Nash Dinosaur Track Research

Dinosaur Track Research

The purpose of the Nash Dinosaur Track Quarry was to produce tracks that could be sold. And that's what it did, providing an income for the Nash family for 80 years. Kornell Nash was an expert track digger, and may have dug up more dinosaur tracks than any other person in his time. However, he was also a kind and generous man. Since 2010 he has allowed our staff access to the quarry to collect data. The Nash Quarry offered a unique opportunity to see dinosaur tracks and trackways in a way they had never been looked at before. Not only were the tracks at the surface exposed, tracks were dug throughout a six foot vertical distance. Layer after layer of tracks were dug up, providing the opportunity to get a detailed vertical picture that shows dinosaur trackmaking over an extensive span of rock layers.

The above picture shows data collection on a trackway. We measured the size of the tracks, the stride, direction, and other data points. What's interesting is that another trackway (not marked in this photo) of slightly smaller tracks crosses this one near the lower dark blue cone at about a 90 degree angle.

measuring ripples

Measuring and Documenting Ripples

Another area of investigation has been fossil ripples. Many of the sediment layers contain ripples. The ripples are small and asymmetrical, indicating shallow moving water. But, the direction of movement is not always the same, as can be seen in the above photo. In addition, fossil dinosaur footprints are found in the ripples. We've photographed and measured ripples, documenting the size of the ripples and direction of water movement. We also collected samples of ripples both with and without dinosaur tracks.

Prying Up Slate Slabs

There's Unusual Amount of Vegetation

Dinosaur tracks are typically found on flat sediment bedding planes, with no vegetation. Just mud. An unusual aspect of the Nash Quarry is that there is a lot of vegetation, mainly small sticks and a few small root balls. But no leaves or other organic debris. We have been photographing and collecting some of these.

Most of the wood is petrified (fossilized). But small amounts are coalified. A typical example is shown in the above photo. This means that the Nash dinosaur tracks can be carbon dated. The problem has been that no carbon dating lab will touch samples that have anything to do with dinosaurs. They know the result they're going to get (a recent age), and it's not an acceptable result. However, the dinosaur tracks from Nash's quarry provide a unique opportunity to carbon date dinosaur tracks. We hope to be able to take advantage of this opportunity someday.

Studying Track Preservation

Dinosaur Track Fossilization Study

A fourth area we are working in is a study of dinosaur track preservation through fossilization. The Nash Quarry offers a unique opportunity because, as tracks were cut out of the surface of the quarry, at times that resulted in an unseen track within the rock being sectioned... meaning the cut went through the track itself. Dinosaur tracks are valuable. Researchers and museums work hard to maintain and preserve them. They generally do not cut them up. However, in the case of the Nash Quarry, dinosaur tracks were being cut up accidentally. Kornell Nash would save the better ones and we now have a number of sectioned fossil footprints to work with. We polish the edges and examine the sediment that filled the footprint impression.

This work is ongoing and we hope to publish the results when the first phase is completed.

Next - Preservation of Tracks   Flood Evidence in the Museum