Drumheller, Alberta is about a two hour drive northeast from Calgary on Hwy 9. Most visitors are unprepared for how suddenly the terrain changes. You are driving along a fairly typical prairie road, when out of the blue, the Canadian Badlands appear. Reminiscent of the moon's surface, the Badlands were formed in prehistoric times by wind, water and ice. Alberta was once swampy, coastal lowland and the combination of the remains of these ancient ocean floors and erosion created the geological formations that we see today.
Huge hills dot the roadside, their black, brown and reddish layers visible to the naked eye. 70 million years of geological history has been unearthed within these layers. It's like going back in time.
The Visitor Information Center in Drumheller is easy to find as it's right next to the World's Largest Dinosaur. After stacking up on brochures, you can head toward the World's Largest Dinosaur entrance. Approximately 4.
5 times bigger than a life size Tyrannosaurus Rex, you have to climb 106 stairs to reach the dinosaur's mouth - 25 meters from the ground. Walking out onto the T-Rex's lower jaw gives you an unbeatable view of the Canadian Badlands.Millions and millions of years ago, dinosaurs called the Badlands home. Their fossilized remains have made the area famous - the Badlands have one of the most abundant dinosaur fossil depositories in the world.
The valley's riverbeds were thick with sediment that covered the carcasses of deceased dinosaurs and preserved them. Considering that less than 1% of the dinosaur population was preserved, it's a spectacular discovery.It's no surprise then that The Royal Tyrrell Museum, the only Canadian institution devoted entirely to paleontology, is located in Drumheller. To get to the museum, follow the Dinosaur Trail highway signs.
The Royal Tyrrell attracts 385,000 visitors from around the globe annually. One of the largest exhibits of dinosaurs in the world, the museum displays more than 35 dinosaur skeletons along with 10 full size models to help you imagine what they actually looked like. A walk through the museum is a fast forward journey through 3.5 billions years of life on Earth. You don't have to be a paleontologist to appreciate the Royal Tyrrell's exhibits - those who know nothing about the prehistoric creatures will enjoy the museum as much as dinosaur fanatics. It's truly fascinating.
A visit to the museum begins with a series of interactive educational activities that explain scientific topics such as earthquakes, reflexes and density. From here, it's on to the fossils. To be considered a fossil, an object must be the remains of a living organism or traces of their activities (such as footprints or droppings) and must be at least 10,000 years old. Coprolites (dinosaur droppings) are considered important because they provide the scientist with information on the feeding habits of the dinosaur. An Albertosaur, a small cousin of the T-Rex, with a strong but agile body, is one of the first fossils that you'll see.
It's still embedded in rock. His long neck is curved up and bent over backwards, typical of many dinosaur skeletons due to the drying and shortening of ligaments in the neck. In the Prep Lab section of the Royal Tyrrell you have the opportunity to watch technicians working on genuine fossils. Behind a glass wall, they persistently chip away at rock to reveal the fossil and the scientific information it possesses. The Extreme Theropod (Beast Foot) Hall contains huge skeletons of dinosaurs that you wouldn't have wanted to encounter in the wild.
Their huge bones towered over you; your neck gets stiff from craning upwards to see them.Dinosaur Hall is probably the highlight of the museum as it contains the most complete skeletons housed in one place. An Albertosaur stands tall in one corner with his blade like fangs and clawed hind feet. Ornitholestes proves that not all dinosaurs were giants; this one is only about the size of an average dog.
Long Neck Plesiosaur is the most unbelievable. A water dweller, it had up to 70 vertebrae in its neck, making a giraffe's look puny in comparison. This Plesiosaur had 3 times more neck vertebrae than any other animal.
The Royal Tyrrell Museum goes beyond dinosaurs and touches on many aspects of prehistoric life. A re-creation of a 375 million year old Devonian underwater community illustrates what Alberta was like when it was covered in water. The final exhibit, the Ice Ages, displays skeletons of a giant mammoth and a saber toothed cat.
After seeing the type of creatures that inhabited the Earth millions of years ago, you return to the present and visit Reptile World. Displaying over 150 reptiles and amphibians, Reptile World will delight visitors of all ages. Some are surprised to learn that Alberta is home to a venomous snake - the Prairie Rattlesnake. A smaller snake that's a light shade of brown, the rattlers would be easily camouflaged against the Badlands. The closest den has been discovered only 80 kilometers from Drumheller, but don't worry: Prairie Rattlesnakes have one of the least toxic venoms and their bites aren't fatal.
Also on display are Red Eyed Tree Frogs, Asian Fire Bellied Toads, Saltwater Crocodiles and Eastern Box Turtles. Canadian Snapping Turtles were also on display and although quite docile in the water, they can become agitated on land. A variety of snakes coil behind thick glass - from boa constrictors, cobras and pythons to the deadly Black Mamba. If you're really brave, you can meet Brittany up close. Brittany, a young boa constrictor, was born in captivity and is completely tame.
Having owned snakes all his life, the keeper was completely comfortable with Brittany wrapped around his neck. Her tongue flicked in and out of his ear and she probed his hair with her head while he nonchalantly answered our endless questions.Once you have fully explored the museum, it is time to discover the Badlands.
Two excellent hiking locations are only minutes away from Drumheller and The Royal Tyrrell Museum. About ten minutes farther along Dinosaur Trail lays Horse Thief Canyon. This is a great viewpoint for observing the valleys and rock formations of the Badlands.
It's a tough climb down so wear sturdy shoes.Horseshoe Canyon, 17 km Southwest of Drumheller, has an easier walking trail. Referred to as Canada's Grand Canyon, the area is slightly flatter and makes for easier exploration.
It's not unusual to come across fossils on your hike, but be warned - Alberta law states that "all fossils in or on the ground are owned by the province" as they provide valuable information about ancient life. Before you leave, go east on Highway 10 until you get to the Hoodoos. Tall pillars of sandstone capped by large boulders, the Hoodoos resemble natural rock cigars. Just another of the area's geological wonders.
Michael Russell Your Independent guide to Canada Vacation.Article Source: http://EzineArticles.com/?expert=Michael_Russell.
By: Michael Russell