— DRUMHELLER, ALBERTA, CANADA — Situated in the heart of the Canadian Badlands, Drumheller, Alberta, is best known as the world’s dinosaur capital. The Canadian Badlands stretch east from Drumheller to the Saskatchewan border and south to the United States. As you drive through the never-ending fields of canola, wheat, and barley towards Drumheller, the rich prairie suddenly drops away into a world of kaleidoscopic canyons and wind-sculpted hoodoos. The Drumheller-area hoodoos have become internationally recognized icons of Alberta’s Badlands.
The Dinosaur Provincial Park in Alberta collected almost half of the 100 different dinosaurs found in Canada. The oldest tyrannosaur detected in Canada was the Reaper of Death. This creature roamed southern Alberta during the late Cretaceous period, some 79 million years ago. Two ranchers from Hays, Alberta, discovered the bones while walking along the Bow River shores in 2010.
Take a ride through history and enjoy the many sights to explore while visiting the Canadian Badlands.
1. Royal Tyrrell Museum
Located six kilometers northwest of Drumheller, Alberta, in Midland Provincial Park is the world-renowned Royal Tyrrell Museum. People travel the world to explore our distant past and learn about the dinosaurs that roamed our earth so many years ago.
The Royal Tyrrell Museum of Paleontology is the only museum in Canada dedicated exclusively to archaic life study. Despite featuring one of the world’s most remarkable exhibits of dinosaurs, they have created a variety of educational programs to bring the prehistoric past to life.
Take your time to explore each exhibit throughout the museum and marvel at the life-sized bones of these creatures. Try to imagine what it must have been like to live so many years ago among these dinosaurs? On your way out, take a moment to stop at the gift store. You never know what treasures you will find to bring home.
2. Badlands Interpretative Trail
After visiting the Royal Tyrrell Museum, make sure you take some time to explore the Badlands Interpretative Trail just behind the building. This easy 1.6-kilometer loop trail is a great way to explore the captivating badlands scenery and the fascinating hoodoos. These sandstone pillars take millions of years to form and stand 5 to 7 meters tall. Each post is rested on a thick base of shale and capped by a large stone. If their capstone dislodges, these posts are fragile and can erode altogether.
You will also find informational signs along the trail as well as stacked rocks. These rocks carry spiritual meaning across cultures for centuries. Balancing stones takes with it a practice of patience and a physical effort of creating balance. These piles of rocks are called cairns. They have been used to mark trails for thousands of years and are still in use today. Archaeological evidence shows that some ancient Native American cultures used rock cairns to record burial sites.
3. World’s Largest Dinosaur
While visiting Drumheller, make sure you drop by the Visitor Center and see the giant Tyrannosaurus Rex. It is four times larger and stands 82 feet tall. Climb up the 106 steps to the toothy mouth and view the badlands of Drumheller, Alberta.
As you walk around town, how many dinosaurs can you find? There are 20 dinosaurs scattered throughout Drumheller to explore. It is a fun way to learn about their prehistoric heritage and a chance to get your photo taken with a dinosaur.
4. Star Mine Suspension Bridge
Initially built in 1931 to replace an earlier cable car system, the Star Mine Suspension Bridge gave coal miners access to the Star Mine across the Red Deer River until 1957. The 177-meter-long pedestrian bridge was rebuilt in 1958 when the mine closed. It now offers a breezy and bouncy walk, with beautiful views of the river and surrounding Alberta Badlands.
As you walk across the bridge, make sure you stop a couple of times and capture some spectacular views of the river. On your way back, notice the locks clasped along the mesh. These love locks or love padlocks represent couples’ love for each other.
5. Atlas Coal Mine National Historic Site
The Atlas Coal Mine National Historic Site is an inactive coal mine in Alberta, Canada, that operated from 1936 to 1979. It was designated an Alberta Provincial Historic Resource in 1989 and a National Historic Site of Canada in 2002.
Located in East Coulee, Canada’s most complete historic coal mine is home to the county’s last standing wooden coal tipple and the largest still standing in North America. At over seven stories tall, the tipple now serves to remind of the Drumheller Valley’s rich mining history.
Old mining equipment, including a working pre-1936 battery-powered locomotive and several buildings, including the wash house, supply house, lamp house, and office, still stand at the site. The site preserves the stories and artifacts of the men who once mined the coal. The Atlas is the last of 139 mines that once ruled the valley.
