Drumheller – hunting dinos in the Badlands

I’ve loved dinosaurs since I was a little kid. It’s not difficult to understand why. Something about them captures the imagination. When I first watched “Jurassic Park”, I was riveted, imagining something extinct for tens of millions of years wandering about. The sequence where the protagonists are chased by a Tyrannosaur is still one of my favourite movie moments.

Also, they were around for a very long time. Humanity has done some amazing things, but the dinosaurs were around for approximately 160 million years. That’s what I call staying power. By comparison, we have been here for a few eye-blinks. So, when I moved to Alberta, one of the places on my must-see list was the Royal Tyrell Museum, near Drumheller. Leaving Calgary on Hwy 2, you turn off east on Hwy 9, on to an immensity of flatness. When people think of Alberta, they tend to focus on the Rocky Mountains. That’s fine, but a large part of the province is very flat. The kind of flatness that the Dutch would find curiously familiar. The road to Drumheller runs east for about forty miles, with very little in terms of landmarks or elevation to break it up. It actually makes driving more difficult, as your mind and eyes wander in search of variation. We actually cheered when we saw a bend in the road near Drumheller, with a large blue teapot painted on the side of a farmhouse. All the way out there, I was wondering where the Badlands were, those amazing banded formations and strange rock formations.There is little sign until you are almost in Drumheller, then the road abruptly drops down into an eroded zone. Drumheller is surprisingly large, with many amenities, and not what I was expecting at all. Most notable is a giant fibreglass T-Rex that lurks among the low buildings. Being at least three storeys tall, it is a convenient waymark for navigation.


The Museum itself is a few miles further on, but our large plastic friend was well worth visiting. This is the kind of thing that should be in Tokyo! If the Japanese don’t have a similar sized Godzilla, someone needs to sort it out.

Museum entranceOn the day we visited, the Museum was overrun with lots of children, but they were generally well behaved. The range of exhibits is astonishing, and I will let most of them speak for themselves. I was particularly pleased to see one of my favourite childhood dinosaurs, Dimetrodon, with a well preserved skeleton. Anyway, some pictures. I might come back and add some more commentary, but for the moment, here they are.

Tyrannosaurus Rex

Tyrannosaurus Rex – the original Bad Boy.

An inspiration for the Velociraptors in Jurassic Park.

An inspiration for the Velociraptors in Jurassic Park.


Various claws, with captions

Various claws, with captions

Comparison of Golden Eagle foot with an early ancestor

Comparison of Golden Eagle foot with an early ancestor




Pleisiosaur, with dark outline on floor indicating full profile

Pleisiosaur, with dark outline on floor indicating full profile

Dimetrodon x 2!

Dimetrodon x 2!


Mmmm. Dinner.

Mmmm. Dinner.

















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5 Comments on “Drumheller – hunting dinos in the Badlands”

  1. mcddanielle says:

    Hello! Dumb question, but is this museum in Calgary? I swear I’ve been there, but I haven’t been to Calgary. Looks a lot like a museum I went to in Boulder, CO… I think.

    • foinaven says:

      Hi there, it is in a place called Drumheller, about an hour’s drive to the northeast. Definitely in Alberta.
      Colorado is well known for fossils, so it wouldn’t surprise me that there’s another big museum down there.

      • mcddanielle says:

        I do believe you. I was struck with such a strong sense of dejavu when looking at the pictures, I actually stopped to think about who I had been with and where. The colors of the paintings and the lighting scheme really tricked me. Thank you!

  2. foinaven says:

    Have you ever watched the film “Unforgiven”? If you have, think about the part where the three gunslingers are riding along together. If you look at the background, you’ll see that they weren’t far from Drumheller, in the Badlands. The rest of the movie was shot in Alberta too, down near Longview, off Highway 22.

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