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Scientists Uncover Dinosaur Tracks At Government Canyon

The Witte Museum reveals clues for a mystery millions of years in the making.

“We knew about three or four tracks and we thought we had maybe 20 or 25 tracks total, but we ended up uncovering about 150 additional tracks over the last two weeks,” said Dr. Thomas Adams, who curates paleontology at the Witte Museum. The tracks he’s talking about are dinosaur tracks.

“Are they in a fairly central location together?” I asked.

“They are. They’re actually -- it’s a relatively small area in Government Canyon State Natural Area,” Adams said.

Government Canyon is west of the Highway 16 North/Loop 1604 West intersection. But driving there won’t get you to the tracks.

“It’s a two and a half mile hike on a very rough trail from the Visitors’ Center, but they’re right there. You can go see the dinosaur tracks,” Adams said.

“Now you say uncovered. What do you mean by that?” I asked.

“The ones that we’ve just uncovered are a portion of the creek bed that has had water sitting in it,” he said.

Drought drained some of that away, then volunteers dealt with the remaining mud.

“We’ve swept all that away and pumped out all the water and removed all the mud,” Adams said.

These tracks are all embedded in limestone, and if you’re wondering how tracks get embedded in rock, they weren’t.

“It wasn’t always rock. Limestone is produced at the bottom of the oceans. At one time there was an ocean here. The tracks are approximately 110 million years old,” he said.

And at that time the ocean had receded, leaving a sediment-heavy mud that the dinosaurs walked through.

“Over millions of years, that mud turns into rock,” Adams said.

Texas Parks and Wildlife is teaming with the Witte to study the tracks, castings of which will end up in the Witte’s Valero Great Hall, which is still to be built.

Jack Morgan can be reached at jack@tpr.org and on Twitter at @JackMorganii