The Canadian Badlands
On Sunday, we checked into our ‘comfort’ campsite at Dinosaur Provincial Park near Brooks, Alberta in the heart of the Canadian Badlands. With the park almost entirely to ourselves (or so it felt), we explored the self-guided trails on bike and foot. It made for a fascinating tour of the weathered landscape that is so famous for revealing the best representation of late Cretaceous dinosaur fossils in the world!
Once covered in vast wetlands over 75 million years ago, these rivers and wetlands were responsible for carrying the sand, silt clay, and volcanic ash that has deposited into sedimentary rock over the years to form the soft rocks of the badlands we see today. This high sedimentation rate is the reason why the fossils of fallen dinosaurs are so well preserved in the layers of rock from this period. Following the dinsoaurs’ abrupt demise about 65 million years ago, the end of the ice age and the resultant glacial melt carved out the valleys and canyons of the badlands exposing the layers of dinosaur remains. The discovery of this hidden treasure was not truly realized until the Great Canadian Dinosaur Rush of 1910-1917 which was sparked by Joseph Burr Tyrrell, a geologist in search of minerals in the Red Deer River Valley.
Since the Rush, these badlands continue to reveal new specimens every year which are displayed in various museums all over the world. Some of the most spectacular finds are on display at the Royal Tyrrell Museum in Drumheller, AB – which was our next stop!
Not only is Drumheller rich with paleontological history, but it also boasts the World’s Largest Dinosaur made mostly of steel, weighing a hefty 66,000 kg, 26 metres tall, and approximately 4 times larger than a real T-Rex would have been. After admiring this massive replica, we headed to the museum to marvel at the reconstructions of the real deal. Fossils are so cool!
Next up, we took a drive around the Dinosaur Trail to check out Horsethief Canyon, take a ride on the Bleriot Ferry across the Red Deer River, and then back down the Hoodoo Trail to admire the famous hoodoo formations of Drumheller. Aboriginals used the term “hoodoos” (from the practice of hoodoo magic) to refer to these mysterious rock formations as evil, supernatural forces. Some once believed that the hoodoos were giants turned into stone by the Great Spirit for their evil deeds. From a geological perspective, these formations are the result of soft rock in the lower layers deteriorating sooner than the heavier, usually iron-infused, rock which makes up the rock cap of the hoodoo. These particular hoodoos of Drumheller have stood at the mouth of Willow Creek Coulee for thousands of years!
Having got our dose of dino history (for now), we are off to Calgary for a short stay with a dear friend 🙂
Adam & Amanda