The Creationists of Glen Rose
IN THE BEGINNING, GOD CREATED DINOSAURS and humans, and they walked together in Texas.
At least, according to many people in Glen Rose.
The small town about 40 miles southwest of Fort Worth is home to some of the best-preserved dinosaur tracks in the world; it’s also a heavily Christian community where many locals interpret the book of Genesis literally.
Their belief is bolstered by a phenomenon in the riverbed. Alongside the dinosaur tracks are what resident R.C. McFall and others call “man tracks”—tangible proof of biblical creation accounts and a refutation of the theory of evolution.
McFall walks along the Paluxy River, careful not to place his cowboy boot in a dinosaur track. Muddy water fills the fossilized footprints embedded in this rocky ledge.
“There’s a track right there,” he says in a deep Texas drawl, pointing. “That hole is where my dad dug one out.”
If the river weren’t up, McFall explains, we’d see man tracks just a few feet away, in the same strata of rock as the dinosaur tracks.
The 113-million-year-old dinosaur tracks, first discovered in 1909, are an important part of Glen Rose’s livelihood, bringing thousands of visitors a year to attractions like Dinosaur Valley State Park and Dinosaur World. The town’s tourist industry, accounting for $23 million in annual revenue, was built largely on the jaw-dropping fact that fossils this old are still present today. Visitors can park their trailers at the Jurassic RV Park (the tracks actually date to the Cretaceous period) or stay at the Glen Rose Inn & Suites, where the sign features a cartoon dinosaur.
“The dinosaurs are what drive us,” says Billy Huckaby, executive director of the Convention and Visitors Bureau of Glen Rose. “You can’t develop a town of 2,000 into this kind of tourism revenue unless you’ve got something really special to promote.”
Tourist literature describes the tracks as millions of years old, but not everyone buys the science.
“I believe in the Bible,” McFall says. “I don’t believe the world’s over 6,000 or 7,000 years old. Course, everybody’s got their own interpretation.”
Beyond their appeal to tourists, the tracks have made Glen Rose a destination for scientists and religious pilgrims. In the ’30s and ’40s, paleontologists came to study the well-preserved dinosaur footprints, removing sections for display at museums in Austin and New York. Creationists, too, have come to Glen Rose, hoping the man tracks can prove their hypothesis of a young Earth. The town has even produced its share of fake tracks—both dinosaur and human—which further confuse the issue.
But if there’s controversy among residents of Glen Rose between science and religion, it’s below the surface.