Experience The Royal Tyrrell Museum
It’s surprising what you’ll discover beneath your feet, and the Royal Tyrrell Museum at Drumheller, Alberta has an amazing collection of fossils to prove that point.
The extensive displays throughout the museum are both real and incredulous as they raise awareness of the vast array of the strange looking flora and fauna once covering this region.
The Grounds for Discovery exhibit, which opened in 2017, features some of the best examples of fossils unearthed during routine construction and industrial activities right here in the province Alberta. As fossils were accidentally discovered during an oil and gas development, road construction, and even home building, palaeontologists worked with companies to excavate and preserve scientifically important specimens.
The nodosaur Borealopelta markmitchelli, the oldest known dinosaur found in Alberta, is an amazing example. A fossil of this armored dinosaur, believed to be 112 to 110 million years old, was found at a Suncor mine site in northern Alberta in 2011. It is the best-persevered specimen of an armored dinosaur in the world. It includes skin and armor complete from the snout to the hips.
But there is much more. A fossil of a pantodont, a large plant-eating mammal that roamed Alberta about 60 million years ago is also on display. This fossil was found during road construction east of Red Deer in 2001.
It’s hard to believe that most of western North America was once covered by the Western Interior Seaway. This occured about 112 million years ago — at least until you see the fossil of a Nichollssaura borealis, a marine reptile that once swam in these waters. It is the oldest and most complete fossil of a plesiosaur found in North America. It was uncovered near Fort McMurray at a Syncrude mine site.
There are also great fossils of fish from 62 million years ago. Some of these fossils were discovered during the construction of a residential community in Northwest Calgary.
Along with the Grounds for Discovery exhibit, the Fossils in Focus is a rotating display changed periodically to showcase some of the tens of thousands of fossil specimens at the Royal Tyrrell Museum. There are fossils of rodents that lived about 65 million years ago found in the Sheep River area of Alberta; bony fish, and soft-bodied aquatic creatures found in the Ya Ha Tinda Ranch area west of Sundre; fossils of duck-billed dinosaurs found in the Castle River area of southern Alberta, as well as near Spirit River in the Alberta Peace River region and even fossilized palm leaves suggesting the Alberta climate was considerably warmer 65 million years ago. All that and much, much more.
Ranked as one of the top palaeontology museums in the world, the 120,000 sq. ft. Royal Tyrrell Museum, after a decade of planning and later construction, was opened by then Premier Peter Lougheed in September 1985. It opened with a blockbuster 500,000 visitors the first year, and the interest has never let up. The museum hosted some 465,000 visitors from 150 countries in 2015, contributing to a total of about 12 million visitors over the museum’s history.
The dinosaurs are obviously the stars of this prehistoric show having roamed over the world, and much of what is now North America, during an estimated 180-million year-period often referred to as The Age of Reptiles. The first dinosaurs appeared 245 million years ago during the Triassic Period, followed 208 million years ago by dinosaurs of the Jurassic Period and then starting 146 million years ago were the new kids on the block. They are known as the dinosaurs of Cretaceous Period. T. rex was the headliner at the end of this period, before the curtain closed on the era about 66 million years ago.
The museum, located 6 km west of Drumheller, is open year-round and is reasonably accessible to all. The city is about a 90-minute drive northeast of Calgary, and about a three-hour
trip southeast from Edmonton. Museum hours vary seasonally. For information visit: tyrrellmuseum.com.
Story by: Lee Hart
All Photos Courtesy Travel Alberta & Royal Tyrrell Museum