Dinosaur Freeway

Is the Dinosaur Freeway a record of migration “to find new forage” or a panicky attempt to evacuate?

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Several hundred dinosaur tracks in addition to pterosaur and crocodile tracks discovered in a dry Colorado reservoir match those of the so-called Dinosaur Freeway in western North America’s Dakota Group of Cretaceous rocks. The finding has prompted much paleo-ecological pondering about dinosaur behavior. “The Dinosaur Freeway runs from Northeast Colorado, near Boulder, to east central New Mexico, near Tucumcari,” geologist Martin Lockley explained. Lockley and Reiji Kukihara found the tracks in Colorado’s John Martin reservoir during an extended drought. Their analysis of the tracks and their patterns has appeared in Cretaceous Research. They believe the patterns outline migratory routes along the coastal plain of an ancient seaway splitting North America.

“They mainly show that dinosaurs roamed very freely and for long distances along coastal plains,” says Lockley, who is the director of Dinosaur Tracks Museum.

The tracks, identified as predominantly ornithopod, run in a roughly north-south orientation. “Sometimes the ornithopod dinosaurs appear to have walked in herds,” Lockley said. “Their trackways are parallel and equally spaced, and sometimes they all belong to individuals of similar size.” The tracks come in three sizes, which the researchers suggest could represent juveniles, young adults, and adults, or even three different species of this dinosaur type. Curiously, the researchers point out, only large tracks are found in the northern regions, with the mixture of sizes confined to the southern parts of the Dinosaur Freeway. Crocodile tracks and swim marks are mixed in with this dinosaur parade but not in any particular pattern.1 The coastal plain, Lockley says, “was riddled with waterways and wetlands ideal for crocs.”

The Dakota Group includes a widespread prominent layer of massive sandstone covering about 815,000 square kilometers in the western United States. Many secular geologists believe the Dakota Group—additionally consisting of alternating thinner layers of sandstone and shale—was a coastal plain along a seaway stretching from the Gulf of Mexico to the Arctic Sea. They believe the seaway formed millions of years ago and that the coastal plain sediment, which is rich in calcium carbonate—a cement-like mineral—built up over millions of years and was eventually lifted up by the tectonic forces that produced the Colorado Plateau and mountainous regions of the West.

The interior seaway has been proposed to explain the ancient presence of so much water in the middle of North America. However, deposition of the 30-meter-thick layer of massive sandstone over such a vast area is more consistent with rapid deposition of water-borne sediment. Preservation of tracks likewise requires rapid burial in sediment containing highly mineralized water. Thus, the paleontologic and geologic findings of the Dakota Group are consistent with the global Flood.

The geologic column is predominantly a record of the order of burial during the Flood. Typically, fossilized tracks are found in the rock layers below the body fossils of the same types of animals, and larger animals of the same types tend to appear higher in the column. Larger mobile animals would have logically tried to flee the rising surging floodwaters, scurrying to and fro and leaving tracks in wet, recently deposited sediment. As surges of water returned—bringing carbonate-rich sediment to bury the tracks—and rose higher, the animals that left tracks were eventually overcome, swept away, and buried in higher layers of sediment elsewhere. The Dakota Group, while hosting many vertebrate tracks and invertebrate trace fossils, is noticeably lacking in body fossils.2 Thus the absence of body fossils in the Dakota Group where large numbers of tracks and traces are preserved is consistent with the biblical Flood’s waters rising over a period of weeks, as described in Genesis 7.

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  1. Reiji Kukihara and Martin G. Lockley, “Fossil Footprints from the Dakota Group (Cretaceous) John Martin Reservoir, Bent County, Colorado: New Insights into the Paleoecology of the Dinosaur Freeway,” Cretaceous Research 33 (February 2012): 165–182, doi:10.1016/j.cretres.2011.09.013.
  2. Ibid.


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