When we think of Texas history, Native Americans, The Alamo, Juneteenth or the railroad may come to mind… But long before man walked this ground, it was the dinosaurs that ruled the land! In Texas, there are traces of the Triassic to the Upper Cretaceous periods spanning 237-66 million years ago. So far, 21 different species of dinosaurs have been identified in Texas.
The Original Inhabitants of Canyon Lake
The Texas dirt is home to some big names like Stegosaurus, Torosaurus and Tyrannosaurus. These types of dinosaurs are mostly found in West Texas and would have been around in the late Cretaceous period, about 75-65 million years ago. Some of the earliest evidence of dinosaurs have been found in the Panhandle from the Late Triassic period. The Hill Country tracks and fossils are mostly from the Early Cretaceous period, about 119-95 million years ago. Some of these discoveries have been quite close to Mystic Quarry!
Extremely heavy rains in 2002 led to flooding in and around Canyon Lake and the Guadalupe River, which in turn uncovered a piece of geologic history. The excessive water tore over the spillway and carved out the Canyon Lake Gorge, a 64-acre split into the limestone, allowing us to look back into time. Dinosaur tracks, fossils, and aquifers were all unearthed due to the heavy rainfall. To think this rich history had been hidden under our feet for years, wow! You can tour the Canyon Lake Gorge just minutes away from Mystic Quarry. Advanced reservations are required. They offer two tours per day throughout the winter.
The Heritage Museum of Texas Hill Country is also located right here in Canyon Lake and is home to over 350 dinosaur footprints. This Museum allows you to visualize the dino behind the footprint with a life size model dinosaur under a huge pavilion and viewing area. This museum also features fossil displays, a Native American exhibit and much more.
Not looking for a tour? No problem - there is evidence of ancient life all around us! The Texas Hill Country is filled with fossils. Small aquatic fossils like bivalve, which are clams & oysters, have been found in our quarry on site! Our resident fossil hunter, Emily, told us if you are really lucky you might even find a gastropod (snail) or echinoid (sea urchin)! Emily also adds “Fossils are common throughout the Hill Country, and can even be found on the side of the road or on the shoreline of Canyon Lake, just be sure you know the rules about collecting specimens before taking anything!”
The Texas Hill Country is an exciting place to explore for anyone interested in learning more about prehistoric times, fossils, and dinosaurs!
Credits: Dinosaur tracks at Heritage Museum- image credit: Chase A. Fountain; Variety of fossils that can be found in hill country- image credit: Jamie Lynn Shelton https://www.fossil-quest.com/; Canyon Lake Gorge picture from Guadalupe-Blanco River Authority.