Dino Waterfall



In 1992, amateur paleontologists discovered dinosaurs once roamed the grounds of Zilker Botanical Garden. More than 100 tracks made by six or seven reptiles along with the bones of an ancient turtle were found. Location and accessibility made this discovery a particularly significant find.

Dino and companyAfter the discovery, paleontologists studied the best methods to preserve the tracks because they were deteriorating rapidly. Researchers decided to map and make casts of the tracks, then rebury the tracks to prevent further loss from exposure.

Thanks to contributions from major donors, in-kind gifts, a major fund drive and volunteer efforts by Austin Area Garden Council members, this two-acre site has been developed as a Cretaceous habitat.

Plants in the garden represent the types that existed at the time of the dinosaurs. These are the spore producing plants (ferns, horsetails and liverworts), the gymnosperms (cycads, conifers and ginkgos) and the first angiosperms (magnolias and palms).


During the Cretaceous period (144 to 65 million years ago), flowering plants evolved as well as a great variety of insects. Dragonflies, butterflies and other insects co-evolved with plants providing more effective pollination.

This garden includes examples of the more primitive angiosperm families (magnolias, dogwoods, witch hazel, laurel, palms and birches). These are set amidst a backdrop of plants originating from the Jurassic period-- conifers, liverworts, mosses, horse-tails, ferns and cycads.

An assortment of small reptiles and fish add to the prehistoric ambiance of the Hartman Garden. The moat around Dino Island is stocked with gar, an ancient type of fish that has survived to this day.


The life-size sculpture on Dino Island is an Ornithomimus (Greek for “bird-mimic”), the dinosaur that left tracks of its three toed feet in the gardens. The Ornithomimus is one of a group of medium-size elongated dinosaurs that lived in North America during the late Cretaceous period, 97 to 65 million years ago.

Scientists believe this dinosaur was fast, traveling as much as 40 miles per hour. The Ornithomimus in motion would have looked much like the gait or stride of an ostrich or emu. Approximately 8 feet long, it had a larger brain (for its size) than most dinosaurs. Ornithomimus is thought to have lived on a diet of plants, insects, eggs and small animal prey because of its relatively small teeth and three-fingered forepaws.

Read more about this unique garden in Where the Wild Things Were, a story written by Linda Lehmusvirta about the dinosaur garden and how it all came together.

Just down the road from ZBG is the Dino Pit at the Austin Nature and Science Center. Find information on this outdoor paleontology exhibit at http://www.austintexas.gov/page/dino-pit

The staff and volunteers at Zilker Botanical Garden are sad to announce the passing of David Hartman, on November 24, 2015. David left Austin with a wonderful legacy – the development of the Hartman Prehistoric Garden at Zilker Botanical Garden. A major grant from the Hartman Foundation funded the development of a Cretaceous- period dinosaur habitat. Thanks to the generosity of David and Claudette Hartman, thousands of families have enjoyed walking in the footsteps of dinosaurs that lived in Austin 100 million years ago. We celebrate David’s life!
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