Day 8 – Edmonton to Calgary, AB

Route map

Distance = 439 km        Gas = $26.05 ($1.15/L in Edmonton)

I touched a dinosaur today. Well, its fossilized bones, but still, an actual dinosaur.

If you’re into palaeontology in any way, southern Alberta is the place to be. Drumheller, Alberta, to be exact. The Royal Tyrrell Museum is there, smack in the middle of the badlands of Midland Provincial Park. I’m not usually a museum type, but this was pretty impressive. The museum has a bunch of dinosaur skeletons (fossilized bones) from the area, some of which are almost complete, and it’s crazy to think how long ago those reptiles and mammals were alive in that area that humans now live. It’s also pretty awesome that Alberta has some of the best dinosaur digging in the world. I had no idea. I also had no idea there was a “dinosaur rush” from 1910 to 1917, when a schwack of people came from all over the world to grab whatever they could to take home with them. Who knew Alberta once exported dinosaur bones along with fur and lumber?

Travel tip: If you go to the museum, admission is $10 for an adult, and it takes roughly 1.5 hours to work your way through all the exhibits. I opted for the bonus $4 audio handset and while it’s definitely not necessary, I think it was maybe worth it to have the extra info.

This morning I woke up to low clouds and the threat of rain in Edmonton, but within an hour of driving south-east, the clouds cleared and the prairie sun shone down on all the hay fields I passed, wafting the sweet scent in through my open window. In fact, I was slightly euphoric coasting down the highway towards Drumheller, with Imagine Dragons providing the soundtrack to my day.

The road is easy and straight, until it suddenly drops down into a small desert canyon at the badlands (so named by the First Nations who literally called  it “land bad for crossing on foot or horse”), where it’s hot and rocky and full of sage and crickets. The museum is about a five minute drive from town. There’s also a short walk you can take outside, where you can see what the badlands look and feel like. It’s really hot, so take water.

In town, the info centre is where you can find the world’s largest dinosaur (which, I’m guessing is made out of fiberglass or plywood or something).

The hoodoos, I’d heard, are worth a look, so I drove the 16 km out of town to see them, as well. Just as I’d been told, they’re not as big as you might imagine from the guidebook photos, but they definitely are something to see. The most impressive thing about them, I think, is that they’re millions of years old. Millions. I can’t even wrap my head around that. No wonder they’re in a protected area. In fact, there’s a sign saying you could be fined or even imprisoned if you damage them. Welcome to Alberta. Touch a hoodoo, go to jail. (Feel free to tip as many cows as you’d like, though.)

Tonight, I’m in Calgary, which is about two hours south-west of Drumheller. Driving Edmonton to Calgary direct takes exactly three hours, but I went the backroad route, and it was a lot more interesting, I’m sure. I’m staying with a friend who lives in town, and tomorrow I’m off to the prairies to see what there is to see… or not see. Either way, I’ll be driving to Moose Jaw. Prairie road trip!

NEXT POST: Calgary to Moose Jaw

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