"Lone Ranger Trail" and Nearby Tracks

Taylor Area, Dinosaur Valley State Park
Paluxy Riverbed, Glen Rose, Texas

(C) 2022-2023, Glen J. Kuban


Known as the "IID, Deep Dino Trail", "Lone Ranger Trail", or simply "Long Trail", this exceptionally long trackway of deep dinosaur tracks was probably made by the large theropod (bipedal, meat-eating dinosaur) Acrocanthosaurus, and may be the longest existing dinosaur trail in North America. Spanning over 150 feet (about 152 meters), and curving in several places, it contains over 135 known steps, not counting an area of indistinct tracks in a deeply scoured area (which would bring the total to over 150), and who knows how many more tracks under the banks at each end. The average track length is about 15 inches (38 cm), although many of the toe marks are narrowed and shortened by mud-collapse, and many posteriors have been elongated by river scouring. Crossing and near by this trail are several other trackways, including a number of juvenile or "baby" tracks.

The western end of the Long Trail crosses the renown Taylor Site proper, dominated by many trails of elongate, largely infilled metatarsal (heel impressed) dinosaur tracks once mistaken for "human" footprints. Ron Hastings and others often joined me in progressively mapping these and many other tracks at and around the Taylor Site in the 1980s and early 1990s, including about two dozen tracks in the Long Trail (indicated in our maps as the IID Trail). Our photos and maps of these trails can be seen in the "Taylor Site" link of my Paluxy Photo Gallery. Dozens more tracks in and around the Long Trail were mapped in subsequent years.

During a severe drought in the summer of 2000, the entire Long trail and some of the tracks crossing it were exposed and largely mapped by a group of young-earth creationists. However, few Glen Rose visitors got to see it then or since. This is partly because even during dry periods (typically late summer) large portions are often still under mud, gravel and/or shallow water water. However, another unusually severe drought occurred in the summer of 2022, affording another rare opportunity to re-expose the entire Long Trail and even more tracks around and beyond it, and allow many more people to see and enjoy these remarkable wonders. When I learned of the drought in August, I headed for Glen Rose as soon as possible, in hopes of doing this, as well as documenting previously unmapped tracks in other unusually low and seldom accessible areas of the riverbed (with the help of others of course).

Upon arriving in Glen Rose, and with the cooperation of Dinosaur Valley State Park (which now owns the land bordering the N side of the Taylor area), I organized a large group of volunteer workers, including members of the Dallas Paleo Society, Master Naturalist group, and "Friends of Dinosaur Valley." Each day over two dozen of these enthusiastic volunteers came to help, along with several friends, previous coworkers, park staff, and interested visitors. Ranging from young children to retired seniors, they all worked diligently with shovels and trowels, scoops, brooms, etc., to expose and clean as many tracks as possible, despite the very hot and dirty conditions. Moreover, soon after we began working the drought ended, we had to contend with intermittent and overnight rains, requiring water the use of pumps and bucket brigades to repeatedly bail out two large water pools. However, after several days we succeeded in exposing more tracks in and around the Long Trail than ever before, including some new ones at both ends of the Long Trail, extensions of several known trails crossing it, and a good number of previously unknown tracks and trails. We carefully measured the paces and strides of all the tracks in the long trail, and some of the crossing trails not previously mapped. Assistant park superintendent Asa and some local volunteers did the first drone filming of the long trail and nearby tracks in a clean and largely dry condition. As a result of widespread media coverage of these happenings and other efforts at other tracksites in the park, thousands of people rushed to see these specticales from all over Texas, other states, and even foreign countries. One local resident who had been to the park several times before but had never seen even part of the long trail or so many clear tracks exposed at one time, became visible moved as she exclaimed, "Oh my God! Oh My God! I want to cry!", which made me want to cry. Even though many hundreds of others got to see the tracks, unfortunately many others had to be turned away due to daily park attendance limits, and the increasing rains that came in early September, flooding the river and covering the tracks with dark, muddy water.

Among the most interesting new finds was a curious "track in track"-- that is, a raised-relief, infilled, color-distinct track overlapping the ‘heel’ of one of the deep tracks in the Long Trail). Also exposed were many other color distinct, infilled tracks in the "Taylor West" area beyond the end of the Long Trail and Taylor Site proper (including some not documented before), and a collection of 8 strange holes, which are described and illustrated further in separate sections below.


DRONE FOOTAGE of Lone Ranger Trail by Duane Sparks, Aug 27, 2022

VIdeo by Barbara and Jonathan Bevill on the Long Trail and nearby tracks, Sept. 2022


Click on any thumnail inmage for the full-sized image. Hit the BACK key to return to the gallery.
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Remarkable "Track in a Track"

Track #85 in the Long Trail is overlapped near the rear by a color-distinct, positive relief (raised) track, similar to other color distinct tracks with little or no relief (or positive relief) at the Taylor Site proper and Taylor West and Taylor SE areas. These color distinct tracks are due to iron-rich sediment filling the original track depressions, after which (even in modern times) the iron in the infilling material can oxidize (rust) to become more dark and redish-brown, as well as harder than the surrounding limestone, so that the limestone litterally eroded around the infilling, causing it to sometimes develop raised relief. Due to time limitations during our recent work, we were not able to determine how many tracks may be in line with the raised track here, although indications of at least one infilled track in front of it were also found. What is remarkable about this track in track is having the infilled track inside the non-inmfilled deep track, indicating two different forms of preservation at the same spot. At the Taylor Site proper, a couple similar examples are found, but there we see infilled metatarsal tracks barely touching or overlapping a deep Long Trail track at the anterior (toe end) of the latter.

For photos of more infilled tracks of at least three different types at Taylor Site proper, Taylor SE areas, and another area along the long trail called the "Moni Site", see the Taylor Site menu in my Paluxy Photo Gallery. Photos of new deatures at the Taylor West area, including remains of a dino egg clutch, see the last section below.
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Track in Track with silicone mold at left
Photo by Joe Meeker<
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Track in Track silicone mold

Color distrinct tracks and Mystery Holes at Taylor West site - Possible remains of an dinsoaur egg nest?

In September 2022 our field crew re-exposed the Taylor West area (just west of the Taylor Site proper), much of which was mapped years ago by Ron Hastings and myself. The Taylor West area contains many distinct, well-infilled tracks, most of which are still in good shape, in contrast to the Taylor Site proper, where many of the tracks are cracking badly and/or covered with thick algal crusts. This time our crew found even more color-distinct infilled tracksin the Taylor West area, some in line with the renown Taylor Trail, and others connecting with the "A" Trail on the Taylor Site (a possible ornithopod trail), and more distinct infilled theropod tracks.

However, our most surprising and curious find was a collection of eight mysterious holes situated between two tracks in the A trail. Several of us (Joe Meeker, Pam Riddle, Phil Scoggins, Murray Cohen, and myself), carefully cleaned out each hole, after which we made a latex mold covering all of the holes and the closest infilled dinosaur track. Each hole was 2 to 3 inches deep and well-rounded at the bottom, which seemed to rule out their having been made by the sharp claws of a dinosaur hand or foot, or a pterosaur beak. They also do not appear to be merely random depressions or invertebrate trace fossils. After debating what they could be, the concensus was that they most resembled an egg clutch of a Troodon dinosaur (a small theropod about the size of a collie). If so, the nest probbaly did not belong to the dinosaur that left the infilled tridactly tracks on either side of the holes, since that dinosaur would have been much larger.
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Making the latex mold. Photo by Joe Meeker
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