For many Texas families, the 2002 flood wiped out a lifetime of work. However, it also revealed millions of years of life. At its peak, more than 67,000 cubic feet of water per second were flowing over the emergency spillway at Canyon Lake. Days and weeks later when the water finally receded, an entirely different lifetime had been revealed.
"Probably somewhere between 110-112 million years ago," Susan James said. James is now a guide for the Canyon lake Gorge Preservation Society. A group of local folks are are fiercely protective and incredibly proud of the geological and historical gem that was was revealed by the flood.
Every year, the preservation society allows roughly 3,000 people to walk along the mile-long tour through the gorge. It begins at the top of the spillway where you can not only see and touch, but actually step in the tracks of an Acrocanthasaurus.
"It was the apex predator at the time," James said. It was possibly as long as a school bus and 16 ft. tall at its shoulders with a stride of somewhere around eight feet.
As you begin the descent into the gorge, more and more of history is unveiled.
All along the pathway, there are fossils. Some are smaller than a pencil eraser, and others are too large and heavy to pick up.
"The gorge is federal property, so everything in here is protected. It is illegal to take anything, even a rock," James said.
As you head farther down, you walk along a fault line, which shows how radically the earth has moved throughout it's history. The flood removed every bit of dirt from the gorge, in some places up to 40 ft. deep. It shows fossils, faults and stone formations like "relay ramps," which is something geologists only get to see on sonograms.
"Geologists from around the world pay to come here and at the relay ramp," James said. Many have never seen one other than in a picture. It also gives regular people, who rely on our aquifer for water ,a chance to see how it really works.
"Water constantly flows from these channels, even when it's 100 degrees. In a drought, we'll have water here," James said.
The water flows from cracks in the stone walls and runs down to what the preservation society now calls the "Blue Lagoon."
It is an amazing trek through time that takes about three hours to cover.
There is so much interest in the gorge, you have to make a reservation at least three weeks in advance, because their slots sell out so fast. At just $10 per person, it makes a very inexpensive, fascinating and educational hike. You have to be at least seven years old to take the journey back in time.
If you're interest in learning more about the Canyon Lake Gorge, or perhaps booking a tour, click this link: https://www.canyongorge.org. Lace up your hiking shoes and get ready for an amazing trip into the great Texas Outdoors!