment were eroded off the continents and into nearby ocean areas.
Is there evidence for this erosion, for example, in the Glen Rose area?
Yes! The Lower Cretaceous limestone beds containing dinosaur footprints in Dinosaur Valley State Park extend underground much further south as far as the San Antonio area. Some dinosaur tracks have been exposed just north of San Antonio, while many others undoubtedly remain deeply buried.
When the dinosaurs made the footprints, they roamed an ancient pre-Flood gulf coast. The pre-Flood shoreline was 225 miles north from the present coastline of the Gulf of Mexico. This 225 miles of additional land was created as wedges of sand and clay sediment eroded off the continent and filled in the earlier sea floor. This pile of sediment is estimated to be up to 40,000 feet (or more) thick! This enormous amount of material was carried off the North American continent mainly during the GFE!
That's amazing! So, there is vast evidence of the Flood as well as the many other geological events that occurred during the long, pre-Flood world?
Absolutely correct. God has left us with a large amount of geological evidence of the many times He has shown His power throughout the time of man's rebellion against His rule. Remember the pre-Flood world (if we use the longer chronology of the Septuagint version of the Bible) lasted about 2,200 years and it is now about 5,500 years since the Flood ended.
So, what else is important to know about the world of the dinosaurs before the Flood?
The CCC Model of geology spells out in greater detail the pre-Flood world events. The dinosaurs lived in a very restricted environment, apparently within 100 miles of the ocean or some large body of water. Their diet was also quite different from the diet of mammals. It's interesting that the fossils of mammals are found around the world in profusion in the layers immediately above the last of the dinosaur fossils. This is basically due to a change in the plant food sources in the former ecosystem of the dinosaurs. This change is fundamental!
In fact, the Bible strongly indicates the Earth soon after Creation had vastly different ecosystems from our own. It would be a mistake to think of our present world as something akin to the world of the dinosaurs.
How was the world before the Flood different from the current one?
We are just beginning to really understand the answer to that question. Many mysteries remain that hopefully further investigation will help answer. Other questions will probably never receive an completely adequate answer.
But, this much seems clear: the common plants and animals which humans need and depend upon for food and other necessities were geographically restricted in the beginning. The Bible specifically tells us about an area called Eden and a garden within it especially created for man, giving him what he needed. The fruit trees, for example, and those animals associated with what scientists call angiosperms (plants whose seed is in itself, using Bible terms) were originally very limited geographically. Mankind started with just two people – Adam and Eve – and only a limited, suitable food supply was needed for these first humans and the animals who shared Eden.
However, these plants and animals did not stay confined to Eden, but spread gradually over the face of the pre-Flood world. Out of the garden flowed a river which parted into four other rivers. We can assume this waterway became one of the avenues whereby the plants and animals of Eden were spread throughout the world. Birds are also known to be great carriers of seeds into new areas.
Using the fossil record as a guide, we can trace how much the world changed. Each area originally had its characteristic types of life. The fossil record is much like the archeological record of a city where each layer tells the story of what happened as time passed. By piecing together the rock record from around the world we can get a pretty good idea of how the Earth has changed since God originally placed the various types of plants and animals in their created ecosystems.
Do you have any idea why God would create such strange creatures as the dinosaurs?
Certainly dinosaurs displayed His power and might! It's also interesting to realize that mankind and the plants and animals associated with him were cradled on what scientists now call Precambrian "shield areas" of the Earth. Eden was on a shield area. Shield areas are generally devoid of any Paleozoic, Mesozoic, or Cenozoic strata. These three divisions of rocks are the layers containing the bulk of the fossil record.
It's around these original, stable shield areas that the continents were gradually extended after Creation Week. The bulk of the geologic catastrophes after the start of the Curse involved the sea areas immediately on the vast continental shelves of the stable shield areas. Since the dinosaurs seemed to have lived near the sea shores, this means they would have been the guardians of the coastlands of the pre-Flood world.
Could it be that their presence along the coastlands helped keep humans away from the most catastrophic areas of the pre-Flood Earth? If so, then God placed dinosaurs there to keep mankind from the most dangerous areas as great geologic events occurred along the continental margins. These great events enlarged the size of the continents as former sea areas became land. This would allow the dinosaurs to migrate to the new continental margins. Mankind, mammals and angiosperms would also extend their range outward from the shield areas into these newly formed lands.
This is all getting very interesting! How much do we currently know about the world before the Flood?
Actually much is known, but much has been shrouded in evolutionary and ancient earth frameworks so the picture is blurred until the data is put into proper perspective. This will require much work by many individuals dedicated to the biblical record and truthful to the physical one as well.
What happened to the dinosaurs that made the footprints in Dinosaur Valley State Park?
Few fossil dinosaur bones have been found in the park area. It is mainly their footprints that have been found at this particular locality. The original setting of the footprints was along an ancient sea shore. This was a rapidly changing world for the dinosaurs in many ways. Their land was being invaded by angiosperms. These are plants which many dinosaurs could not safely eat. Scientists only suppose that dinosaurs somehow survived for millions of years as the angiosperms took over the landscape. The problem with that thought is we are not dealing with millions of years.
