Travel Guide to Canada
ROYAL TYRRELL MUSEUM:
VISIT THE LOST WORLD OF DINOSAURS
The best way to experience the Canadian Badlands is by looking up at the earth, not down, on a hike through the very lands where dinosaurs once roamed.
In a landscape that could have been pinched together by the hands of fairies lies a place so fantastical that it is easy to imagine that the colossal likes of Tyrannosaurus rex and Albertosaurus once thundered through this land.
Located some 135 km (84 mi.) east of Calgary or 280 km (174 mi.) southeast of Edmonton, the scenery of rippling grasslands dramatically cracks open in what is known as the Canadian Badlands. Here you’ll find wind-scraped hoodoos, spires and coulees that tumble through canyons, leading you to the town of Drumheller. Most visitors make a beeline for the world-famous Royal Tyrrell Museum of Palaeontology, six km northwest of town, but don’t—the surrounding area is also worth exploring. Take a tour of the Atlas Coal Mine, count the number of wacky dinosaur statues that spackle the townsite, climb the world’s largest dinosaur to stick your head out its mouth for a jaw-dropping selfie and then have lunch in the Last Chance Saloon on the skirts of “Drum” (www.canadianbadlands.com).
After you’ve enjoyed those sites, spend an afternoon touring some of the Tyrrell Museum’s 13 galleries, and if that doesn’t slake your wanderlust for all things ancient, do what 20 percent of the museum’s visitors do and join a program (www.tyrrellmuseum. com/programs). From fossil casting and geological hikes to storytime for wee ones and science breaks—all programs are family-friendly. Even some of the five-day summer camps keep kinfolk front and centre, where parents and children participate together on guided digs, and sleep in teepees under the stars.
Considered one of the top dinosaur museums in the world, what makes the Royal Tyrrell Museum so spectacular is its unique setting. It was right here, in these parched canyons and coulees where scientific research continues today, that geologist Joseph Tyrrell discovered what turned out to be Canada’s first carnivorous dinosaur skull in 1884. Later dubbed Albertosaurus, it was this 72-million-yearold find that sparked the Great Canadian Dinosaur Rush where scientists, researchers and opportunists from around the planet plundered the land.
However, the embarrassment of riches seemingly knows no end. Fast forward 133 years later and you’ll discover that only three percent of the Royal Tyrrell Museum's vast collection of 160,000 specimens ever gets exhibited—precisely why several of the museum’s newest expansions include galleries that now rotate their offerings more than before. Opening in May is Grounds for Discovery, the last exhibit of a three-year renovation project. This new exhibit will tell the untold stories of remarkable discoveries made by industries such as mining, highway construction, as well as oil and gas. Here is where you’ll find their oldest dinosaur—a 112 to 110-millionyear-old nodosaur, unearthed in 2011 at a Suncor mine in Fort McMurray.
The leading crowd-pleaser, however, is likely to remain Dinosaur Hall where 40 articulated skeletons are imaginatively presented, the centrepiece of the story of the evolutionary rise and fall of the dinosaur. The second most popular stop is the on-site preparation lab window where visitors can watch scientists and technicians toil over fossils.
But don’t assume that the Royal Tyrrell Museum is only focused on old bones. This spectacular museum plots a chronological course through evolutionary history, making its points with the help of computer stations, hands-on displays and immersive galleries. Place an extraordinary museum like this in a setting that swirls in weird and wonderful ways, and the names of its former inhabitants such as Triceratops and Xiphactinus seem fitting—in a lost-world sort of way.