Tag Archives: Flood

Dino NM

The images of enormous dinosaurs lumbering in verdant swamps came from where? Not Dinosaur National Monument. The 50-foot thick sediment-bed that entombs one of the largest death assemblages on earth is made up of volcanically derived clay, tuff, and chert not boggy peat or coal. There are almost no plant fossils–not even the most easily preserved representatives–spores and pollen. Where are the cycads, palm trees, and giant insects so representative of the highly portrayed prehistoric swamp?

Dino NM-7s?DNM Femur

At Dinosaur National Monument thousands of bones have already been recovered and can be found in museums all over the world. Note the 20 foot-long Camarasaurus and the 4 foot long Allosaurus femur that can still be seen at the museum.

It is really hard to piece together the past. We didn’t get to see it happen and sediments can be deposited in a number of ways. All we have to go on are the subtle clues left behind in the rock record, and even the easy clues can be misinterpreted. Sometimes the best clues are those not there. At Dinosaur N.M. (DNM) there are fossils of vertebrates and invertebrates, but almost no plants. This is plausible only if you understand this is not a stable environment where animals lived, played, and grew up. It is a catastrophic burial ground.

What we do see is articulated and disarticulated dinosaurs, fresh water clams and snails with modern-day analogs. There are a few logs and wood fragments all jumbled together in a matrix of volcanic clay and sand-size volcanic tuff and chert, a type of volcanic quartz. The montage is organized into channels that flowed west to east and compares favorably with the death assemblage at the Cleveland Lloyd Dinosaur Quarry located in Emery County, Utah, almost 200 miles to the south. That disaster was also preserved in the Morrison Formation.

Dino NM-5 Morrison drawing

What is the Morrison Formation made of, and how was it formed? The Morrison Formation consists of mudstone, sandstone, conglomerate, volcanic ash and bentonite, limestone and marl. It is famous for its beautiful red and white and green alternating strata, its uranium deposits, and its dinosaur bones. Many believe it is the result of hundreds of rivers, lakes, and splay deposits pouring off an uplifting volcanic range to the west, possibly from as far as the Sierra Nevada Range in California. The Morrison extends from New Mexico to Canada, from Utah to Kansas, spans 60,000 square kilometers, and can be as much as 1,000 feet thick in places. Note in the picture above how many states are associated with the formation. Geologists split the formation into four members for convenience: Windy Hill, Tidwell, Salt Wash, and Brushy Basin Members, but for the average person they are hard to tell apart.

Though there is no consensus, much of the evidence points toward a volcanically driven mudflow or lahar as the cause. At DNM up to 50% of the deposit may have been derived from volcanic ash. Do you remember the mud flows from  the Mt. St. Helens eruption? It may have been similar. The sediment is primarily volcanic, and the bedding is not indicative of normal fluid transport. Can you imagine a 50-foot high wall of surging mud and ash and water and tumbling dinosaurs speeding down a hill-side or stream channel at 30 to 40 miles per hour? How many of you have seen a lahar in action? Though much smaller than those at DNM, note these video examples of a lahar in action:

Television shows and movies like to show dinosaurs lumbering around, enjoying a slow paced, laze fair life-style, with an occasional predatory interlude; however, at least in a few locations such as Dinosaur National Monument, the animals were panicked and running for their lives when they came to their catastrophic end. It really was a monumental disaster.


Cleaveland Lloyd Dinosaur Quarry

The Cleveland Lloyd Dinosaur Quarry had the greatest concentration of Jurassic dinosaur bones in the world.

The Cleveland Lloyd Dinosaur Quarry had the greatest concentration of Jurassic dinosaur bones in the world.

CLDQ Cleveland Lloyd Allasaurus Mike at the CLDQ

The Cleveland Lloyd Dinosaur Quarry is known for having the greatest concentration of Jurassic dinosaur bones on the planet. The bones were deposited in the Morrison Formation, a sand, silt, and clay rock unit which spreads out over 600,000 square miles and occupies parts of thirteen states, including Utah. The sediments at the Cleveland Lloyd Dinosaur Quarry are thought to have been deposited by/in/as:

1) A lakebed (Stokes, 1944)

2) An oxbow lake (Dodson et al., 1980)

3) A single catastrophic flood event (Hunt, 1986)

4) An ephemeral floodplain pond (Bilbey, 1998, 1999; Gates 2005); or

5) A meandering stream (VanDe Velde, 2006)

The photos above, and the professional opinions noted, should give you some indication of the environment the dinosaurs died in: water–mud and water.

Experts are also divided on how the dinosaurs died. Many think they died from:

1) A drought, an evaporating lake predator trap, like the California tar pits, only with mud. In this scenario some unfortunate herbivores got stuck in a muddy evaporating bog, and predators came to feast. Sadly though, over seventy of those big brutes got stuck themselves and died. There is a short piece written up on this in National Geographic, highlighting paleontologists Terry Gates and Sue Ann Bilbey. (http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2002/12/1220_021220_droughtdino_2.html)

2) A 1000-year flood event. Dinosaurs are swept up into raging flood waters, carried down-stream, and deposited on the quieter flood-plain. The bloating, floating, dead carcasses swirled out of the flood path into a crevasse splay and sank as a group. Soft sediment from the flood waters quickly buried the bodies with hardly a bite taken out (Mike Loewen, University of Utah, personal communication, October 2014).

3) A lethal spring. This is also a predator trap. Rising poisonous groundwater turns into a toxic briny spring killing those that drink. The smell attracts larger carnivores which subsequently get stuck in the wet, sticky, volcanic mud and die a slow, hungry death (Bilbey, 1998, 1999).

4) Fires destroying vegetation in large drainages. Without the protection of trees and grass to hold back and slow down the runoff after a hard rain storm, what would have been a small flood event becomes a massive, torrential flood drowning all those too slow to get out of harm’s way.

5) Erupting volcanos. Similar to Mt. Saint Helens, volcanos erupt and quickly melt their glaciers, which in turn cause catastrophic flooding. These torrents catch, kill, and then deposit all those unfortunate victims.

There are problems with all these theories; each model has data that doesn’t seem to fit, but any way you look at it, there was a lot of water, a lot of sediment, and a lot of death. Over 12,000 bones have been collected at the quarry and they are still digging.

We are told fossils testify to ancient life, and that is true, but they testify more clearly of death. There have been many mass extinctions recorded in the rock record and that’s one way geologists divide rock units and time.

There are three geologic eras, the Paleozoic, Mesozoic, and Cenozoic, and each era is broken down further and further into more and more detailed rock units. These eras are identified and separated by unprecedented catastrophic extinctions. At the end of the Mesozoic Era, fifty percent of all life forms became extinct. At the end of the Paleozoic Era, over ninety percent of all sea creatures and over seventy percent of all vertebrate land creatures went extinct. We have a living and dying planet.

Did you notice at the top of the page that one or two of the geologically accepted and politically correct theories is a catastrophic flood?  The scientists mentioned above would not be comfortable expanding their theories to a world-wide scale, but they would admit to the possibility of having a flood be the causative agent in these animal’s death- floods capable of taking down huge dinosaurs, transporting them for miles, and burying them. 

Isn’t it interesting that similar explanations are suggested in the Bible and other ancient documents? Maybe the Bible “legends” are not that far off from some of our scientific theories.