Rarely has a single research project created as much interest
and controversy as has the alleged discovery of human and dinosaur
footprints together in the limestone beds of the Paluxy River,
normally thought to be 120 million years old. As evolutionists
Milne and Schafersman admit, "Such an occurrence, if verified,
would seriously disrupt conventional interpretations of biological
and geological history and would support the doctrines of creationism
and catastrophism." 1
Consequently, anti-creationists have devoted an inordinate amount
of attention to this project, often ignoring, ridiculing, and
distorting the evidence as reported by creationists. 1,
However, little significant fieldwork was done at the site by
the anti-creationists until 1982, when "The American Humanist
Association . . . financed a team of four scientists to thoroughly
investigate the claims first hand." 2
This team of four was comprised of Drs. Laurie Godfrey, John
Cole, Steven Schafersman, and Ronnie Hastings, and with the
exception of Hastings, has as yet done little fieldwork. On
the other hand, the Paluxy project has been the site of numerous
creationist field studies, since, while the creation model is
not dependent on the Paluxy evidence, the claim has always provided
an easily understood illustration of the creation model. The
two most widely circulated and accepted sources were the 1973
film, "Footprints in Stone," 4
produced by the late Stan Taylor, of Films for Christ, Inc.,
and this author's 1980 book, Tracking Those Incredible Dinosaurs
and the People Who Knew Them. 5
When Taylor and his film crew were drawn to the Paluxy in 1968
by a number of published and unpublished reports of human and
dinosaur tracks together, he found many residents of the area
who claimed to have seen many true human tracks in the bed of
the river, the best of which had since been carried away by
a flood, others badly eroded. Some of these long-time residents
maintained that a number of tracks of both man and dinosaur
had been removed from the river during the depression, and sold.
These claims were given credence by the circular holes in the
river bottom from which prints had been taken--in some cases
with prints of approximately human appearance still leading
into and away from the holes.
In an attempt to verify these claims and to find fresh evidence,
the Taylor team excavated back into the riverbank in several
areas. New human-like trails, as well as fresh prints in existing
trails, were found, where there was no possibility of carving.
Taylor never found perfect human footprints, but the prints
found did have significant indications of a human foot and possessed
no features incompatible with a human foot, so far as could
be seen. No other animal was known which could have made these
markings. It was concluded, therefore, that the weight of the
evidence justified the interpretation that the tracks were most
probably human, given the backdrop of "old timer"
Over the years, however, further erosion has dramatically changed
the appearance of the prints. Creationist investigators have
frequently clamed that only the freshly exposed evidence need
be defended--not the eroded remnants of tracks. The controversy
seemed forever deadlocked, since the original nature of the
prints was available for study only in photos, movies, and casts.
The only way creationist claims could be invalidated was for
(1) features of the prints not visible beforehand to be exposed
by erosion and (2) for the testimonies of the "old timers"
to be discredited. As unlikely as this may seem, just such a
scenario may be taking place today.
Due to an unknown cause, certain of the prints once labeled
human are taking on a completely different character. The prints
in the trail which I have called the "Taylor Trail,"
5 consisting of numerous
readily visible elongated impressions in a left-right sequence,
have changed into what appear to be tridactyl (three-toed) prints,
evidently of some unidentified dinosaur. The changes in the
impressions themselves are mostly confined to lengthening in
the downriver direction. The most significant change, however,
is that surrounding the toe area. In almost each of the prints
in the trail, three large "toes" have appeared, similar
to nearby dinosaur tracks. These toes, typically, are coloration
phenomena only, with no impressions, in most cases. Frequently
the "mud push up" surrounding the original elongated
track is crossed by this red coloration. The shape of the entire
track, including both impression and coloration, is unlike any
known dinosaur print.
A local resident had, in 1968, shown Taylor where he had removed
a human track to sell during the 1930's. Three 9-1/2" long
man-like tracks were found leading up to the hole, two of which
showed the general outline of a human foot. Following this general
direction, Taylor removed overlying strata for 200 feet downriver,
and found what was later called the Taylor Trail. He made no
claims that these prints contained unquestionable toes or other
diagnostic features, but the bipedal stride and the general
shape of the tracks were certainly compatible with what a human
would make while walking in mud. In fact, the prints did possess
features which were problematic, prompting creationist Berney
Neufeld later to label them as shallow, eroded dinosaur tracks.6
The trail might not have been called human if not for the hole
from which a "perfect" print had reportedly been taken
some 50 feet away. (From a recent study of Taylor's field notes,
it is fairly certain that the prints near the hole were not
a part of the Taylor Trail, as previously thought.)
But what of the other trails at the same site, which have also
been labeled "human?" The Turnage Trail, consisting
of a trail of eight, with print numbers 2 and 5 missing, has
also developed puzzling features in prints 3 and 4. Here a bluish
coloration and minor impressions indicate a smaller but distinctly
pointed tridactyl shape. The rest of the trail has not recently
been exposed, and it is not known if those prints also show
such features. In fact, prints 3 and 4 were always much different
from the rest of the trail, and somewhat out of line, as well.
In light of the new appearance, and the fact that new impressions
have appeared in this part of the river in recent years, it
would be worthwhile to reexamine the rest of the trail.
