A Jurrasic Find in Coleman Park
Amateur paleontologist discovers prehistoric track in city's newest park
Patti Sells | News-Telegram Feature Editor

Wes Hampton points out a fossilized track he discovered in a boulder along one of the trails at Coleman Park. Hampton, an amateur paleontologist, believes the imprint is from a small prehistoric bird of some kind and is working to identify the species. A closer look (below) shows the three claws or phalanges of the imprint.
Staff Photos By Angela Pitts

Aug. 7, 2005 -- Local amateur paleontologist Wes Hampton has made his hobby exploring the Sulphur River bottoms in search of antiquated bones, teeth and other evidence of animals and plants from previous geologic periods, but he recently made an exciting discovery along one of the trails at Coleman Park.

“I was just moseying along the trail when I saw it just as plain as day,” said Hampton, who was at the park to watch one of his twin sons play baseball. “I said, ‘My gosh, there’s a track.’”

Hampton said he proceded to put his glasses on and inspect the imprint made in the huge boulder.

“There are three claws or phalanges, very distinct ball and toe marks of a small prehistoric bird of some kind,” he explained. “It’s only about as big as a silver dollar.”

According to Hampton, the track has been authenticated by a couple of his collegues, Dr. Carl Baugh of Glen Rose and Dr. Joe Taylor, paleontologist and curator of Mount Blanco Museum in Crosbyton.

“They help verify findings through pictures and have given me lots of advice through the years on what to look for,” said Hampton. “I’m working now to identify the species and hope to lay claim to the discovery with maybe a small marker by the boulder with a laminated picture of the bird that tells a little bit about it.”

According to City Manager Marc Maxwell, a public proclamation from the mayor may be in order.

“I’m tremendously excited about the find,” Maxwell said. “All those boulders where excavated right their from the park grounds.

Hampton, who has been on “digs” in Colorado, Glen Rose and other locations, has excavated approximately nine sites along the Sulphur River bottom east and west of Highway 19, and has collected thousands of fossils over the past 10 years. His collection is worth an estimated $500,000

Most prized is his discovery of an almost complete 22-foot fossil of a Mosasaur Platecarpus, a prehistoric fish, a 5-inch tooth from a megladon shark and many other examples of long-gone sea life.

Other discoveries include petrified wood and fossilized plant life such as fossil fern, lepidodendron tree roots, willow, sumac, poplar and ginko leaves, dawn redwood and even a prehistoric pine cone. He has also found fossilized dinosaur footprints, vertebrates and backbones, skin imprints and fossilized mammoth hair.

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