Tourism is big business in Glen Rose and most of the credit has to go to dinosaurs that trekked through the area 113 million years ago.
Recent studies show as much as $17 million in direct tourism spending benefits Glen Rose and Somervell County.
The first documented discovery of the tracks was in 1909, but 1938 is when they became widely known. Noted fossil hunter Roland T. Bird paid a visit to Glen Rose to view the tracks and is often incorrectly credited with making the discovery.
Bird oversaw the excavation of tracks from the Paluxy River that became known as the Glen Rose Trackway. The tracks were moved to the American Museum of Science and Natural History in New York City, where they are still on display.
The dinosaur tracks were pretty much taken for granted by the locals, with some even cutting them out of the Paluxy River and selling them on the side of the road. Fortunately, a group of people got together and pitched the idea of a state park as a way to preserve the tracks and stimulate the local economy.
In 1969, land was purchased along the Paluxy River by the State of Texas and Dinosaur Valley State Park was created. Over time additional purchases brought the total size of the park to 1,523 acres. The park has also been designated a National Natural Landmark by the National Park Service.
But what would a dinosaur park be without dinosaurs? In 1970, the Atlantic Richfield Company donated two life-size fiberglass dinosaurs. The 70-foot Apatosaurus and a 45-foot Tyrannosaurus rex were part of Sinclair Oil’s 1964-65 New York World’s Fair exhibit. The exhibit was called "Dinoland" and featured nine life-size dinosaurs.
When the World’s Fair ended the intent was to put the dinosaurs on permanent display at the Smithsonian. Someone forgot to let the Smithsonian in on the plan, however, and the museum refused to accept the exhibit.
The dinosaurs were then scattered across the country to places like the Cleveland Zoo and Dinosaur National Monument near Vernal, Utah. Glen Rose was the only location to receive two dinosaurs.
The large green dinosaur in Dinosaur Valley State park was originally called a Brontosaurus, but over time it was determined the body was that of an Apatosaurus and the skull was a Camarasaurus. In 1987 Texas Parks and Wildlife decided to clear up the confusion and had the correct head placed on the dinosaur.
Although anatomically correct, the new head created even more confusion as it appeared to be much too small for the large body. To clear up the new confusion, Texas Parks and Wildlife opted to place the original head back on the body.
Over time Dinosaur Valley State Park has become one of the most popular state parks in Texas and receives an estimated 300,000 visitors a year. The park features hiking, biking, camping, horseback riding trails and a chance to enjoy the outdoors.
A new dinosaur attraction came to Glen Rose in 2007 with the opening of Dinosaur World. Glen Rose is the third Dinosaur World location. The park in Plant City, Florida, just outside of Tampa, opened in 1998. The Cave City, Ky., location, just one hour from both Nashville, Tenn., and Louisville, Ky., opened in 2004.
The park features more than 100 life-size dinosaurs, a fossil dig for the kids, playground, museum and gift shop. The attraction has proven popular with visitors and a valuable addition to Glen Rose, showing that dinosaurs may be extinct, but they still live on in our imaginations.
In 2011 another new dinosaur attraction opened, Joanna's Tracks, located behind the Comfort Inn & Suites on U.S. Highway 67. Paleontologists from several universities have determined that the area was a "dinosaur intersection" with a variety of dinosaur tracks heading different directions.
Still in development, the tracks will be open for visitors, including children, to come participate in the excavation. Eventually, the site may house a visitor center and restaurant.
Billy Huckaby is the director of the Glen Rose Convention & Visitors Bureau.