One of the world’s premier beds of cretaceous dinosaur bones stretches for 200km along the Red Deer river valley. However, the Red Deer River has a total length of 724km. It originates in Banff National Park and flows east through the foothills to Red Deer. As the river leaves Red Deer, it cuts across some of the best farmland in Alberta and in so doing for the past 12,000 years, has carved a canyon as much as 200m deep.
After turning south, the Red Deer River runs through Dry Island Buffalo Jump Provincial Park, so-named because of the unusual land formation; a flat-topped mesa called a “dry island”. The flat rangelands abruptly drop 50 – 60m to the Red Deer River. Your kids will be amazed! Dating back 2,800 years, Aboriginal people used this drop as one of the highest buffalo jumps Alberta.
Dry Island Buffalo Jump is a Provincial Park that represents the northern end of the Canadian Badlands. Boreal and grassland species come together. White spruce are found only steps away from prickly pear cacti. More than 150 bird species have been spotted in this park, which is a day-use area only with camping available at nearby Tolman campgrounds.
But the Badlands are not the only fossil trove on this river. Just outside the Red Deer city limits, plant fossils were first collected at the confluence of the Blindman River in 1888. Cliffs here are renowned for their 60 million year old fossil beds. Many insect fossils have been found here area as well as the remains of many extinct fish species, crocodiles, and mammals.
On Hwy 11, the Joffre Bridge crosses the Red Deer River. In 1914, Mr Barnum Brown, known as “the greatest dinosaur hunter of the 20th Century,” discovered vertebrate fossils in this area. Although the site remained largely undisturbed until 1977 when Betty Speirs uncovered well-preserved fossils. Then in 2001, a road-widening crew discovered the remains of a pantodonts, an obscure group of bear-sized herbivores that lived 65 million years ago when mammals began to diversify following the demise of the dinosaurs in ancient Alberta.
Centrally located, Three Hills is a great place to stay while exploring Central Alberta. With a population of 3,200, there are numerous services, campgrounds and hotels in the area. Check out the Kneehill Historical Museum & Visitor Centre and if you are here during the first weekend of June, attend the Annual Cruise Weekend & Bracket Racing. It is one of the largest car shows in Central Alberta.
The Cretaceous-Tertiary Boundary marks the time when, 65 million years ago, there was a sudden global change in the environment, devastating many of the animals and plants that were alive at the time. It is marked by a thin layer of sediment, called the Boundary Claystone. One of the best sites in the world to see this claystone is a 15 min. drive north of Three Hills to Trochu.
Dinosaur bone beds are found almost accidentally within Western Canada regularly. However, sometimes construction workers uncover dinosaur bones. This happened in August 2010 when the remains of an Albertosaurus and Edmontosauruses, were discovered by City of Edmonton workers digging a new tunnel 30m underground.
To study these fossils, the Royal Tyrrell Museum worked with the Royal Alberta Museum of Edmonton.
The Royal Alberta Museum (RAM) is scheduled to open in their expanded facility in 2018. The new RAM will be one of the province’s greatest cultural attractions and the largest museum in western Canada. Quaternary Palaeontology is the study of fossil organisms that lived during the last 2.6 million years. RAM’s collection includes Holocene bison, mammoth, muskox, camel, lion and short-faced bear. Other specimens come from cave sites in the Crowsnest Pass, Plateau Mountain, and near Banff (Rat’s Nest Cave). royalalbertamuseum.ca
The Telus World of Science Edmonton (TWSE) features an exciting exhibit that takes you on a prehistoric journey into life on Earth when dinosaurs ruled. Opening June 1, 2018, Dinosaurs: Down to the Bone will challenge conventional thought and explore prehistoric scenes. This exhibit pays particular attention to extinction theories and the most wellknown dinosaur of our time – T. rex, as well as the recently discovered group of dinosaurs called Dromeosaurs.
There will be lots of cool interactive activities. You’ll marvel at life-sized animatronics that were custom designed and handcrafted by a team of palaeo-artists. Accurate to how scientists believe each dinosaur looked and sounded, these replicas were designed to be as lifelike and true to form as possible.
Admission is free for TWSE members and it varies for nonmembers: $16.95 children; $19.95 seniors, students, youth; and, $23.95 for families.
Book a DinoSnores Sleepover and your entire class can sleep beneath prehistoric giants, June 1 – Nov 4, 2018. Your class will become palaeontologists:
- Explore Dinosaurs: Down to the Bone like never before on an after-dark tour. Your flashlight will be your guide as you step in the shadow of these massive creatures.
- Extract bones using picks and brushes, just like your favourite palaeontologists do in the field! You’ll learn about the delicate work of uncovering fossilized remains.
- Unwind the clock and discover the massive (and crazy) scale of dinosaur times. Bet you didn’t know that less time separates iPads and Tyrannosaurus then the time between Tyrannosaurus and Stegosaurus?
For more information call 780-451-3344 or visit their website at telusworldofscienceedmonton.ca.
Thinking of seriously pursuing a career as a paleontologist?
The University of Alberta in Edmonton offers a Bachelor of Science Degree with a Major in Paleontology, which studies fossils and ancient life forms. It is an interdisciplinary program designed to give you a strong background in paleontology, earth sciences and biological sciences. Philip J. Currie is a Professor here in the Faculty of Science and the Canada Research Chair in Dinosaur Paleobiology.
Also, visit the nearby Jurassic Forest!