Experience Grande Cache
Located approximately 430 km northwest of Edmonton, Grande Cache was founded as a coal mining town less than 50 years ago. Dinosaur footprints were first discovered during the late 1980’s by staff at the former Smoky River Coal Mine as coal-mining operations exposed the rocks in which the tracks were preserved. Many of these track sites were muddy bogs 90 million years ago in the Cretaceous Period, but due to the upheaval of the geological layers near the Rocky Mountains, the trackways are all located on steeply angled (between 40° and 60°) footwalls exposed during open pit mining activities.
Thousands of footprints are congregated across more than 20 track sites from the Gladstone and Gates formations (Lower Cretaceous period); all of them show tracks of ankylosaurs, a heavily armored, plant-eating, tank-sized dinosaur that had stocky legs and a short, heavy body. In some locations, traces of small, medium, and large-sized meat eating, bipedal theropod dinosaurs are co-mingled with a dusting of bird traces. Mr. Jim Merrithew, Supervisor of Culture and Tourism for the Town of Grande Cache, says the diversity and profusion of dinosaur tracks is not seen elsewhere in Canada and in only a few rare sites worldwide.
Currently, public access to the trackways is restricted, as they are located in an area currently leased by Grande Cache Coal Corp. Visitors can learn more about the fascinating history of these dinosaur tracks through the exhibits and displays at the Grande Cache Tourism & Interpretive Centre located on Hwy 40. Additional exhibits feature aboriginal heritage, ice age artefacts, and fur trading, full animal mounts, tree and geological descriptions and local industry.
The Centre, which offers hiking guides, maps and loads of information about the Grande Cache area, also includes the Bighorn Gallery Gift Shop, the Esson Gale Art Gallery, an intimate movie theatre and space for meetings & conferences.