Drumheller – Centre of The Alberta Badlands

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Tyrannosaurus Rex

Tyrannosaurus Rex, Royal Tyrrell Museum
Photo: Travel Alberta

By: Bob Kenyon

Where can you find:

  • One of the world’s best museums of paleontology
  • A World Heritage Site for paleontology
  • Arid badlands, canyons and hoodoos you can explore
  • A deserted coal mine you can tour
  • One of the Top 100 Events in North America by the American Bus Association
  • A road you can drive that has 11 one-lane bridges and ends at a ghost town

…Only in the Drumheller area!

The first thing to remember when you tour the Alberta badlands is that this will not be a one day stop on your itinerary! From a small prairie coal mining town, in the valley of the Red Deer River, Drumheller has become a major centre for tourism, especially related to exploring for dinosaur remains and existence of prehistoric life. This whole area is a marvelous place to trek around looking for the next big discovery, but please note that it is illegal to remove fossils!

Located east of Calgary, this unique area of prairie geology and history, can’t be seen from the road, until you drive down through history into the valley.

The main attraction of Drumheller is the world famous Royal Tyrrell Museum. With its interactive learning stations and fine collection fossils and both models and real fossilized skeletons the displays are amazing…especially the Tyrannosaurus rex in the Hall of Dinosaurs. Depending on how intense your interest in paleontology is, a tour of the museum can take at least a day.

Just south of Drumheller you will also find the town of Rosedale and The Canadian Badlands Passion Play, which is produced in a 2500 seat outdoor amphitheater, carved out of a badlands coulée. The event runs annually, during the summer months, and attracts many tourists because it has been designated Alberta’s Top Cultural Attractions by Attractions Canada. Many bus tours, of southern Alberta also include this event on their itinerary.

On a four mile stretch of road, between Rosedale and Wayne, you will travel over (reportedly), the shortest road (6 km/4 mi), with the most (11) one-lane bridges, to reach what’s left of the ghost town of Wayne. There you’ll find The Rosedeer Hotel and the Last Chance Saloon. Both are left over from late 19th and early 20th century and at the hotel you can rent a room with, or without…a sink. The bathtub and toilet is down the hall.

Pop into the Last Chance Saloon and see their unique antique juke Box. It has a mechanical band, on the top, that plays the tunes!

Drumheller Valley

Drumheller Terrain
Photo: Bob Cromwell

Take a trip east of Drumheller, on the Hoodoo Trail driving tour to see the Hoodoos, which are sandstone mushroom shaped objects, that are well worth the visit! West of Drumheller is one of the amazing views and also an opportunity to experience the mixture of ruggedness and beauty in the badlands. Horseshoe Canyon, is a preservation project of the Nature Conservancy Canada and well worth the trip.

Southwest of Horseshoe Canyon, you should visit charming Rosebud, with it’s famous live theatre, music festivals and museums.

Also east of Drumheller, in the East Coulee, you can view a bit of prairie coal mining history a the Atlas Coal Mine, complete with an an 8-story high wooden tipple mine (the only one left in Canada) and a simulated trip though an underground shaft. The same area also see the East Coulee School Museum, where roots music fans can take in the annual East Coulee Spring Festival.

Badlands - Dinosaur Provincial ParkBadlands, Dinosaur Provincial Park
Photo: Travel Alberta

To the southeast of Drumheller in the valley of the Red Deer River, and north of the Trans Canada #1 Highway you will find Dinosaur Provincial Park. Much of the park is a World Heritage Site, where many of the exhibits at the Royal Tyrrell Museum have been unearthed. This is a very popular spot with tourists, primarily camping and reservations are encouraged.

The Drumheller area is great for camping and there are ample hotels, motels and bed-and-breakfast accommodations, but in peak season (June – August) reservations are suggested. The roads are great for cycling, but carry water. The Red Deer River offers excellent canoeing opportunities.

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