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Published: August 11th 2011
From the Rockies, we headed straight past Calgary and towards Drumheller. ‘Holy sweet Tuesday!’ was Brads exclamation as we headed off the number 2 and onto the 72 east and all we could see ahead of us was flat (not dead flat yet) agricultural land. ‘Can we still see the Rockies?’. Other brilliant conversations that evening included; Brad: ‘we’re entering wheatgerm county’, me: ‘I wonder why they call it that?’, Brad: ‘I think it’s because of all the canola’. After a brief stop for supper (burritos – Brad was madly craving meat by now!) on the side of the road, we made it to Drumheller with enough time before sundown to count an absurd number of dinosaur statues lining the streets.
Drumheller is located along the Red Deer River in the region of Alberta called the Canadian Badlands, though my dad has told me they are best described as ‘the geomorphological outcome of glacial meltwater channel development in horizontally bedded mudrocks underlying glacial tills’. At the end of the day they are pretty outstanding and picturesque natural features! The area is famous for its dinosaur fossil finds, which have played a lead role in understanding how ancient animals evolved and
behaved, so we headed to the Royal Tyrell Museum of Archaeology to find out what it was all about. After 7 hours of natural history, Albertasaurus, Gorgeosaurus, T-Rex, Bird-Mimic and a whole bunch of Centasaurus fossils, we headed on our way. I’m not usually a patient museum-y person, but I would DEFINITELY recommend a trip to this one if you are in anyway interested at all in dinosaurs (deep down we all are right?). The exhibits and the fossils are amazing!
Another day, another 100kms drive. We stopped in at Horseshoe Canyon to get amongst the badland cliffs and search obsessively for bumblebees (since Lake O’Hara it has turned into a bit of an obsession – Roger Cartar you inspired us!!). From Drumheller we went south through Wayne. I know your asking did you cross all 11 bridges of Wayne, in the Guinness book of records for having the greatest number of bridges in the shortest distance? Yes, yes we did. We ended up in Dinosaur Provincial Park. Talk about raptor central on the drive, when we’re not shrieking at the ground squirrels to get off the side of the road, we’re saying... oooohhh, raptor, eagle, hawk... wow!
The landscape in Dinosaur Provincial Park blew Drumheller out of the water and into the sky! As far as the eye could see was badlands. We found a shaded campsite, booked ourselves into an interp tour the next day and took off into the heat (yes – heat, 30°C heat!) exploring the short tracks and into the open visitors area – almost the entire park is declared natural park preserve to protect the huge number of fossils, the wildlife and the tourists. Heaps of complete dinosaur fossils (around 74 my old – but correct me if I am wrong) have been pulled out of the ground here, not to mention 20 mass bonebeds. They say that if you wander off a walking track and don’t find a dinosaur bone, then you aren’t in Dinosaur Provincial Park. So true... we (eagle eyes Brad actually) found a whole bunch of fossilised bones (no we didn’t take anything other than pictures!). Brad was determined to find a dinosaur tooth after hearing that these are the most common finds – dinosaurs could regrowth teeth, therefore lost alot – at 8pm, he had success!
The next day we went on a brilliant interpretive hike
to a Centrosaurus bonebed in the natural park preserve - 300+ animal bones, likely died crossing a flooded river, drowning, covered by sediment, you get the picture. Amazing! And our guide was fantastic too. After an ice cream (much needed), we plodded along the road to the highest point between the Rockies and Labrador, Cypress Hills Provincial Park (a plateau and river valley that avoided the aforementioned geomorphologic processes).
Here we exchanged the plethora of hymenoptera watching (bees, wasps and bumblebees) activities for odonata (dragonflies) – yes Rhys, that was just for you . There were literally HUNDREDS of dragonflies in each grassy knoll in Cypress Hills, it was fantastic... until we saw some good ol’ dragonfly cannibalism (which was fascinating in itself), then we switched back to looking out for bumblebees. Watching our first Prairie sunset (watching a sunset is the best movie you will ever watch) at another Horseshoe Canyon, we reminded ourselves of how lucky we are to be doing this trip and visiting so many amazing places!
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