Digging for Dinosaurs: Touring the Canadian Badlands
Loren Christie, Canada AM travel expert
Published Friday, August 30, 2013 6:55AM EDT
Dinosaur Provincial Park is a UNESCO world heritage site nestled near Brooks, Alta. in the Canadian Badlands. Home to 40 species of dinosaurs that roamed the earth 75 million years ago, today, it's famous for the incredible amount of fossils that are waiting to be discovered.
I recently had the pleasure of going on a guided expedition dig at Bone Bed 30. Apart from being surrounded by stunning scenery, I quickly realized I was also staring at fossilized dinosaur bones without even realizing it. It's hard to grasp the history that you are seeing right in front of you. And it is everywhere.
As part of the dig you are given a toolkit, which includes an awl, a paintbrush, a hammer, and a dental pick for the more delicate work. You also get a lunch. It is pretty much a guarantee that you will find a fossil, whether it's a small piece of tendon or the tiny edge of giant femur. If you or your kids have any interest in dinosaurs, this is a must see in Canada.
There are many different types of programs available geared to kids of all ages including fossil safaris, bus tours and hikes. The organized dig that I did actually has a minimum age requirement of 14 years and older due to the delicate nature of the program. Prices for the various programs range from $14 per person to $165 for a one day guided excavation. You do need to pre-book well in advance.
A big misconception to bear in mind as you plan your trip is that Dinosaur Provincial Park and the Royal Tyrell Museum are actually two hours drive apart. Many people think they are the same place. The big difference in the experience is that the Park offers a true hands-on experience as you discover the fossils for yourself.
I would not recommend Dinosaur Park as a day trip from Calgary, as it makes for a long day. Consider making a weekend in the area and stay over for at least one night. There are several good options:
- Heritage Inns (Brooks and other Alberta locations)
- Cypress Hills- Elkwater Lake Lodge & Resort
- Medicine Hat
- Canalta Hotels
If you want a true Western experience consider a ranch stay at the Western Uplands Lodge, Historic Reesor Ranch or the Rocking R Guest Ranch.
For flights, WestJet flies non-stop to Calgary from more than 20 Canadians cities. Check it out. The Badlands is an easy drive south from Calgary.