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The Cal Orcko (‘Lime Hill’) dinosaur trackways

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Cal-Orcko

In 1994, Bolivian workers quarrying high-grade limestone for cement reached a layer with too much quartz, a hard mineral, so they left it alone.1 As quarrying continued, more and more of the unwanted layer was exposed, forming a huge cliff and revealing hundreds of dinosaur trackways. The tracks are of at least eight different kinds of dinosaurs, including a pair of titanosaurs and a herd of 16 ankylosaurs. The layer also contains the longest dinosaur trackway in the world, over 500 m (1,640 ft), by a small theropod,1 possibly a juvenile Tyrannosaurus rex.2

These rocks are part of the El Molino Formation which extends over much of Bolivia. The Vilquechico Formation of Peru and the Yacoraite Formation of Argentina contain similar dinosaur trackways, and all three are suspected to be merely different parts of the one continent-wide formation.3

The El Molino Formation has cycles of layers (see diagram 1), each cycle consisting of a similar depositional sequence of various sandstone, limestone, and claystone sediments. Most layers contain assorted types of fossils, mainly marine. Within the particular 22-metre thickness that includes the Cal Orcko cliff, 11 depositional cycles have been described, seven containing a layer with dinosaur tracks.4 The cliff face consists mainly of the single high-quartz layer (tracklevel ‘5’ in diagram 1), though there are patches of cliff where overlying or underlying layers are revealed.

El-Molino-formation
Diagram1: El Molino Formation cross section. Layer 5, containing many hundreds of dinosaur footprints, is the layer that forms the bulk of the Cal Orcko cliff face. (After fig. 3 in ref. 3)

These tracks would have been made toward the end of the first half5 of the Flood, before all the animals had perished.6 While globally the sea level was remorselessly rising, in each locality the sea would continuously surge and recede (see diagram 2) due to tectonic movements, tsunamis, lunar tides, and large-scale currents. This would repeatedly cover and re-expose areas, before eventually all the land was deeply underwater. New layers would continually be being deposited from the sediment-laden waters, potentially burying and preserving the freshly-laid tracks of surviving animals desperately seeking safety. In their few hours of exposure the track-bearing sediments would partially harden, helping them resist erosion by the next rush of water. Each depositional cycle in the rock likely represents a surge and recession of water. In this way, the aforementioned 22 m thickness was probably laid down in a few days or less. Later in the Flood, tectonic forces pushed the earth’s crust around, forming gigantic folds in the still-soft sedimentary layers. The near-vertical (72°) cliff at Cal Orcko is a portion of one such fold.

©David Mercado/Reuters/Picture MediaCal-Orcko-group-walk

A ‘Cretaceous Park’ tourist centre was established at Cal Orcko in 2006, but the cliff and its spectacular trackways are rapidly eroding, and could be “completely damaged” by 2020.2 Proposed preservation measures include rock bolts, anchors and wire nets, and impregnation of the rock with chemicals to harden and waterproof it.1 This speaks strongly against the idea that these rocks and the tracks they contain could have already endured 65 million years of natural processes, because not just these rocks but the whole continent would have eroded away well before that.7

sea-level-oscillations
Diagram 2: Estimated sea level oscillations for one week during the Flood8

The daily routine of most animals typically involves lots of meandering about, foraging for food, etc., but the dinosaur trackways at Cal Orcko, like virtually all other known dinosaur trackways around the world, are relentlessly straight, indicative of frightened animals fleeing danger. Significantly, despite the big vertical gaps between them, the various track-bearing layers of the El Molino Formation contain the exact same fleeing-type tracks of the exact same kinds of dinosaurs. Having the same types of dinosaurs exhibiting the same unusual behaviour at the same point on the earth’s surface (separated only by the layers laid down in the meantime) is more consistent with the oscillating Floodwaters scenario than with the idea that those layers are separated by millions of years.

The Cal Orcko cliff and its dinosaur trackways are a sobering testament to the cataclysmic Flood recorded in the Bible, in which every living nostril-breathing creature that moved on land perished (Genesis 7:21).

References and notes

  1. Thüring, B. and 3 others, Cal Orcko, the world’s largest dinosaur tracksite—Aspects of assessment, protection and conservation, in: 1st Meeting of the EAVP [European Association of Vertebrate Palaeontologists]: Abstracts with program, Natural History Museum Basel, 15–19 July 2003; eavp.org/abstracts/1stWEAVPabstracts.pdf.. Return to text.
  2. Sucre’s Dinosaur Park and Footprints (Parque Cretácico) Sucre Life; sucrelife.com/sucres-dinosaur-park. Return to text.
  3. Meyer, C.A., Hippler, D., and Lockley, M.G., The Late Cretaceous vertebrate ichnofacies of Bolivia—facts and implications, in: Publication Especial 7: VII International Symposium on Mesozoic Terrestrial Ecosystems: 133–138, Asociación Paleontólogica Argentina, Buenos Aires, 30 June 2001. Return to text.
  4. Tracklevels 1–7 in Figure 3, Meyer, ref. 3. Return to text.
  5. I.e. the early Zenithic Phase in Walker’s Biblical Geological Model; biblicalgeology.net. Return to text.
  6. See book by Oard, M., Dinosaur Challenges and Mysteries: How the Genesis Flood makes sense of dinosaur evidence—including tracks, nests, eggs, and scavenged bones, Creation Book Publishers, 2011; creation.com/s/10-2-582. Also creation.com/dino-stampede#beds. Return to text.
  7. See e.g. Walker, T., Vanishing coastlines, Creation 29(2):19–21, 2007; creation.com/vanishing-coastlines. Return to text.
  8. Oard, ref. 6, p. 120. Return to text.

