Few, if any dinosaur tracksites have been subjected to such a wide range of recording technologies. The goal of the Clayton Lake Dinosaur Tracksite Project is to provide a state-of-the-art record of the tracks, their relationships, and state of preservation at a variety of scales suitable for scientific analysis, education, public exploration and site preservation. The photographs, scans, maps, and digital models generated by the project will be made available through a publicly accessible website for viewing, analysis and research.
ABOUT CLAYTON LAKE STATE PARK:
The park is an oasis in the rolling grasslands of northeastern New Mexico. Enjoy boating, picnicking, camping, fishing and hiking. Get a unique glimpse of the past when you explore one of the most extensive dinosaur trackways in North America and a close-up look at the stars at the Lake Observatory.
Clayton Lake State Park is centered on Clayton Lake, a man-made reservoir constructed in the 1960s by damning Seneca Creek north of Clayton, NM.
When the dam and its spillway were constructed, bulldozing of the spillway uncovered hundreds of dinosaur tracks in Early Cretaceous (about 100 million year old) sandstone. The first scientific study of the tracks took place during the 1980s, and the tracks have been the subject of ongoing research since that time.
Clayton Lake State Park is one of a handful of dinosaur tracksites in the United States that are in a public park open to all visitors. It has interpretive signage and exhibits that explain the scientific understanding of the dinosaur tracks.
The sandstone in which the dinosaur tracks occur formed along the shoreline of a seaway that bisected North America during much of the Cretaceous Period. That seaway, known as the Western Interior Seaway, extended from the Texas Gulf Coast to Alaska.
One hundred million years ago, at the time when the dinosaurs walked along the Cretaceous shoreline, New Mexico was a warm and wet tropical place.
The Clayton Lake Dinosaur Tracksite Project will contribute to the scientific understanding of the dinosaurs that roamed the shores of the Western Interior Seaway by providing both synoptic data on the distribution and patterns of the various trackways, and detailed metric data on the tracks left behind by individual dinosaurs 100 million years ago.
Most of the dinosaur tracks at Clayton Lake were made by ornithopod dinosaurs (mainly bipedal herbivorous dinosaur), ancestors of the duckbilled dinosaurs. Other footprints were made by two types of meat-eating dinosaurs, large and small.
No photogrammetric or other digital study of the Clayton Lake dinosaur tracks has been undertaken previously. The methods to be employed in this study are considered the state-of-the-art technologies for mapping and gathering metric data on large dinosaur tracksites.
The photographic, photogrammetric, and digital recording of the tracks will be undertaken by CNM students as a class project under the supervision of CNM professors Rick Watson and John Rogers. The project will provide the students with invaluable real-world experience. Spencer Lucas, NMMNHS Curator of Paleontology, will collaborate, and assistance and oversight will be provided by the staff of Clayton Lake State Park.
The final products of the Clayton Lake Dinosaur Tracksite Project will be published in a scientific journal and will be used to develop a website about the dinosaur tracksite at Clayton Lake.
Support for the Clayton Lake Dinosaur Tracksite Project is provided by:
- The CNM School of Applied Technologies and the School of Math, Science and Engineering.
- The CNM Executive Council of Students, who provided funding for some of the students on the project.
- Tony Trujillo, who provided funding through the CNM Foundation for some of the students on the project.
- CNM’s Student Activities Office, which provided logistical support for the students on the project.
- New Mexico Museum of Natural History and Science (a division of the Department of Cultural Affairs of the State of New Mexico).
- New Mexico State Parks Department.