Early childhood memories of Drumheller are that of funny hills and prairie dogs running all over the place. I would get very excited when we stopped there during our travels from the west coast to Saskatchewan to visit my relatives. Many years later it is still fascinating to see.
Drumheller is a part of Southern Alberta that is known as the badlands. It is located about an hour and a half northeast from the city of Calgary. The town itself is small and rural. At one time it was the fastest growing town in Canada! That was during the development of the coal industry. Now that the days of major coal use are long gone, the population sits at just over 8000 people. The economy is supported mainly by agriculture and tourism. It is a cute and friendly place that is easily walkable.
Horseshoe Canyon is located 17 km southwest of Drumheller on Highway 9. The canyon comes as quite a surprise when you approach it from Calgary. As you are driving along highway 9 you see flat grassland in every direction and then suddenly the earth opens up into this incredible canyon. The landscape gives way to steep dry coulees that have been eroded through the centuries by wind and water.
Getting right down into the coulees and walking around is a great way to experience them. Just be careful you don’t get lost. Once you get down there, you’re on your own. There are no guide signs or markers to lead you back to where you started. It can get blistering hot. In July and August the temperatures can get well above 40.C or 100.F. You also have to watch out for snakes!
Royal Tyrell Museum Of Palaeontology
This area is known as the dinosaur capital of the world. Over 70 million years ago prehistoric creatures roamed through what was then a flat landscape crossed over by rivers. The collection of bones found have been placed in museums all over the world. The Royal Tyrell Musuem Of Palaeontology is an an amazing facility. If you are into dinosaurs, this is the place to go. We loved it as adults, I’m sure kids would be fascinated with it.
This is one of the finest dinosaur museums in the world. It is dedicated to Joseph Tyrell who discovered the Albertosaurus in 1884, the first of hundreds of dinosaur skeletons removed from the Alberta badlands. The museum holds over 120,000 specimens and thirty five whole dinosaur skeletons. You can easily spend several hours checking out the different exhibits.
Worlds Largest Dinosaur
Since it is the dinosaur capital it would only be appropriate that Drumheller can boast it has the worlds largest dinosaur. It stands at 25 meters or 82 feet tall. Inside there are over one hundred stairs that will take you to the viewing area in the mouth. There you can get a birds eye view of the town. The Drumheller visitor center is conveniently located at the dinosaurs feet.
From Drumheller you can do a self guided tour on the 48km long Dinosaur trail. Grab a map from the tourist center that marks all the points of interest along the way. The drive will take you past some incredible lookouts over the coulees. From Horsethief Canyon you can take your vehicle across the Red Deer River on the Bleriot Ferry. It is one of the last remaining cable operated ferries in Alberta. It’s probably the shortest ferry ride we have ever been on.
The Hoodoo Trail has several points of interest and is marked on the same map you get from the Drumheller tourist center for the Dinosaur Trail. The Hoodoos are oddly shaped rock formations that can be over twenty feet tall. The native Blackfoot and Cree people held traditional beliefs that these rocks were petrified giants. They believed they came alive at night and hurled rocks at intruders to protect the land around them. The Hoodoos are formed over millions of years by erosion from wind and water. The pillar is soft sandstone that is protected from erosion by a harder rock cap.
Atlas Coal Mine
Atlas Coal mine is a National historical site. We didn’t pay to do the tour of the mine. We stopped at the site and appreciated the view of the old equipment. This is Canada’s last remaining wooden tipple mine.