Red Deer River has carved a deep chasm down into the plain. The area is very dry and over the years has eroded into typical badlands scenery with hoodoos. Cottonwood trees grow along the river providing a splash of vivid green against the browns, oranges and reds of the rocks. The view from the top car park before you drop down into the canyon across the badlands is awesome.
Seventy-five million years ago, the landscape was very different. The climate was subtropical, with lush forests covering a low, swampy coastal plain. The area was home to over 40 species of dinosaurs. Conditions were perfect for the preservation of their bones as fossils. Erosion has revealed many of their skeletons.
Over 150 complete dinosaur skeletons have been discovered, as well as partial skeletons and disorganized concentrations of bones called ‘bone beds.’
The majority of the skeletons are displayed in the Royal Tyrrell Museum in Drumheller and there are examples in other museums throughout the world.
There is a public access road which runs through the park and this has a few short trails leading off it. In one place, exposed dinosaur bones have been left exposed, protected by a glass case for visitors to see.
The majority of the park is described as ‘restricted access’ to protect the dinosaur sites. There are strict laws forbidding the unauthorised collection of remains and very stiff penalties if caught.
Visitors can only enter the restricted areas on an official bus tour or by guided walk. These have to be booked in advance. There is a limited number of places each day and tours are often fully booked several weeks ahead.
There is a large camping area in the park. There is a small Visitor Centre selling a similar range of cheap gifts and the Dinosaur Service Centre serves a basic range of food which is quite expensive.
We hadn’t wanted to be tied down to a set time, so didn’t book any of the guided walks. We just did the drive around the public loop road and the public trails off it. This took half a day and we felt it gave us a good introduction to the park. We liked the in situ display of dinosaur bones waiting to be excavated.
We enjoyed our visit. The scenery is amazing.
We visited during a five week trip to Canada. I have written a report of the trip here.
I have written a series of detailed reports for some of the places visited for Silver Travel Advisor.