Stand amidst twisted pinnacles of rock. Gaze at the wind-scraped barren landscape of the badlands where the Red Deer River cuts deeply into the ancient river delta. It is almost impossible to picture the place now known as Dinosaur Provincial Park as a subtropical paradise filled with towering redwoods, palm trees and giant ferns. It’s even harder to imagine the giant beasts that flourished here some 75 million years ago.
Today this place is world famous for its dinosaur fossil finds. So much so that UNESCO designated it a World Heritage Site in 1979. A mind-boggling number of species have been found here - 40 and counting - but what really puts it over the top is that the bonebeds have yielded more than 300 specimens, which grace museums around the world. The park has also been designated a Natural Preserve to protect the extensive fossil fields and the valley’s fragile environment, an complicated mix of badlands and cottonwood river habitat.
Access to much of the park is restricted to the palaeontologists who converge every year for the ten-week bone digging season. It’s against the rules for the rest of us to collect or dig for bones anywhere in the park. But the Royal Tyrrell Museum’s Field Station and the folks who run the park have put together a plethora of cool things to do. Check out the outdoor exhibits. Take part in an interpretive program. Hop on a bus tour. Go on a fossil safari. Choose from one of five self-guided hikes. Plan to spend at least a couple of days here. Lots of camping nearby.
Location: 200 km (124 mi) east of Calgary. 48 km (~30 mi) north and east of the town of Brooks. Open year round.
Badlands. Big. Bones. Beds. Here’s your Dinosaur Provincial Park Checklist!
Always important, but have you ever stayed in a tent that was already pitched, had a wood floor, heating, real beds, not to mention a gas bbq and pots and pans? Throw in a private deck and a riverfront view.
Alberta Parks, at your service.
The programs and tours in the park are enormously popular so you’ll need to check out what’s available and book things well in advance. See the many
Dinosaur Provincial Park events you can choose from.
Didn’t plan ahead?
The campsites at the park fill up fast but not to worry. Lots of room at
Kinbrook Island Provincial Park
just 45 minutes away, or try
Tillebrook Provincial Park, 35 minutes to the southwest.
If the Royal Tyrrell Field Station is the child, then you have to come home to papa with a visit to the renowned
Royal Tyrrell Museum
in Drumheller, 100 km (62 mi) “upstream.” You could easily spend a whole day exploring this magnificent facility.
Hats off and heads up
Take a side-trip to visit the
Brooks Aqueduct Historic Site. Built over 90 years ago to provide water to the parched land, the centipede-like structure cradles a concrete sling that spans a 3.2 km (almost 2 mi) long valley. It was a feat of engineering unparalleled in its time. Very close to Kinbrook Island Provincial Park.