Experience Saskatchewan’s Dinosaur Trails
You never know what you’ll learn on the Saskatchewan dino trails.
While one of the first thoughts of the Saskatchewan landscape today is one of grain crops and cattle, several museums across the southern half of the province in many respects “bring to life” the flora and fauna of a dramatically different landscape and climate from more than 150 million years ago.
Whether you’re travelling through the small community of Herschel in west central Saskatchewan, to Regina or south to Eastend (and many points in between) you can discover the artifacts of the long-disappeared dinosaur era.
During what’s known as the Cretaceous period (145 to 65 million years ago) Saskatchewan was covered by the shallow muddy Western Interior Seaway. Palaeontologists have learned much over the past 100 years about the vast array or prehistoric creatures ranging from marine reptiles, razor-toothed fish, and plant and meat eating dinosaurs that lived on, in, or near this expansive water body.
The Ancient Echoes Interpretive Centre at Herschel (west of Hwy 4, northwest of Rosetown) opened in what used to be a community school more than 20 years ago. In the 7 former classrooms you can travel over the millennia. An impressive display of marine fossils, many found in the nearby Coal Mine Ravine, provides examples of creatures that lived in or near the inland sea some 65 million years ago.
One of the highlights at Ancient Echoes is a fossil of a Shortnecked Plesiosaur – Dolichorhynchops herschelensis found near the community. It is considered ‘one-of-a-kind’ marine reptile of the genus Dolichorhynchops identified from other specimens throughout North America.
In the summer the centre also offers guided tours of petroglyph carvings, teepee rings and rubbing stones left behind by aboriginal tribes that lived in the area about 1,600 years ago. Indoors are extensive displays of these First Nations residents, as well as explorers and European settlers who came later.
In the spring and summer the centre is open daily from 9 am to 5 pm – winters, by appointment only. For more details visit the website at: ancientechoes.ca
And In Regina!
While it is all about history, there is always something new to experience at The Royal Saskatchewan Museum in Regina.
Established in 1906, this provincial natural history museum offers exhibits and programming about Saskatchewan First Nations and Life Sciences but it is the Earth Sciences section that reveals the age of the dinosaur.
While pre-historic study is always interesting it is not always glamorous. A new addition to the Earth Science Gallery is the world’s only T. rex coprolite or fossilized poop! How do they know this is from a T. rex? Because it is a massive poop with bone fragments, meaning it’s from a meat-eater, and the only meat eaters around during this geologic time were T. rex. This one of a kind coprolite is famous, with a copy of it in the Smithsonian Museum, and is listed in the Guinness Book of World Records as the largest coprolite in the world. The Royal Saskatchewan Museum has the original, which was found in the province, on display.
Among other featured displays at the Royal Saskatchewan Museum is a Mosasaur from the late Cretaceous Period when giant marine reptiles ruled the sea. Mosasaurs were nothing to sneeze at; fossils found in areas between Saskatchewan Landing Provincial Park and Riverhurst show they were over 32 ft (10 m) in length.
The fossil records show that Saskatchewan was home to both carnivorous and herbivorous dinosaurs. In fact, following a province-wide contest in 2016, in which leading provincial fossil exhibits were displayed, “Scotty” the T. Rex was named the provincial emblem.
Favourite museum features include the Megamunch and the Paleo Pit. Unlike his ferocious ancestors that lived here over 65 million years ago, Megamunch, a half-sized robotic T. rex, greets children with a “friendly” roar during their visit. The Paleo Pit is a playroom for kids and their parents/guardians. Then take a break from the museum galleries and enjoy some prehistoric play together using the Colouring Table, Puppet Theatre, Climbing Structure, Discovery Wall, Puzzles, Play Tables and Book Nook.
Next Stop, Eastend
At Eastend, Saskatchewan (about a four hour drive southwest of Regina) you’ll find the The Royal Saskatchewan Museum’s satellite facility — The T. Rex Discovery Centre.
At the Centre you’ll see the fully erected, life size, skeletal structure of the first T. rex found in Saskatchewan.
The latest addition to the T. Rex Discovery Centre is virtual reality (VR) glasses. The VR glasses let you travel with two of the Museum’s paleontologists to the quarry where ‘Scotty’, one of the largest T. rexes, was found. This 5-minute documentary takes you to an area visitors seldom get to visit.
While visiting the T. Rex Discovery Center, sit under the new pergola that overlooks the beautiful Frenchman River Valley. The pergola surrounds a children’s sand dig pit and is perfect for picnics or for just enjoying the view.
Off-season, participate in the Tea and Fossils program. The program provides a chance for the public to learn about and work with real Saskatchewan fossils. Following the lab work is tea, coffee and conversation.
The T. Rex Discovery Centre can provide visitors with a closer look at a wide range of dinosaurs and their fossils. For more information on these facilities visit the Royal Saskatchewan Museum website at: royalsaskmuseum.ca
By: Lee Hart