The "Giant Trail," consisting of six large prints,
seemed like better evidence. The bank has collapsed over three
of the six, but the three now visible show no dinosaurian features,
even though the surface has been somewhat eroded. However, a
trail of coloration features leading up to the Giant Trail do
raise a question. Separating the first giant track (print number
+1), and the closest possible coloration marking (now called
print 0), is a distance of 90", and if both belong to the
same trail, two prints are completely missing. That first coloration
(print 0) is poorly formed, and not diagnostic. The toe area
of the next in line (print 00) was stepped on by a clear dinosaur
print, as was the next marking (print -1). Finally, the next
farthest print (print -2) shows, in coloration only, claw features
similar to the Taylor Trail. The association with the Giant
Trail is tenuous, but the possibility that the entire trail
might be dinosaurian cannot be ignored.
The Ryals Trail included a hole in the river from which "one
of the best human footprints" (according to Jim Ryals and
many others) was removed by Ryals over 50 years ago. The prints
entering and leaving the cutout seemed (in 1968), at least compatible
with a human foot. As with the other trails, these are now developing
tridactyl colorations. If this trail is, in actuality, a dinosaur
trail, the testimonies of the "old timers" must be
questioned. Studies by a team of ICR scientists of cores taken
through each of the claws of one print, in an effort to determine
whether or not the coloration features are only surface stains,
were inconclusive. The mottled rock material beneath the toes
showed some evidence of infilling with a different material,
but in other areas, showed only a thin veneer of slightly different
In view of these developments, none of the four trails at the
Taylor site can today be regarded as unquestionably of human
origin. The Taylor Trail appears, obviously, dinosaurian, as
do two prints thought to be in the Turnage Trail. The Giant
Trail has what appears to be dinosaur prints leading toward
it, and some of the Ryals tracks seem to be developing claw
Trails and prints elsewhere along the Paluxy, while contributive
to the original interpretation, may be insufficient to stand
alone. Erosion has further deteriorated the once-interesting
prints on the park ledge, but they are still recognizable. At
the Dougherty site, no hints of the important Cherry Trail and
Morris prints remain. The various controversial prints labeled
as human by Carl Baugh in recent years are of uncertain origin,
and at best are not comparable in quality to prints at the sites
discussed above, thereby providing no support for the original
position. Earlier prints which had been removed from the river
before being documented, even if genuine, cannot be considered
as compelling evidence, in view of their uncertain source.
The stain surrounding the prints has evidently increased over
the past few years. It was first noted in 1982 by Mr. Glen Kuban,
who since 1980 has been researching the area.7
At the invitation of Kuban, Paul Taylor, Marian Taylor, and
Marvin Herrmann (all associated with the production of Footprints
in Stone), Tom Henderson, early footprint investigator,
and this author, returned to Paluxy in October 1985, to see
the new evidence. Some of us have returned since to do additional
fieldwork. With the exception of Kuban, who claims neutrality
on the creation-evolution question, all share the conclusion
that the recent reddish stain, so devastating to the original
interpretation, is itself quite baffling as to source and meaning.
The following additional mysterious points seem significant:
- Fifteen years of erosion (contrary to the usual effects
of erosion) seems to have "improved" the quality
of the trackways. It is possible that a thin overlying layer
is eroding, revealing an underlying print, but then why didn't
the adjacent, deep dinosaur trail receive this infilling material,
since it was evidently made first?
- Since the marl which filled in the deep dinosaur tracks
was unconsolidated and easily removed by investigators, why
did the Taylor tracks retain much of the material while providing
a solid print bottom and flush toes?
- If the reddish stain is due to minerals in the river water,
why did the Ryals Trail, which has been exposed at least 60
years, begin to stain at the same time as the more recently
- Applying a reddish stain to a rock surface can easily be
accomplished by the application of certain readily available
- Is the Giant Trail extension valid? Likewise, are the tridactyl
prints in the Turnage Trail really part of that trail? How
could the "old timers" all be so wrong about the
track removed from the Ryals Trail?
- Why do the cores not show unequivocal evidence of toe infilling
if the red surface stain is indeed a chemical alteration of
an infilling material?
Even though it would now be improper for creationists to continue
to use the Paluxy data as evidence against evolution, in the
light of these questions, there is still much that is not known
about the tracks and continued research is in order. We stand
committed to truth, and will gladly modify or abandon our previous
interpretation of the Paluxy data as the facts dictate.
1 Milne, David H., and
Steven O. Schafersman, 1983, "Dinosaur Tracts, Erosion
Marks and Midnight Chisel Work (But No Human Footprints) in
the Cretaceous Limestone of the Paluxy River Bed, Texas,"
Journal of Geological Education, Vol. 31, pp. 111-123.
2 Edwords, Frederick, 1983.
"CreationEvolution Update: Footprints in the Mind,"
The Humanist, Vol. 43, No. 2, P. 31, March/April.
3 "The Paluxy River
Footprint Mystery-Solved," 1985, CreationEvolution
Special Issue, Vol. 5, No. 1. Entire issue devoted to Paluxy
footprints, articles authored by Godfrey, Cole, Hastings,
4 Taylor, Stanley E., "Footprints
in Stone," 1983 (Film) produced by Films for Christ,
5 Morris, John D., Tracking
Those Incredible Dinosaurs (and the People Who Knew Them),
1980, San Diego, Creation-Life Publishers, 240 pp.
6 Neufeld, Berney, "Dinosaur
Tracts and Giant Men" Origins, Vol. 2, No. 2,
1975, pp. 64-76.
7 Kuban, Glen, 1985, The
Texas Mantrack Controversy. Self-published. Kuban has
done extensive field research and documentation at the Taylor
Site and elsewhere. His evaluation, complete with photographs
and maps can be purchased from him at Box 663, Brunswick,
*Dr. John Morris is the President of the Institute
for Creation Research.