There was an article in the Smithsonian website Where Dinosaurs Walked: Eight of the Best Places to See Prehistoric Footprints. It listed north-central Spain, La Rioja, and particularly, the village of Enciso.
I looked up Enciso when planning our already tight 2-week Spain itinerary.
Information on Enciso: population 172. There was reference to a place called El Barranco Perdido – The Lost Canyon – a modern dinosaur-themed resort/learning center in Enciso.
Side trip to Enciso? Maybe.
On our Spain road trip, Logroño was our stop over in La Rioja
Logroño is the capital of La Rioja and a neat little city with good food and wine. Calle del Laurel in Logroño offers good selection of pintxos or tapas. There is a visitor’s center close to our hotel that gave us a little information about Enciso.
I got the feel that the visitor center is focused more of travel in the context of the Camino de Santiago and the wine itineraries, not dinosaurs. La Rioja, after all, is well-known for its wines, Denominación de Origen Calificada Rioja. It is also on the road to Santiago de Compostela, which is really where we’re going. But for the love of two children who love dinosaurs, we’re making a dinosaur detour.
On La Rioja’s Tourism website, there is a page on the Enciso dinosaur track finds. It confirmed the location of the town from Logroño: 72 kilometers away, at the southern part of La Rioja in the Upper Cidacos Valley. The drive from Logroño to Enciso is about an hour and 15 minutes, via N-232 and LR-115.
At El Barranco Perdido, we asked and were kindly given directions to the dinosaur track sites. We did not go in for the interest of time.
My better half was starting to ask if I understood the directions, given in Spanish when we had been driving and seen nothing for a while. I was about to answer when this figure loomed over the road.
Happy squeals came from the back of the car: “Dinosaurio!”
Dinosaur all right. Tarbosaurus welcomed us to the Valdecevillo site.
The Valdecevillo site has 106 footprints: 10 tracks of carnivorous dinosaurs, 7 tracks of bipedal herbivorous dinosaurs and a track of a quadruped herbivore.
There are about 1,400 dinosaur tracks in Enciso. Some are roofed and fenced. Some are out in the open air. Some are just by the roadside.
During the Cretaceous period, this area was a flooded plain. It periodically got drained leaving behind muddy areas. Where dinosaurs walked, they left behind footprints. Those footprints dried up, covered by new layers of sediment, pressed down over millions of years by what became sedimentary rock. The upper layers of rock eroded and now, the tracks of those ancient dinosaurs become visible to us as fossils.
Ichnology is the study of trace fossils. Paleoichnology seeks to establish the identity of the ancient track makers and explain their behavior.
We found the four well-preserved dinosaur prints below fenced and under a shed at the start of the path at Valdecevillo. They have been attributed to a theropod dinosaur, a carnivore, maybe Tarbosaurus.
The herbivore tracks were out in the open, visible from the path and with explanations provided in Spanish.
There’s a reproduction in the Valdecevillo site of a family of Iguanodons, thought to have left some of the prints.
It was the Brachiosaurus reproduction that our kids liked a lot. It’s massive!
We didn’t make it in time to get into La Rioja’s Paleontologic Center in Igea. We did have a fun day exploring this part of La Rioja and finding dinosaur fossils not in a museum but out in the open.
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