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Camping in Alberta’s badlands: discovering Dinosaur Provincial Park

Guest blog by Lindsey Kemlo, CPAWS-Southern Alberta volunteer

Taking in Alberta's badlands

Driving down from the familiar prairies into the alien landscapes of the Red Deer River floodplain stirs the imagination of child and adult alike. I remember as a kid being completely awestruck by the eroded steppes of the Alberta badlands. Once you are standing on the bottom formation, carved hills and hoodoos towering before you (and with a child’s mind overflowing with images of dinosaurs), you are transported back in time, encircled by volcanoes!

The high, round-topped mounds that people enjoy sitting sagely upon are of course not volcanoes; their slopes were engraved by water, not lava. However, they do act as mountain summits for aspiring explorers. Every gained height lends a new perspective on the topography and around every ridge is another surprising geologic feature. There are many eroded out caves and curious holes in the ground as well as interesting patterns overlaid onto different colored strata.

Not only that, the place apparently has dinosaur bones (haha).

It’s easy to see why Dinosaur Provincial Park became recognized as a World Heritage Site.

I was one of those kids totally obsessed with dinosaurs and with the encouragement of trips out to the badlands, naturally grew into a young adult fascinated in paleontology and geology. In a very real way, the parks I had access to growing up shaped my academic interests. Now as an adult, I like getting out to provincial parks to reconnect to nature among other things.

This August, Damien and I camped out for two nights in the park. The daytime noises consisted mostly of children talking (often shouting) eagerly about discovering dinosaur bones while the night was full of your famous camping sounds: the crackling of the fire, the orchestra of night insects and the yipping of distant coyotes. We were reintroduced to a sky dark enough to gaze upon hundreds of stars. Ah, camping.

Exploring the hiking trails in the badlands is always a treat (even though I never have stumbled upon a future Lindseosaurus). This time I did discover something new - ancient, giant cottonwood trees grow where the banks of the Red Deer River once were. Their age and size definitely warrant an in-person visit.

Me and a giant cottonwood

It was a great two nights that proved my imagination can still be caught by the amazing landscapes in my own backyard.



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