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Dinosaur Provincial Park

Dinosaur Provincial Park, Alberta
Dinosaur Provincial Park1
With a captivating landscape composed of canyons, cliffs, gulches and oddly-shaped buttes, Dinosaur Provincial Park boasts some of the most impressive scenery the Badlands have to offer. But as the site of one of the most important fossil beds in the world, the park offers much more than spectacular scenery. Over 35 species of dinosaurs have been unearthed at Dinosaur Provincial Park, including specimens representing every known family of dinosaurs that lived during the Cretaceous Period. What makes the fossil bed at Dinosaur Provincial Park so significant is that it contains not only a high volume of fossils, but also a wide diversity of species. In addition to dinosaur skeletons, fossils of turtles, lizards, fish, crocodiles and flying reptiles have been culled from the area. Given the park's paleontological eminence and truly unique landscape, it's no wonder Dinosaur Provincial Park attracts thousands of tourists each year. Visitors have the exciting opportunity to explore the history and natural wonder of Dinosaur Provincial Park through bus tours, guided and self-guided hiking trips, interpretive programs and educational exhibits.

ORIENTATION & ACCESS

Situated in south-central Alberta, Dinosaur Provincial Park is 48 km (30 mi) northeast of Brooks, 100 km (62 mi) southeast of Drumheller, and roughly 200 km (124 mi) east of Calgary. For visitors flying into the area, the closest airport is Calgary International Airport, which is served by several major airlines and offers on-site car rentals. From Calgary, Dinosaur Provincial Park is roughly a two hour's drive and can be asseced via Trans Canada Highway 1 through to a series of secondary roads.

CLIMATE

The summer season, generally warm and sunny, is the best time to visit Dinosaur Provincial Park, as temperatures average around 18 C (64 F) and conditions are usually good for outdoor activities and exploration. However, temperatures have been known to reach up to 35 C (95C) in July and August, so visitors are advised to bring plenty of water, sunscreen and a hat when spending time outdoors. Weather in the spring and fall can be very unpredictable, often characterized by sun-filled days and much cooler evening temperatures. Even on short trips, visitors are advised to bring clothing for warm or cool weather. In winter, snowfall is common and temperatures can get rather cold, normally ranging between -8 C and -25 C (18 F to -13 F). Although temperates can drop below -25 C (-13 F) with the wind chill, these frigid conditions are sometimes tempered by warm Chinook winds. Like most of Alberta, the Badlands area is quite dry, experiencing low levels of rainfall and humidity, although an umbrella is good to have just in case.

ATTRACTIONS

Dinosaur Provincial Park Visitor Centre - Field Station of the Royal Tyrrell Museum
A great first stop for visitors arriving in the park, Dinosaur Provincial Park Visitor Centre features a 3-D map outlining the area's physical features and facilities, including walking trails, roads, campgrounds and day-use areas. For an overview of the park, catch the film entitled The Magic Valley, playing at the centre's Sternberg-Anderson Theatre. The venue also features afternoon family programming in July and August. Educational materials pertaining to the park, including books, videos, posters and field guides, are available at the bookstore.

Dinosaur Provincial Park Visitor Centre - Field Station of the Royal Tyrrell Museum, Alberta
Dinosaur Provincial Park Visitor Centre2
Also on display are a wide variety of exhibits and displays, including many dinosaur fossils. The wet environments and land environments displays feature a range of exhibits, from flying pterosaurs to the sea-faring champsosaurs. The prehistoric struggle for survival is brought to life at the Prey and Predators exhibit, which depicts a dramatic skeleton-model attack made by two dromaeosaurs raptors on a duck-billed lambeosaur. Visitors also have the opportunity to see a massive and extremely rare ornithopod footprint and learn about Charles M. Sternberg, known for his prolific collection of fossils and work describing new species of dinosaurs; and Dr. Winfred George Anderson, a vehement park advocate who worked with Mr. Sternberg to found Dinosaur Provincial Park and ensure the preservation of its invaluable paleontological resources.

A popular activity at the centre is watching technicians and volunteers prepare fossils for public display and scientific analysis in the 145-sq-m (1560-sq-ft) prep lab. The lab sees the most excitement during the summer months, and lab talks uncovering the inner workings of fossil preparation and display are offered daily in July and August, and on weekends in June.

Geology enthusiasts appreciate the Geology Display, which sheds light on the time periods that correspond to the three distinct rock formations found in Dinosaur Park. Expanding on this theme, the centre's A Sense of Time Panel compresses major events from the Earth's origin into a relative calendar year, allowing visitors to grasp the relative age of the park's rocks.

Outdoor Amphitheatre Programs
Free to the public, outdoor amphitheatre programs take place Wednesday through Sunday evenings from the beginning of July to early September. The Deadlodge Canyon Amphitheatre plays host to interactive performances that recount the park's cultural and natural heritage. Props, costumes and scripts are supplied for audience members of all ages interested in joining the fun through cameo roles.

