Dinosaur Provincial Park

As I climb the ever-changing landscape of Dinosaur Provincial Park with only the wind for company, I feel as if someone (or something) is watching me. 

 

Dinosaur Provincial Park: Hiking, Learning, and Discovering with Kids in Alberta, Canada, www.marianamcdougall.com. Photo of a lookout at Dinosaur PP

 

Alone in the Canadian badlands, where silence reigns supreme and winds are high at the base of mountains or on top of them, an irrational fear of what might be lurking in the shadows crosses my mind for a fraction of a second. But a glance to my right reveals the watchful form is nothing but a crack in the rocks—a pipe large enough to be felt as a presence in my peripheral vision.

 

Dinosaur Provincial Park Badlands

 

Ghosts of rains past make themselves known as rills in the rocks, lines embellishing sides of mountains that in some months or years, will no longer be.

 

Dinosaur Provincial Park Coulee Trail

 

The environment is harsh; the weather works in extremes. But there will always be those organisms that push through and live, despite the hardships they must endure. Small trees can be seen growing through cracks in the barren rocks, a metaphor for difficulties and overcoming them in human life.

 

Dinosaur PP coulee trail

 

Climbing among these rocks, I don’t know where I’m going. A trail is not clearly marked, despite fallen signs that scream, “STAY ON DESIGNATED TRAIL.” So, like those before me, I explore the area, though I do not discover the bones of ancients beasts. I do observe beautiful rock formations and read interpretive panels that make this exploration not only a feast for the eyes, but a lesson in history, geography, and geology.

 

Dinosaur PP rock formation

 

Dinosaur Provincial Park is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and so named because of the many dinosaur fossils discovered here. As I walk among these rock formations, even the rocks remind me of dinosaur bones and footprints.

 

iron rock Dinosaur Provincial Park

 

Over 150 complete dinosaur skeletons have been found at Dinosaur Provincial Park, and this number does not include the several pieces of individual bones, plus fossils of many other species—as many as 450 different fossil organisms. 

This park is a wonderful destination for children and adults alike, whether they are obsessed with dinosaurs or simply interested in science, history, or geography. But the learning opportunities in this park are not the only attraction.

The campground is peaceful, quiet, and at night, the stars come out in all their glory in the dark, clear skies of Alberta. During the day, a playground and hiking trails beckon the playful and adventurous.

 

Dinosaur PP Campground

 

Dinosaur Provincial Park Playground

 

RV in campsite at Dinosaur Provincial Park

 

The campground is available year-round and electricity is available at each campsite; however, water is turned off during the off-season. You can still get water near the camping kiosk if need be, and the dump stations are always available.

Before leaving the park, a stop at the Visitor Center is a must. There is a modest fee to enter, but it’s well worth it. 

Dinosaur Provincial Park Visitor Center: Dinosaur Fossils & More

The gentle giant has no chance against the pack of small but vicious creatures who want to feed upon it. The hadrosaurs stands no chance against the four dromaeosaurus who leave bite marks on his tibia—the spacing and depth of which inspire this display.

 

Dinosaur Provincial Park display shows small carnivorousdinosaurs attacking a large herbivourous dinosaur.

 

Over 100 years of research has gone into the study of dinosaurs, and what was dubbed the “dinosaur rush” in what is now known as Dinosaur Provincial Park has provided us with amazing displays of fossils, not only of dinosaurs, but of extinct reptiles, crustaceans, and plants.

 

Dinosaur display at Dinosaur Provincial Park Visitor Center

 

The many fossil displays are interesting and awe-inspiring for adults and children alike, but there are special treats for the children. Our kids especially enjoyed being fossil hunters back when this park was first being explored.

 

Children sitting at a table in a display at Dinosaur Provincial Park.

 

And both our bookworm and our stuffed-animal lover found a cozy place to spend a few minutes after looking at the displays.

 

A 9-year-old girl reads a book while kneeling beside a play tent at the Dinosaur Provincial Park Visitor Center

 

a 4-year-old girl plays with stuffed animals inside a play tent at Dinosaur Provincial Park

 

Dinosaur Provincial Park has a lot to offer, from the silence of its campground, to the interesting information and displays at the Visitor Center, to the unique landscapes of the badlands, coulees, and more. Perhaps my favourite aspect of the unique landscapes were the interesting formations in some of the trails I walked.

 

rock formation Dinosaur PP

 

mushroom rock Dinosaur PP

 

And of course, Alberta’s beautiful skies are always a treat for the eyes, here at Dinosaur Provincial Park, or anywhere in the province.

 

Sky at Dinosaur Provincial Park

 

RV at Dinosaur Provincial Park

 

Dinosaur Provincial Park Visitor Center Trail bench

 

We really enjoyed our time at Dinosaur Provincial Park, and definitely recommend a visit if you are looking for a quiet place to camp, beautiful skies, and if you would like to learn more about paleontology, geology, geography, history, and more. It’s an excellent place for nature studies in general as well, since you can see plenty of wildlife and/or evidence of its presence. As an example, on our first night at the campground, we got to see some beautiful deer, fairly up close.

 

Three deer feed on grass at the campground at Dinosaur Provincial Park

 

And you can find plenty of scat and footprints on trails and walkways, which makes it a fun exercise for identification. I was pretty impressed when my 4-year-old was able to identify deer scat because she saw the footprints next to it. When I asked, what animal do you think left this scat? M-girl looked for a second and then yelled, “it was a deer, Mama! Look at the footprints!” Yep, proud Mama moment 🙂

 

deer scat and footprints at Dinosaur Provincial Park

 

We all enjoyed walking around the park, checking out displays at the visitor center, looking at the unique landscape, and enjoying the silence in the evening. We did have a couple of campfires, but the winds were so high that they weren’t anything to write home about. The scenery, however, deserves a few more pictures on the blog, so here you go.

 

Dinosaur Provincial Park River

 

three children and their father walk along a path at Dinosaur Provincial Park

We have now been to two Dinosaur Parks: Dinosaur Valley State Park in Texas, and Dinosaur Provincial Park in Alberta. I loved both of these parks for everything they had to offer, but I must say the Visitor Center at the Alberta Park was pretty neat, and the beautiful silence of the campground makes me want to return some day. I think both of these parks are worth a visit. Have you ever been to either of these parks? What was you favourite thing about them?

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