Evidence indicates the dinosaurs migrated to those remaining areas on earth that still had their characteristic non-angiosperm food supply – the ferns, conifers, cycads, etc. Vast changes took place in the area that is now Glen Rose (actually all the area that is now the Gulf of Mexico to Northern Canada). The vast inland sea that once covered mid-North America receded off the continent as the ocean level dropped.
Scientists think, and it seems a fair conclusion, that worldwide sea level changes happened as the long, worldwide, mid-ocean ridges rose and sank. As they did, the ocean levels around the world changed the limits of the sea coast in the pre-Flood world. Also, the land itself was not static. It moved up (and down), at times forming entire mountain ranges! So it should not be surprising that geology records times when the sea invaded portions of the continents and at other times the sea retreated off the land due to these sea and/or land movements. This is attested by the characteristic fossils in the different rock layers. Rocks containing land life fossils often are found on top of deposits containing sea life fossils. (This alternating sea/land/sea/land, etc. rock sequence is good evidence that more time was involved for strata formation than the GFE).
According to the fossil record, most of the dinosaurs seemed to be out of the picture when the Flood began. Many types appeared to have been unable to use angiosperms for food. Other dinosaurs died because of environment changing events which they could not withstand.
Some evolutionists believe the dinosaurs were killed off when a huge asteroid hit the Earth. However, other scientists regard this answer as insufficient. Many other creatures (mammals, reptiles, birds) survived that event and their descendants are still very much with us today. So what is a possible reason for this limited extinction?
Remember, God created each animal to live where it would have a food supply. Adam and Eve were put into a garden full of fruit trees and other good things to eat. Each animal also had a specific diet. And like Adam and Eve who were placed where there was food to sustain them, God placed the animals (both land and sea) on the newly created Earth in ecosystems where they could survive. From these locations they could multiply. God's first command both to man and the animals was to multiply, showing a limited original creation. After multiplication, the various life forms could migrate to new locations as the food supply was available in other areas. The Earth before the Flood witnessed an expansion of the various creation centers as the food chain expanded in each area.
The diet of herbivorous dinosaurs consisted of such things as ferns, conifers, cycads, and other plants which humans and other mammals do not normally eat. The plants in Eden where Adam and Eve and their descendants originally lived soon extended their range through waterways, birds, and other methodologies.
The fossil record tells us that in the latter time of the dinosaurs new plants began to appear in their enviroment. These new plants (the angiosperms) are the very plants the Bible describe as originally created in Eden. When these new plants arrived in the dinosaur ecology, they began to take over the landscape and crowd out the dinosaurs' plant food sources. Most dinosaurs found it harder and harder to find suitable food. Some scientists think angiosperms may have even been toxic for the dinosaurs. Think of the way your stomach would feel if you only had ferns, conifers and cycads to eat. In the same way, many of the dinosaurs seem to have found our foods unappealing and without food they perished. Once the "Eden ecology" filled the landscapes around the world, dinosaur tracks or fossils vanish from the fossil record. While some dinosaurs may have been able to eat angiosperms, the fossil record indicates that most could not.
Do you think dinosaurs were with Noah on the Ark?
There is some evidence that a limited type of dinosaur existed after the Flood. But even so, no remains of dinosaurs have ever, to my knowledge, been found with human fossils or artifacts. This would indicate that any post-Flood dinosaurs were greatly limited.
Have man tracks been found in the Paluxy Riverbed alongside those of dinosaurs?
This was a common belief among some creationists back in the 50s, 60s, and 70s, and even early 80s. However, most young earth creationists now acknowledge that the evidence once thought to show dinosaur and human footprints in the Paluxy riverbed was mistaken and outright fraudulent in some cases.
To help clarify this question, two additional reports are available on this website. One was written by myself when I first went to the Glen Rose area in 1967 (before it was a state park). The other paper is by Edward C. Lain who did even more research on the question. I refer you to both of these reports if you would like to learn more on the subject.
Would you give us a brief summary?
The magnificent dinosaur tracks preserved near Glen Rose, Texas, give us a glimpse of the lives of dinosaurs along an ancient sea shore in the world before the Flood. Around the world, many millions or billions of tracks have been found. The preservation of such a vast multitude of tracks along many ancient sea shores gives excellent evidence for rapid changes in the pre-Flood world.
Dinosaur nests complete with fossil eggs have been found in various areas of the world. These fossils show a time period very different from the terrifying 40 days and nights of horrendous rain during the Flood. Footprints made at the time of the Flood would have been rapidly destroyed. The Flood eroded huge amounts of rocks and swept them and all land-dwelling creatures (man and beast) outside Noah's Ark into the oceans.
The thousands of feet of rocks deposited from the time of the Creation to the start of the Flood testify of God's earlier attempts to turn pre-Flood man from his sinful ways. The Flood did not come without many earlier events and warnings! The rocks testify of God's unending desire that we too seek Him while He may yet be found.