Dinosaur Provincial Park
Now that you’ve been through the Royal Tyrrell Museum, you’ll want to get out in the field and explore the area where many of the dinosaurs have been unearthed. This region is protected by 7,330-hectare (18,000-acre) Dinosaur Provincial Park, 120 kilometers (75 miles) downstream of Drumheller. It’s possible to get there by road from Drumheller—east on Highway 570 then south on Highway 36—but, from Calgary, the direct route is 200 kilometers (125 miles) east along Highway 1.
Thirty-five species of dinosaurs—from every known family of the Cretaceous period—have been unearthed here, along with the skeletal remains of crocodiles, turtles, fish, lizards, frogs, and flying reptiles. Not only is the diversity of specimens great, but so is the sheer volume; more than 300 museum-quality specimens have been removed and are exhibited in museums around the world. Originally established in 1955 to protect the fossil bone beds, the park’s environment is extremely complex and is unique within the surrounding prairie ecosystem. Stands of cottonwoods, a variety of animal life, and, most important, the extensive bone beds, were instrumental in UNESCO’s designation of the park as a World Heritage Site in 1979. The Royal Tyrrell Museum operates a field station in the park, where many of the bones are cataloged and stored.
Your first stop should be the Dinosaur Park Visitor Centre (403/378-4342, Apr.–mid-May daily 9 a.m.–4 p.m., mid-May–Aug. daily 8:30 a.m.–7 p.m., Sept. 9 a.m.–4:30 p.m., the rest of the year weekdays 9 a.m.–4 p.m., adult $3, senior $2.50, child $2), which is a field station associated with the Royal Tyrrell Museum. It offers many interesting displays that provide an overview of the park, its natural history, and the dinosaurs contained within. Complete dinosaur skeletons, a reconstructed 1914 paleontologist field camp, and a dinosaur documentary are highlights.
The park’s campground is nestled below the badlands beside Little Sandhill Creek. It has 128 sites on 2 loops, pit toilets, a kitchen shelter, and a few powered sites. Unserviced sites cost $20, powered sites $26, and a bundle of firewood is $7. In summer, the campground fills up by early afternoon, so plan ahead by reserving a site (403/378-3700, www.reserve.albertaparks.ca).
The only commercial facility within the park is the Dinosaur Service Centre (403/378-3777, late May–Aug. daily 10 a.m.–6 p.m.), where you can purchase hot snacks and cold drinks. Within the center are laundry facilities and coin showers, both of which are open 24 hours. No groceries are available in the park.
For information, contact Dinosaur Provincial Park at 403/378-4342, www.tpr.alberta.ca/parks/dinosaur.
© Andrew Hempstead, from Moon Western Canada, 3rd Edition