White Sands Monument Trackway: Lake Otero Peril by Karen Carr

Shown: Mother and child in peril alongside ancient Lake Otero, in what is now the central valley of New Mexico.
Geologic period: Modern


White Sands Monument Trackway: Lake Otero Peril

Part of a new series for White Sands National Monument:

Through the muddy shore of what was once Lake Otero, a female (or adolescent male) and child walked along, not knowing that evidence of their journey, through their footprints, would linger for more than 10,000 years. A new paper published in Quaternary Science Reviews documents the world's longest fossilized human trackway discovered at White Sands National Park.

These ancient footprints, found on a playa at White Sands in 2018, show what researchers believe to be a female or a young male walking for almost a mile, with a toddler's footprints periodically showing up alongside. The evidence reveals the person alternated from carrying the child, shifting the young one from side to side, by how the footprints broadened and slipped in the mud with the additional weight.

Designated a megatracksite in 2014, White Sands contains the largest collection of ice age (Pleistocene epoch) fossilized footprints in the world, which have been left behind by more than just humans. Mammoth, giant ground sloth, dire wolf, and American lion tracks have been found at White Sands. "I am so pleased to highlight this wonderful story that crosses millennia. Seeing a child's footprints thousands of years old reminds us why taking care of these special places is so important," said White Sands National Park's Superintendent Marie Sauter. While discovered over 60 years ago, fossilized footprints have been the focus of intense research over the last decade, as the footprints are rapidly being lost to soil erosion.

"What makes the fossilized footprints at White Sands so unique is the incredible interactions we see between humans and other ice age animals," says White Sands' Resource Program Manager David Bustos.

Karen was delighted to work with park officials, including David Bustos, on a series of images to to help document this incredible find. She is working on a fourth image for this series, to be completed in 2021.

Other samples of work for White Sands National Monument:

Client information:

White Sands National Monument
19955 Highway 70 West
Alamogordo, NM 88310

Karen in the classroom


— As a guest speaker or lecturer

In addition to the time she spends painting, Karen finds time now and again to serve as a guest speaker, lecturer and instructor to museum groups, professional organizations, schools and universities. She has also presented master classes in art and digital painting at universities in the U.S.

Karen has delivered recent presentations for these institutions and groups:

  • Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History
  • Southern Methodist University
  • Guild of Natural Science Illustrators at the College of William & Mary and at Montana State University
  • New Mexico Highlands University
  • University of Texas at Arlington
  • University of North Texas
  • Dallas Paleontological Society


About Karen

Originally trained in the classical techniques of illustration and painting, Karen frequently speaks on the transition to a digital world, and on the challenges and benefits this transition poses for artists, clients and viewers. She conducts professional seminars on painting, illustration and digital image creation, and also offers specific programs tailored to the needs of professional groups or classroom instructors.

To contact Karen about a speaking engagement, just drop her a note or call her studio.

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