During the peak of the coal era (1930s) Drumheller’s population exploded to more than 30,000 and it became a city in 1930. Drumheller was Western Canada’s largest coal producer; now it contributes to a vibrant energy sector and can boast Alberta’s second largest natural gas deposit, the West Drumheller Field. To benefit from Provincial and Federal grants the city dropped its city charter and once again became a town in 1997, when it was amalgamated with the Municipal District of Badlands. At 111 square kilometres, Drumheller is the largest town in Alberta in area and since the 1997 amalgamation with Badlands the town also includes the formerly separate towns of Nacmine, Wayne, and Rosedale. The valley ranges from 2 km across to 28 km in length.
Drumheller has been the filming location for more than 50 commercials, music videos and cinematic productions including Shanghai Noon , Unforgiven , Knockaround Guys and Rat Race .
South of the traffic bridge on Highway 9 north and south one can find the World’s Largest Dinosaur-a 90 foot high Tyrannosaurus rex that you can climb up inside of and view the Badlands including the adjacent 75 ft water fountain that lights up at night, again one of the largest in Canada.
Tourist attractions also include The Suspension Bridge, Altas Coal Mine (the last free-standing tipple in Canada), Drumheller Valley Ski Hill, Canadian Badlands Passion Play, Horseshoe Canyon, Water Spray Park, Aquaplex with indoor and two outdoor pools, Horse Thief Canyon, hoodoos, Midland Provincial Park, Rosedeer Hotel in Wayne, 27 km of constructed pathways, Bleriot Ferry, East Coulee School Museum, Homestead Museum, Reptile World (largest display of reptiles in Western Canada), Little Church that seats thousands (ten at a time) and all this with an impressive supply of parkland to start.
Badlands are a type of arid terrain with clay -rich soil that has been extensively eroded by wind and water . Canyons, ravines , gullies , hoodoos and other such geological forms are common in badlands. They are often difficult to walk upon. Badlands usually have a spectacular color display that alternates from dark black/blue coal stria to bright clays to red scoria .
The term “badlands” has dual origins: the Lakota called the topography ” mako sica “, literally “bad lands”, and French trappers called it ” les mauvaises terres à traverser ” – “the bad lands to cross”. The naming is apt. Badlands form in areas of infrequent but intense rain-showers and sparse vegetation, a recipe for devastating erosion. The landscape contains steep slopes, loose soil, and clay, all of which inhibit easy travel.
Some of the most famous fossil beds are found in badlands, where the forces of erosion have exposed the sedimentary layers and the lack of vegetation cover makes surveying relatively easy.
Some of the best-known badland formations can be found in the United States and Canada. In the U.S., Theodore Roosevelt National Park in North Dakota and Badlands National Park in South Dakota have extensive badlands formations. Another popular area of badland formations is Toadstool Geologic Park in the Oglala National Grassland of northwestern Nebraska . There is a sizable badland area in Alberta , Canada , particularly in the valley of the Red Deer River where Dinosaur Provincial Park is located. The Royal Tyrrell Museum of Palaeontology in Drumheller, Alberta is also in a badlands setting, and exhibits fossils found in the area.
Royal Tyrrell Museum of Palaeontology
The Royal Tyrrell Museum of Palaeontology is located in Midland Provincial Park near Drumheller, Alberta, Canada. It is known the world over as an outstanding palaeontology museum and research facility. Opened in 1985 and given “royal” status by Queen Elizabeth II in 1990, its mission is to collect, conserve, research, display and interpret palaeontological history, with special reference to Alberta’s extensive fossil heritage. The museum is operated by the Alberta Government ‘s ministry of Tourism, Parks, Recreation and Culture. It is named in honour of Joseph Burr Tyrrell (1858-1957).
A series of dramatic, chronological galleries feature exhibits celebrating the spectacular history and diversity of life on Earth for the past 3.9 billion years, as well as the palaeontologists who bring the story to life. Among them are hundreds of dinosaur fossils; a large collection of Burgess shale fossils; a life-size model of a reef from the Devonian Period; and a living Cretaceous garden with over 600 species of plants. A window into the Preparation Lab allows visitors to watch the work of technicians carefully extracting and preparing the fossils for study and exhibition. In addition, guided and self-guided tours of the badlands, a discovery center for children, simulated fossil digs, fossil casting, school programs, summer camps for both children and families, and many other programs are available for education and enjoyment.
In its first year of operation, the museum attracted over 600,000 visitors, and well over three hundred thousand people a year still pass through its doors. It is open year round, closed Mondays after Thanksgiving to Victoria Day. Also closed December 24 and 25, January 1/2.
All pictures by the author
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