Over the next couple of weeks, I’ll be sharing more about the trip my sister and I took out west to visit friends in Calgary, Alberta. It’s the farthest west I’d ever been in Canada and we saw so much on our short trip there!
On Instagram, I shared lots of pictures of the mountains to the west of Calgary, but to the east it was all prairie flatlands for as far as the eye could see. Alberta is just north of Montana and now I get why they call it “Big Sky Country”.
We continued onto Drumheller, Alberta, home of the Royal Tyrrell Museum…and a whole lots of dinosaur bones.
Drumheller is part of the Alberta Badlands and almost feels like a gorge or canyon that shows up out of nowhere.
Leading up to our trip, I was told by many people that this is one cool museum and it definitely didn’t disappoint. Even if you don’t like dinosaurs, it is still full of beautifully designed displays and interesting facts. This big fella up top is the Albertosaurus – the top predator of its time and close relative of the Tyrannosaurus rex, who lived a few million years later. This species was the first reported dinosaur fossil discovered in the Red Deer River valley in 1884 by Joseph B. Tyrrell, a young geologist who was searching for coal seams in the area. When the museum opened in 1985, they named it in his honour.
One of my favourite parts of the displays was the stories behind how the fossils were discovered. This T-rex is considered one of the most significant specimens of its kind and was found by two teens on a fishing trip in southwestern Alberta. The minerals in the sandstone it was preserved in stained it a shiny black colour, leading to it’s nickname – Black Beauty.
I always wondered why fossils were found with this exaggerated pose and we learned that it is called “classic death pose”. As the skin and muscles of the dinosaur tighten after it dies, it pulls the spine and dramatically arches it while the skull pulls towards the tail.
This beautifully preserved skull of a Regaliceratops Peterhewsi lived 68.5 – 67.5 million years ago and is a close relative of Triceratops. This specimen was given the nickname “Hellboy” after the comic book character due to the difficulty collecting it and remove it from the very hard rock in which it was fossilized in.
I’ve seen dinosaur fossils in museums before, but never quite like this and not nearly as many. The whole building was packed with different, interesting specimens.
I think this stegosaurus had to be one of my favourites. I used to babysit a little boy who was obsessed with dinosaurs and could remember every name. At four years old, he would do pop quizzes with me to see if I could remember them, ha!
One of the most well-preserved and detailed fossils in the museum isn’t of an animal at all – it’s a pinecone!
There were even footprint fossils to show the animal’s walking patterns.
This Pachyrhinosaurus (a cousin of the triceratops) was found in Dinosaur Provincial Park and is significantly older than any other found, and may even be a new species.
Can you believe how long these legs are? Really puts it all into perspective.
Dinosaurs are scary, but even freakier are the prehistoric underwater creatures that were displayed. My sister’s face says it all!
One of the last exhibits we saw was of this giant wooly mammoth from about 250,000 years ago. Beautiful display with the sabertooth tiger skeletons.
I loved getting the chance to see some of the museum technicians at work. Many of the dinosaur fossils found in Alberta are researched and preserved at the museum itself – and can take up to five years to prepare completely. About two hours away is their field station at Dinosaur Provincial Park, one of the richest dinosaur fossil sites in the world.
We climbed up the hillside to get a better view of the huge museum and the surrounding badlands.
A few of the locals said hi to us while we were up there!
These groundhogs were everywhere – and quite friendly to the tourists after years of being given treats I’m sure.
It was a beautiful day spent at one of the most interesting landscapes I’ve ever seen. If you’re ever in Alberta, it’s worth the drive!
On the drive back to Calgary we got to see this huge storm move through the prairies. It was eery to be able to see it from so far away!