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Readers’ comments

Revd Robert W.
It must have been a terrifying experience for the dragons/dinosaurs, and it is us, our forefathers, who were responsible for it.
Anthony B.
One would expect mammal, including human footprints to be visible amongst those of the dinosaurs.
Have any been found?
Andrew Lamb
Would one? I wouldn't. Even though it was an emergency, I think people and herds of large animals would tend not to have mixed, or to have fled via the exact same routes.

Calculations show the probability of finding fossils of pre-Flood humans to be low:

“If there were, say, 10 million people at the time of the Flood and all their bodies were preserved and uniformly distributed throughout the 700 million cubic kilometres of fossil-bearing sedimentary rock layers, only one would be found in every 70 cubic kilometres of rock. Thus you would be unlikely to find even one human fossil.”
(The Creation Answers Book, chapter 15 Where are all the human fossils? page 196)

That argument applies to fossil human footprints too. However, despite the low probability, several cases of fossil human trackways are known, including at Toluquilla quarry in Mexico, at Trachilos in Crete, at Ileret in Kenya, and most famously at Laetoli in Tanzania. And there has even been a report (in 1995 in Komsomolskaya Pravda newspaper) of fossil dinosaur and human tracks together, near the village of Khodga-Pil in Turkmenistan.

Also, amongst the fossil dinosaur trackways at Paluxy River near Glen Rose, Texas, there are some prints claimed to be human, but there are indications that these may just be dinosaur prints that have eroded in a certain way.
Dennis S.
I was there last year, was able to stand next to tracks at base of hill. There was also discovered in Bolivia in excavation two ceramic bowls with dinosaurs on them. These are Tiahuanaco now in a government Museum in La Paz. They are dated at around 900 AD. I photographed with special permission two small gold dinosaurs sauropods found at Tiahuanaco. They were unearthed during excavations in the 1940s. They are in collections at Bolivian museum. I was at the dinosaur and human track ways in Turkmenistan in 2000. There is a human footprint on the main plateau where the majority of dinosaur tracks are. About three miles away in a canyon is a sequence of six human footprints and some dinosaur tracks. Dennis Swift
John M.
Dear Andrew:

Right now at the bottom of the ocean there must be hundreds of feet of detritus from recent accumulation. Was wondering if this new layer contains sea shells and other corpses that could possibly be turned into a limestone layer having a high density of fossils like formation fossil layers (if placed under pressure). Or if the detritus is mostly decomposed or already eaten up on the way down.

This would constitute a proof that the fossil layers had to be covered quickly to avoid decomposing and or being eaten up.

Thanks,

John
Andrew Lamb
Historical events cannot be proven in the scientific sense. It is from the Bible’s supremely reliable record of history that we infer that the world’s thick fossil layers must have formed in the Flood, and the physical evidence (rocks, fossils, etc.) is highly consistent with the biblical framework of history.

I do not know how much detritus there is on the ocean floor, decomposed or otherwise. Doubtless the amount and the composition vary from area to area. But I do know that there are large areas of ocean floor devoid of mud, which is inconsistent with the idea of millions of years of erosion—see The mud is missing, so the world is young.
Bill R.
Some years ago I worked on the construction of the Peace River dam in northern British Columbia, a large area of rock had been cleared and pressure washed prior to a large cement pour, the conversation in the bunkhouse was about the huge tracks in the rock so I walked over to see for myself, there were tracks similar to a giant chicken in a straight line deeply impressed into the rock, I suppose about they were about 2 feet from the "toe" back to the "heel", this was some years ago and I wished that I had plaster of paris so that I could make a cast, however the concrete pour was done in a hurry, I suspect this was to avoid any news to the outside that may have delayed or even stopped the concrete -- what a shame-- Also in that area were chunks of a low grade coal protruding from the side of the roadway after the cat had pushed the trail into one of the jobsites-- Bill Richens Salmo BC Canada
Bill R.
Concerning my message about the tracks in the rock on the Peace River dam, submitted a few moments ago, please feel free to include my name etc as I would be happy to share this experience with anybody who may be interested, I am 86 years old now and privacy is not an issue--I am a believer and willing to share my belief-- The Lord has spared my life in two accidents working underground -- some might say co-incidence but that word does not exist in my vocabulary --Thank you --Bill Richens Salmo BC Canada
David B.
I see indications in the fossil layers that the world as God created it, which was destroyed by the Flood, was superior in having distinct ecological zones where all the various plants and animals were in the environment which best fit them. There are mammals (and birds) buried in the same layers as dinosaurs, but all of them (all the mammals and birds) seem to be distinct from modern forms. Nor do we find gradually evolving intermediates between them and the modern forms; rather, there are some bizarre variations on the modern forms which are now extinct.

Thus, as to mammal tracks being expected with the dinosaur tracks: 1) Even evolutionists might expect some! However, as pointed out, mammals and reptiles are not likely to behave similarly or travel together. 2) Modern mammals and humans may have lived in a separate, higher, cooler, and dryer environment which may have been washed out and eroded away early in the flood. Their bloated bodies may have been floating on the waters as the dinos clambered up on the sediments that used to be the higher plateau region of animals which have taken over most of the post-flood world.
Andrew Lamb
Hi David. Yes there are “bizarre variations” found only as fossils, but many mammals and birds found in dinosaur layers are indistinguishable from modern forms. Re bird fossils, there are avocet, duck, loon, owl, albatross, cormorant, sandpiper, parrot, penguin, flamingo, and probably others—see Modern birds found with dinosaurs: Are museums misleading the public?

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