Dinosaurs! Hello to the Badlands of Alberta
It takes a while to get through the Canadian Rockies. Mountain after spectacular mountain, a delight. A geography lesson of heaving and formation right before your eyes, eye candy that is! As you wind through this deep valley past Castle Junction, well named, and Banff the trans Canada 1 follows the Bow river as it winds its way East slowly out of the mountains onto those long endless plains and grasslands. Before you know it the massive snow-capped peaks are just small hills in your rear view mirror.
We passed to the South of Calgary, I just wanted to say “Yeehaw” but it didn’t look too much like cowboy country, more like oil country. It became flatter and flatter as we made our way South East. It was hard to imagine where these Badlands could be out here in all this flat and rolling plain. But arrive it did. We veered off the Trans Canada to go North-East another 45 km to Dinosaur Provincial Park Unesco World Heritage Site.
The Red Deer River loops slowly through-out this amazing landscape. A glacial flood plain about 18,000 years ago eroded out a portion of this basin and apparently all or most of the scenic badlands bearing the dinosaur and other Cretaceous fossils. We descended a fairly steep hill at the entrance to the park to the bottom near the river. We’d made reservations, the sign out at the road had read campground full but someone must have forgotten to take that down awhile back, the park was mostly empty. Our site was a back in with a view of hoodoos out the window:)
How it all happened:)
We wandered about the lovely Cottonwood trees and then up onto the many trails behind the campsite for a view to the river. Before sunset I drove to the top hoping to catch a nice sunset. Clouds were scheduled to roll in later so no night photography in this lovely dark place:(
The next day we were surprised to see the sun and ventured off on one of the many trails around the park in the morning. The ranger at the front, who doubles as the restaurant grilling chef as well said this was her favourite-The Badlands Trail.
Most of the park trails are quite short, less than a few kilometers and easy hiking, no large elevation changes. Amazing the life that can be found in these somewhat barren landscapes.
In the afternoon we followed the park loop around to several preserved dig sites and the cottonwoods down by the river.
There is a wonderful museum after descending into the park. We took a stroll and marveled at not only the diversity of the species found here but at how badass some of the little guys were, from plants to the giants of the dinosaur world! This was my first time seeing some of these guys bones up so close. Probably a good thing we’ve lived in different ages;)
The fun paths right behind the trailer provided Groot and Gamora with some wonderful exploration, sand to dig in, they always like that, butterflies and birds to stalk, but never catch:)
There was a small secondary river running through the campground. Swallows were building their nests under a bridge and the trees were full of chatter. I wandered about trying to get a shot of an elusive Brown Thrasher that had been going from tree to tree when it stopped and became quite agitated. It kept flying to the ground and moving about in an odd manner. As I approached a bit more closely I saw what was bothering it. A beautiful 4 foot long Bull Snake that was coiled in the grass and the Thrasher was attacking it.
When I moved a bit closer to photograph the snake it rattled its tail at me like a rattlesnake, “Oh come on” I told him” I know better;)” you are no Praire Rattler…when he was distracted looking at me the Thrasher attacked him, pecking at him from behind. He was not having a good day, no birds eggs, a weird human taking his picture and an angry mother bird. A German lady tourist walked by and I pointed out the lovely snake and bird, she was not convinced it was not venomous and left quickly after a few cell phone shots, poor snakes, always getting the bad rap from Adam and Eve;)
The Cottonwoods and the campground were full of all kinds of life. The cats got quite excited by the very vocal Magpie family in a tree nearby. They had a chick out of the nest and it was bouncing from place to place learning to fly and the cats watched from the windows with great interest:) and the cactus! Opuntias-their furthest North range is here:)
This is a must see place for anyone traveling the Trans Canada thru Alberta. Next trip, yes there will be one, we will go North to Drumheller as well to explore this beautiful country, home to the dinosaurs and badlands.
It was a wonderful few days but we were longing to be back in Ontario dipping our feet into Otty Lake. Ready to make some more time, the flat praires, no winding mountain roads, Mike seemed very pleased at the thought of a few thousand kilometers of flat.
So, stay tuned for not the badlands, but the flatlands and grasslands! Coming up Saskatchewan and Manitoba:) Saludos amigos!