Cretaceous Critters and Hoodoos; Dinosaur Provincial Park and Drumheller

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June 3rd 2019
Published: June 4th 2019
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Monday 3rd June 2019

Yesterday we entered the “Badlands” of Alberta. It is a surreal and alien environment, semi-arid, hot, dusty and absolutely unique and fascinating; temperatures soared into the 30s by midday. The strata of millennia, seen in distinct horizontal bands of rock, from the late Cretaceous Age, around seventy million years ago onwards, provides the visitor with a sculptured landscape, painted through with a soft artist’s palette of shades of brown, white, black, grey and umber. Exquisitely beautiful! The Red Deer River carved out a long valley exposing these strata resulting in a mini Grand Canyon here in Alberta, which stretches from the Dinosaur Provincial Park west of Medicine Hat, north west to Drumheller and on to the town of Red Deer.

Two hundred years ago, French explorers arrived here and found very little water and barren hills, so they called the land “Les mauvaises terres a traverser” (the bad lands to travel through). They are not bad now!

In 1884, Joseph B. Tyrrell, on assignment with the Geological Society of Canada, travelled to Drumheller looking for coal. He found the seams of coal and also, he accidently stumbled upon the skull of a very large carnivorous dinosaur. This started the great Red Deer Dinosaur Rush in the early nineteenth century with fossil hunters arriving from across the globe. More dinosaur skeletons and fossils have been found here than in any other concentrated area in the world, some forty different varieties of dinosaur, from tiny bird-like creatures to large Tyrannosaurus Rex and even larger plant eaters and aquatic dinosaurs.

We changed our minds rapidly about camping out as soon as we entered the Badlands. Notices warning about snakes and other dangers needed to be heeded. Rattlesnakes, scorpions, black widow spiders, thirty degrees of heat and no shade anywhere as well as poor air quality due to the wildfires up north are all things that are simply not conducive to camping! We found a Travelodge motel instead when we got to Drumheller in the evening!

Prior to arriving in Drumheller, we spent the day in the Badlands, driving along unpaved roads surrounded by Hoodoos, kilometre after kilometre without seeing another car or any signs of habitation.

Hoodoos? “Hoodoo? You do! What?” Hoodoos are stacks of strata formed into sculptured mounds either side of the Red Deer valley. Eventually, we found the tarmac again and a little town called East Coulee where once there was a mine and a sizeable community. The old mine is still there (called the Atlas Coal Mine) as well as the old schoolhouse of 1930, now a museum. We had afternoon tea in there, in a teapot! Naughty home-made apple pie and ice cream too! Just the job after crossing the semi-desert. We also found another mine at a town called Rosedale.

The Rosedale Suspension Bridge (built in 1958) spans the Red Deer River. It is quite high and a bit wobbly, 117 metres in length and one can see the river through the wire mesh floor. Pleased to say I crossed it and back without a problem. I am not too keen on heights or suspension bridges, but the distinct environment was a great distraction!

In 1912 the miners crossed the river by rowboat to work in the Star Coal mine and the coal came back in the same way. In 1919 a cable car did the job and in 1931 the original swinging bridge was built and miners used it until the mine was closed in 1957. In 1958 the present bridge was built to commemorate the mining history in the Drumheller Valley.

This morning we visited the Royal Tyrrell Museum of Palaeontology here in Drumheller. It is the best museum we have ever been in. The displays are awesome! We spent hours there! The museum is set in the rugged Drumheller Valley of the Red Deer River, surrounded by hoodoos, coulees and mesas. What a fantastic location! Scientists work there also, since fossils and dinosaur bones are still being discovered in this amazing environment. The whole experience is a journey through time spanning 150 million years. One of the world’s largest collection of dinosaurs is on display. We thought that we knew quite a lot about dinosaurs in the Cretaceous Period but discovered today that we knew very little and today we learned a lot more. Forget “Jurassic Park”, the carnivorous creatures in the Jurassic Period were not that huge, the big boys, like T.Rex were Cretaceous Critters! Alberta was once their stomping ground!

One of the most interesting exhibition displays was all about evolution and Darwin’s Theory of Selective Evolution. One display shows three arms, the first is the arm of a dinosaur, the second is the flipper of a modern Beluga Whale and the third is a present-day human arm. All three have a Humerus, Radius and Ulna as their three “arm” bones, metacarpals and metatarsals in the “hand” bones. A common aquatic ancestor for all three.

Another display depicts the survivors and those creatures who became extinct, when environmental factors favoured those who had evolved more favourably:

“Species come and species go. The only constant in life on earth is change”

RTM, Drumheller, Alberta

The museum is really reasonably priced, one can visit for just 6$ CAN adults and 5$ CAN seniors and under 21s, kids under 16 go free. We got out 10$ to pay and the guy in the ticket booth said, “No, it is Seniors Week, so you two can go in for free!” Actually, John was a bit upset that his age wasn’t challenged when asking for a “senior ticket” as it was just a few years back! He forgets that there are now “Seniors” ten years younger than us!!! Ah well! C’est la vie!”

Tonight, we barbecued some very good steaks on the BBQ outside our motel room, which looks over the Red Deer River. Tomorrow we shall leave these unforgettable Badlands and get to the Rockies. Our big wish is to see a Grizzly Bear but if we don’t see one, we shall still enjoy the scenery and the journey through the mountains. Snow is forecast for later in the week! Such diverse weather, but of course there is no such thing as global warming. Trump says so!!!

Additional photos below
Photos: 26, Displayed: 26


Shut on Sundays! Shut on Sundays!
Shut on Sundays!

Not sure about the rest of the week either!

4th June 2019
Top: dinosaur, Middle: Beluga whale, Bottom: human

4th June 2019

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