Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Where Dinosaurs Walked

Some of our group took a guided educational tour of Canyon Lake Gorge. Here we are set to go: L to R: Birdie, Diana, Anita, Teresa (Birdie's sister-in-law) and me.
This aerial photo from their website ( shows the gorge that was eroded 40 feet below the pre-flood terrain by the 2002 flood event, when flood waters went over Canyon Lake spillway (seen at the top) for the first time in its history.
That tragic flood event unearthed a treasure of fossils of Early Cretaceous period that were deposited over 110 million years ago. Our tour begins with a bus ride to the top of the dam.
A view of the spillway from above. Hiking in the gorge is only allowed on these tours with a docent guide. The guides are all volunteers.
After descending to the spillway, we listen to the guide's description of what happened here and rules of hiking the gorge.
Just below the spillway we come to the first set of dinosaur tracks.
This track belonged to a three-toed meat-eater.

Our guide is tickling the belly of the imaginary Acrocanthosaurs, demonstrating how long the legs were.
The dinosaurs were actually walking along the beach or mudflats of an ancient sea that covered much of Texas at the time. 
The photo above and this one are tracks of a second dinosaur, a plant-eater.

These huge boulders were washed and tumbled upside-down in the historic flood.
The guide points out the geology of the aquifer that lies below the rocks.
The porous limestone aquifer allows water to flow underground.
We are now walking on the remains of the ancient seabed. You can scoop up handfuls of tiny fossils of sea creatures.
A display of fossilized shells.

This was an ancient bed of clams.
Teresa peers into the canyon. Water seeps into the canyon from the lake as well as from springs.
Water entering the gorge from a nearby spring.
Surface water gathers into lagoons in the gorge.
There are fish in the lagoons.
More fossils in the rocks.

A fish in the lagoon.

Water flows through cracks into the underground aquifer.

This fossilized rock shows wave action on the ancient seabed.
Sandbag stepping stones have been placed to make crossing the water easier and safer.
Water has disappeared into the aquifer and will reappear below.
like this...
and this...
Looking down the gorge.
Another view.
The light colored rock is evidence of recent erosion and reason why entry into the gorge is only by guided tour.
Our trail goes into the woods a little way. This landscape is nothing like what was here when it was at the edge of the sea. There would have been some palm-like trees here.
Descending farther into the gorge.

We are standing on a fault line.
Fault line.

Approaching another lagoon.
Water entering the gorge from nearby springs.
A small waterfall.

A Kingfisher flew through the gorge...can you see it?
Then he flew again and perched next to this colorful sumac.

Continuing down the trail.
You can just see the highway in the distance where our tour will end.

More waves can be seen in the ancient seabed.

Fossils of tiny sea animals...I forgot what kind.

The lower layer here is rich with fossils. We got a chance to do our own fossil hunting.
First some education about what to look for.
And how to identify what we find.
Then we spread out to see what we can find.
This is not a fossil, but it was pretty cool to find a flower growing in this harsh environment.
Searching for fossils...
Some of the fossil finds.

Our guide leads the way.
This is the fossil imprint of an ancient crustacean, perhaps a lobster-like creature.
A pretty large lobster...

At the end of the tour were more rocks imbedded with tiny fossilized sea creatures. Our guide told us of another nearby site where we could go to see more dinosaur tracks.
So the next day we went to The Heritage Museum of the Texas Hill Country.
There is a museum where a docent explains the exhibits inside, then sends us outside to view the dinosaur tracks.
A large roof has been built over the tracks to help preserve them from the elements. More than 350 dinosaur tracks were uncovered here when a developer was in the process of building an RV park on the site. Experts were called in and work was halted on the project.
About the tracks found here:
The dinosaurs all seemed to be walking in straight parallel lines...likely following the shoreline.
Educational tours for school groups are also scheduled here.
This line diagonal line was believed to be made by a large snail.

Viewed from a walkway above.
View from the top.
This area is still being developed, but more dinosaur tracks can be we followed the trail.
More dinosaur tracks. These are still filled with dirt or water, but can be easily located.

Anita, Mary Jane, and Diana
In this exhibit outside the museum kids of all ages can practice uncovering fossils like an archaeologist.
Our group: Diana, Birdie, Mary Jane, Colleen, Anita, and me.

1 comment:

  1. Great tour through the gorge and nice tie-in to the museum dinosaur tracks.


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