John Ware's Cabin, Dinosaur Provincial Park, Alberta
John Ware's Cabin3
John Ware's Cabin
An eminent figure in Canada's ranching history, John Ware has achieved legend status with his excellent equestrian skills and honest, affable demeanor. In 1882, John left Idaho on a cattle drive to western Canada, where he married, reared five children, and eventually settled along the Red Deer River. Unfortunately John was killed in 1905 when his horse lost his footing and fell on him. When his funeral was held in Calgary, it was the largest the city had seen since its inception, underlining the rancher's importance to the community.

Today, visitors can learn about this Canadian folklore hero at John Ware's Cabin Historic Site. In 2002, a ceremony unveiled the newly restored splendor of John's early 20th-century cabin, complete with new interpretive displays. The cabin, centrally located inside the park close to the visitor centre, is open to visitors on selected days during the summer months.

ACTIVITIES

Self-Guided Hiking Trails
Dinosaur Provincial Park features five interpretive trails that journey into three different habitats, offering visitors an up-close encounter with the park's unique features and unforgettable scenery. Although all trails are restricted to pedestrian use only, cyclists can explore the area using the park's paved and gravel roads.

Beginning at the park entrance, the 300-m (984-ft) Prairie Trail is a short 15- to 20-minute walk that tours the prairie habitat on the outskirts of the park's boundaries. The 0.9-km (0.6-mi) Coulee Viewpoint Trail, a great trail for viewing the park's erosional features, departs from the field station and treks uphill to an observation point showcasing views of Little Sandhill Coulee. The Badlands Trail is accessed from the public loop road and covers 1.3 km (0.8 mi), winding amidst hoodoos and other impressive rock formations. Beginning next to Fossil Display #2, Trail of the Fossil Hunters is a 0.9-km (0.6 mi) hike that charts the path of the pioneering palaeontologists during the Great Canadian Dinosaur Rush. Cottonwood Flats Trail begins on the public loop road by the Red Deer River and covers 1.4 km (0.9 mi), venturing through a lush riverside habitat that has become a popular spot for bird watching.

Dinosaur Provincial Park Bus Tour, Alberta
Dinosaur Provincial Park Bus Tour4
Guided Tours and Hikes
Guided hikes, bus tours and other interpretive programs are provided from early May to early September. Visitors are advised to make reservations for these events in advance to assure a ticket. However, rush tickets for tours and hikes are available on the day of the event at the Park Visitor Centre.

Bus Tours
Led by a park interpreter, Badlands Bus Tour is a two-hour ride that explores the diverse landscape and unique features of the park. Learn about park wildlife, landforms and dinosaurs on a great general overview of the area.

Heritage of the Hoodoos Bus Tour is an early-evening escapade that explains why so many people have been drawn to the badlands through history, from the First Nations peoples and pioneers to fossil hunters and artists. Be prepared for short walks at several stops.

Guided Hikes
For visitors wishing to expand their knowledge of the park and enjoy the outdoors at the same time, several guided hikes led by experienced docents are available, including the Centrosaurus Bone Bed Hike, which explores a massive dinosaur excavation site from the 1980s; the Fossil Safari Hike, which visits a fossil site in the Natural Preserve; Camel's End Coulee Hike, which charts competition for survival dating back 75 million years; and the Great Badlands Hike, an extended backcountry hike through rugged badlands terrain.

Camping at Dinosaur Provincial Park, Alberta
Camping at Dinosaur Park5
ACCOMMODATIONS AND FACILITIES


Convenient on-site camping is offered at Dinosaur Provincial Park Campground, which features over 125 campsites, 59 of which are powered. Camping is permitted year round, although no water is available in winter. Campers can buy firewood at the campground office.

The park also features a 10-unit group camp area complete with toilets, a picnic pavilion, a fire ring and a water tap in season. The facility must be booked in advance, and a security deposit is required.

Dinosaur Provincial Park's convenience store usually closes for the season in September and re-opens in May. Washrooms, showers and laundry facilities are open from roughly mid-May to early October, and the sani-dump station is closed for the winter.

Dinosaur Provincial Park, Alberta
Dinosaur Provincial Park6

PHOTO COURTESY

  1. Travel Alberta; Dinosaur Provincial Park; Alberta, Canada
  2. Travel Alberta; Dinosaur Provincial Park Visitor Centre; Alberta, Canada
  3. Travel Alberta; John Ware's Cabin; Alberta, Canada
  4. Travel Alberta; Dinosaur Provincial Park Bus Tour; Alberta, Canada
  5. Travel Alberta; Camping at Dinosaur Provincial Park; Alberta, Canada
  6. Travel Alberta: Dinosaur Provincial Park; Alberta, Canada
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