The most worthwhile non-mountain day trip from Calgary is to Dinosaur Valley, a 90-minute drive from city limits. Centered on the Red Deer River, a 120-kilometer (75-mile) stretch of the river valley is home to some of the world’s richest dinosaur fossil beds. Hundreds of specimens from the Cretaceous period have been unearthed, with one spot, Dinosaur Provincial Park, the mother lode for paleontologists.
This UNESCO World Heritage Site includes a “graveyard” of more than 300 dinosaurs of 35 species, many of which have been found nowhere else in the world. As a comparison, Utah’s Dinosaur National Monument has yielded just 12 species.
The valley has more than just dinosaur skeletons, though; paleontologists have unearthed skin impressions, eggshells, dung, and footprints, as well as fossilized insects, fish, amphibians, crocodiles, pterodactyls, and reptiles. And the valley’s landforms are as enthralling as the prehistoric artifacts they entomb—spectacular badland formations make for a sight not easily forgotten.
© Andrew Hempstead, from Moon Western Canada, 3rd Edition