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Diggin' For Dinosaurs - Dinosaur Valley & Clayton Lake

Updated on March 30, 2010

Recently, some palaeontologists have questioned this dramatic scenario, saying there's little evidence the animals changed speed or direction as they would during a pursuit. Many also point out that there's no way of knowing if the theropod tracks were made at the same time as the sauropods', or hours or even days later.

The pursuit legend, however, lives on. Near the entrance to the park stand more reminders: life-size fiberglass models of the sauropod Apatosaurus and a Tyrannosaurus rex, cast for the 1964 World's Fair in New York and meant to represent the participants in the deadly battle. It was an odd trade for the valuable trackways that had been sent to New York: Apatosaurus and T. rex actually lived millions of years after the Pleurocoelus and Acrocanthosaurus of Glen Rose.

The Paluxy tracks have inspired even more controversy than this. Creationists have long suggested that human footprints exist alongside or even within the dinosaur tracks of Glen Rose. But palaeontologists have confirmed that any mysterious tracks at Glen Rose were all made by dinosaurs. The man-tracks on a ledge above the main trackway site within the park, for instance, were made by dinosaurs walking oddly, placing a part of their foot down that they wouldn't usually. Scientists view this as a challenge not to the reality of the Glen Rose dinosaur tracks but to themselves to learn why dinosaurs left behind the marks they did.

Clayton Lake State Park, New Mexico

 The landscape around Clayton, New Mexico, has long offered respite for travelers. Early settlers stopped at watering holes here as they journeyed along a cutoff of the Santa Fe Trail. And the same was true millions of years ago, when dinosaurs rumbled by. They left their marks within what is now Clayton Lake State Park, where visitors can see one of the most significant dinosaur trackways in the country.

It's not surprising that the place is so packed with fossil history. The Clayton Lake area contains Dakota Sandstone, a rock formation that harbors many traces of dinosaurs. Around 100 million years ago, Dakota Sandstone was laid down along the western edge of the shallow sea that covered central North America. The muddy shoreline was the ideal place for many kinds of dinosaurs. Dinosaur footprints in Dakota Sandstone stretch from northern New Mexico to Colorado. Dinosaur Ridge west of Denver, for example, showcases prints in the Dakota similar to those seen here.

Unlike Dinosaur Valley State Park in Texas, the tracks at Clayton Lake are always exposed. Rather than rooting around in a river for footprints, visitors take a wooden walkway right up to more than 500 separate dinosaur tracks. In the morning or early evening, the low-angle sunlight strikes the tracks and brings out their details. Some of the tracks are in danger of disappearing as the sandstone flakes away in wind and rain. Others come into higher definition as the surface slowly erodes. Still making discoveries at Clayton Lake, palaeontologists examine the tracks to learn more about how dinosaurs lived.

Continued in: Diggin' For Dinosaurs - Clayton Lake & Petrified Forest

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