Archeological evidence suggests humans have occupied this area for many centuries. Native American Indians lived at sites in the park from about 6,000 years ago until Europeans arrived. They came here for the water and the abundant game, fish and mussels. They were probably ancestors of the Tonkawa, who lived in this region in later times.
The Tonkawa were bands of hunter-gatherers. Besides hunting game and catching fish and mussels in the river, they harvested pecans and walnuts, wild grapes and other local foods.
In the 1700s, Wichita groups migrated south from the high plains into this area. Wichita people built villages of conical huts, hunted buffalo and farmed.
Nomadic bands of Comanche also moved south into Texas about this time. The Comanche were highly skilled horseback riders. One of the largest bands of Comanche, known as “Wasps” or “Honey-Eaters,” rode through present-day Somervell County. They spent winters in this area, grazing their ponies on the grass prairies, protected from the cold north winds by limestone bluffs.
French traders and explorers were likely the first Europeans to travel through this area, also in the 1700s.They traded with and gained the support of the Comanche and Wichita. In part, this was because the French would supply guns and ammunition.
Charles E. Barnard was one of the first permanent Anglo settlers in this area. He and his brother established a trading post in the late 1840s. In the 1850s, pioneers began pouring in, altering this area forever.
In 1860, Barnard bought a tract of land on the Paluxy River, in what would later become Glen Rose. He established a grist mill and store there. Stop by the square to view the statue of Barnard and his wife, Juana Josefina Cavasos, and to read their story.
Evidence in stone
In 1908, a flood of epic proportions roared down the Paluxy. It washed out all bridges and culverts on the river and scoured the riverbed.
A year later, nine-year-old George Adams discovered something amazing in the river: large, three-toed tracks - theropod tracks
Nearly 20 years later, a fossil collector for the American Museum of Natural History in New York named R. T. Bird saw one of the theropod tracks in a shop in New Mexico. He decided to come to Texas and check out the site. While exploring in the river, he was amazed to discover what looked like sauropod tracks, along with the theropod tracks. The tracks were the first proof that sauropods walked on land.
Saving the tracks
The 1,587-acre Dinosaur Valley State Park opened in 1972. Its mission: to preserve these valuable dinosaur track sites and to allow people to learn from and enjoy them.
The National Park Service has designated this park as a National Natural Landmark because of the outstanding display of dinosaur tracks.
You can’t miss the models of an Apatosaurus (70 feet) and Tyrannosaurus rex (45 feet) near headquarters. The fiberglass models were on display at the 1964-65 New York’s World’s Fair. The Atlantic Richfield Company donated them to the park in 1970.
Tracks from the park are on display at the American Museum of Natural History in New York and at the Texas Memorial Museum in Austin. You can see a copy of the tracks at park headquarters.
For more information:
- Dinosaur Valley State Park Interpretive Guide
- Handbook of Texas: Somervell County
- Handbook of Texas: Glen Rose
- “Dinosaur Highway, A History of Dinosaur Valley State Park,” by Laurie E. Jasinski.
Most information on this page came from “Dinosaur Highway, A History of Dinosaur Valley State Park,” by Laurie E. Jasinski.