2010 Race 2 Finish travel blog

Badlands of the Red Deer River Valley

there is coal in these formations - a mine operated here from...

a sign explaining the hoodoos

beautiful and they've stood for centuries

but they are still delicate

the black layers of the hill formations are the coal bearing layers

the old mine was back in those hills but there is nothing...



we could look at these formations all day







this sign explains the rerouting of the river that exposed the bone...




this couple happened along with their dog and we thought they were...



the dog was having a great time






a magpie in the parking lot

this coal mine does tours but we didn't stop


the mine is on the Red Deer River



it was a beautiful drive

the road finally left the river and climbed to the prairie top

we'd been told in Saskatchewan and Manitoba that there were no more...

but obviously . .

someone . .

was mistaken!

suddenly a third animal appeared


these photos are grainy because they are a long ways off


but what the hell - you don't see a pronghorn everyday

ahead of us a storm was brewing



eventually we crossed paths with the Red Deer River again

we are getting close to the park


arriving at Dinosaur Provincial Park


in the Visitor Center this duckbill was being attacked by a pack...

we viewed the center exhibits while we waited for the lab talk...

our lab instructor Fred Hammer

he could talk faster than I could think

he was just bursting with passion for his subject

a very nice man and we had a great talk with him...

outside it was time to meet Erica, our tour guide for the...

at an overlook people were enjoying the formations


we boarded Erica's bus and headed out for the preserve


if it rains hard the road gets so slippery the scientists have...

at our first stop Erica talked about the formations and the types...

much of the soil is easily washed away

while other rocks are more permanent


her talk was very interesting

the hills and formations are so sculptural

no two are alike

everywhere you look there is a picture

a storm is moving in from the west

it's been threatening for hours


Erica has switched her talk to the vegetation

we can see rain approaching

at our next stop she showed us a skeleton that was excavated...

covered to protect it - there is a thrill about knowing you...

here there were bone fragments everywhere - in fact there is a...

we were now starting to feel raindrops


to the east the horizon was clear

Erica was so full of enthusiasm she kept everyone's attention

here she showed us how the findings are cast in protective plaster...

back on the bus we headed lower into the valley

she wanted to talk about how these animals died and she needed...

Mia volunteered and Erica had her look out the window at the...

she said, "If you were a dinosaur would you eat those plants?"...

Erica said, "Oh NO! They're poison!"

she told Mia she was now dead and that was sometimes how...

our next stop was at this formation

this is the official way of marking a site where something was...

years ago a paleontologist working here saw leg bones protruding from one...

an excavation was done and the findings were moved thirty feet from...

they now lie right next to where they were found - you...

the animal is a corythosaurus

which they think looked like this

the animal's death pose

the rib cage and some of the leg bones

and below them the skull just as it was found

that is the hole in the hill where it was found

nearby this petrified log of a prehistoric tree

two of the luckiest people on the planet

the rain stopped and the sky was clear for our last stop

this place is called Castle Valley and it is home to some...










ironically the day ended as it had begun - with hoodoos

When people are dumber than rocks


Today we left Drumheller and drove east, headed for Dinosaur Provincial Park. Out of Drumheller the road follows the Red Deer River for a while, winding through the valley badlands. A few miles east of town we stopped to see the Hoodoos. There will a lot more hoodoos in the park, but these are along the road and there’s a turnout where you can park and follow a trail that takes you up to see them.

Hoodoos are formations that seem to rise up out of the surrounding landscape to stand alone, or in groups, in human-like poses. There’s an air of mystery about hoodoos. Aboriginal people thought they were evil spirits, and to the Blackfeet they are the spirits of bad mothers. Maybe that’s why people deface them.

Like most features of the landscape hoodoos are formed by erosion, but in this case they are columns of earth that have resisted erosion as the soil around them was worn away. Protected by a hard capstone, the column beneath it grows slowly as the land around it is carried off. Hoodoos don’t rise up out of the ground, they just remain standing as the ground level drops around them. They may stand for a thousand years but like everything else, hoodoos are transient. Eventually they too will wear away and disappear.

The trail that winds through them is marked with signs and tape, meant to keep people on the trail and at a respectful distance. Most people honor that request but there are always ‘special’ people who feel entitled to ignore the obvious and go where they please. These folks see the tape as a challenge, and everywhere there are signs of their stupidity.

The earth here contains a chemical which makes it extremely slippery when it’s wet. As the surface dries it sets up a trap. The ground looks dry but the mud below it is still wet. We watched horses slip and slide in it, and fortunately most of the vandals slipped too. Footprints up the base of a formation usually end in a big slide where the idiot fell on his or her ass. Simple justice, because this mud is also hard to get off!

Signs talk about how damage to the base of a hoodoo hastens erosion and shortens it’s life. The information and the concept seem so basic that you’d think only a kid would ignore it, but I watched an adult woman use her finger to carve her name into the base of a formation. Shame on you NOELL - for setting such a rotten example to your two kids! Now they can grow up to be morons like you - and if the Blackfeet are right maybe someday you’ll be a hoodoo yourself!

Past the hoodoos the road climbed out of the river valley and for the next hour and a half we saw the river only occasionally as we cut across the flat prairie toward the park. We reached the park shortly after noon, and at their Visitor Center we booked first a half hour Lab Talk, and then a tour of the Preserve. Both were conducted by guides so knowledgeable and enthusiastic it couldn’t help but transfer to their audience.

On the Preserve we did not visit any current excavation sites, but our guide Erica pointed out several in the distance. She took us to two sites of previous excavations, where the bones discovered could be seen still embedded in the rocks as they were found.

Of some 200 species of dinosaur so far identified, an incredible 42 species have been found here in Dinosaur Park. Several of them were the first ever found. In addition to the 42 dinosaur species, the fossilized remains of nearly 200 other species have been found here, making this preserve one of the richest deposits of bones in the world. This preserve is unique because it also represents a relatively narrow window of time. Layers range in age from 69 million years to 79 million years. In layman’s terms 10 million years sounds like a long time, but in Paleontologist terms it’s the blink of an eye.

Due to the weekend the park campground was full so we drove west for an hour before stopping. It will shorten our drive to the Canadian Rockies tomorrow, and with so much to think and talk about the hour went by ‘in the blink of an eye’.

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