Take some time to explore the grounds of this historic site. You will find tours offered between May to Thanksgiving weekend. Visitors are taken back to the past with a ride on the locomotive and a walk up the tipple. Since 2009, the Atlas has conducted tours of the 64-meter underground conveyor tunnel and the recently restored Blacksmith Shop.
6. Ghost Town of Wayne
While visiting the Drumheller area, why not take a drive and see the ghost town of Wayne? From Drumheller, head south on AB-56S and then turn off at Rosedale on AB-10X S. Over the next 6-kilometer stretch, you will follow the winding Rosebud River and cross 11 one-lane metal bridges. These spans are in the Guinness Book of Records as the most bridges found within the shortest distance.
Wayne had its start when the Red Deer Coal Company built the Rose Deer Mine in 1912. It was a thriving town with a population of more than 2,000 people. The township included two schools, a hospital, several stores, a hotel, and the saloon that minors affectionately dubbed the “Bucket of Blood” due to many drunken brawls.
When you visit Wayne, you will only see two standing buildings – the Last Chance Saloon and the Rosedeer Hotel. They were the only two businesses that survived. Grab a meal at the Last Chance Saloon and listen to the stories of the ghosts. For those of you who are brave, why not book a room in the Rosedeer Hotel and see if you hear any strange noises. If you are interested in the Wild West days, make sure you take a drive to Wayne.
7. Homestead Antique Museum
For those who love history, the Homestead Antique Museum features an extensive collection of over 10,000 antiques and artifacts from the Victorian and Edwardian eras.
Their top exhibits include a two-headed calf and an entire house purchased out of a 1919 issue of the Eaton’s catalog.
When you look at this strangely shaped building from the outside, you wonder what it will look like when entering. You will find pianos, sewing machines, vintage clothing, military memorabilia, as well as a medical area that included an iron lung first used in Drumheller during the polio outbreak in 1949. If you love to explore antique stores, this is the perfect place to visit.
8. Orkney Viewpoint
Located west of Drumheller and past the Royal Tyrrell Museum is the Orkney Viewpoint in Kneehill County. This viewpoint, located on the high red rock cliffs, provides stunning views of the Red Deer Valley and the Canadian Badlands below. Please take a moment to watch as the river snakes its way through the valley for many kilometers. The recent addition of washroom facilities makes the Orkney Viewpoint a perfect place to stop, rest and enjoy as you explore Kneehill County and the Canadian Badlands.
9. Bleriot Ferry
Just past the Orkney Viewpoint is the oldest crossing on the Bleriot Ferry. This ferry is navigated by cables and connected to both shores of the rivers they traverse. This crossing links two sections of the North Dinosaur Trail as it crosses the Red Deer River from Kneehill County on the west to Starland County on the east.
The ferry was built by Andre Bleriot, commissioned in 1913, and provided an essential transport service that acted as a considerable social hub in the Drumheller Valley. The ferry only runs seasonally and is closed during the winter months. It is a perfect detour that connects the roads that access the Horsethief Canyon and Orkney Viewpoint.
The ferry ride is free and takes only 5-7 minutes to cross. You can stay inside your vehicle or ride outside and listen to the friendly and informational ferryman. You might even see him chatting with a young child and showing him how to work the cables.
10. Horsethief Canyon
Located on the Dinosaur Trail, just 16 kilometers northwest of Drumheller on the east bank of the Red Deer River, Horsethief Canyon is a must-see while exploring the Canadian Badlands. Stand on the edge for spectacular views of the valley below. If you feel adventurous, hike down the steep trail, and explore the canyon named after the outlaws who hid their stolen livestock more than 100 years ago. Make sure you visit the lookout point.
11. Horseshoe Canyon
Horseshoe Canyon is a region of badlands surrounded by prairie in the province of Alberta. It is located 17 kilometers west of Drumheller, along Highway 9. The canyon gets its name from its horseshoe shape, defined by two coulees that flow into the Kneehill Creek, a tributary of the Red Deer River. Horseshoe Canyon is a must-see attraction along the Highway corridor with hundreds of thousands of visitors annually. Horseshoe Canyon boasts hiking trails, amazing views, day-use, and rest areas. While visiting this incredible place, you will get the feeling that you are in the Grand Canyon.
For those who love hearing stories and exploring historical buildings from the Wild West era, Drumheller is a great place to visit. Maybe you love to learn about dinosaurs. Drumheller is the ideal place to explore and learn about these prehistoric animals who roamed so many years ago. Make sure you take some time to explore the Canadian Badlands in Alberta.
Learn more at – Visit Drumheller, Dinosaur Capital of the World.