in Canadian Family magazine
Meep!" A small bus full of sweaty tourists chugs by, windows open. It is
38 degrees centigrade and still only ten in the morning. I guess we should be
grateful. The park website said it can get up to 50 degrees centigrade here and
besides rattlesnakes, we are warned about scorpions. There is a hefty fine for
anyone who molests THEM.
trip, I should mention, is my son Kevin's idea. He is 10 and has been planning
this Alberta Dinosaur Safari since his diaper days. First we will visit Dinosaur
Provincial Park, to roam where the
might call this overkill but there is no such thing to a kid bitten by the dino
bug. All a dad can do is scratch.
Provincial is 78 square kilometers large. Because of its tremendous deposits of
fossils and its unique ecological environment, it is a designated World Heritage
Site. Much of it can be explored on well-groomed foot paths that wind over rocky
ridges and between hunkering hoodoos. On the trail, we see actual dinosaur skeletons
still imbedded in the rock with small concrete pavilions built around them to
protect them from the weather and vandals. Other areas are still active fossil
sites and off limits to the general public unless you sign on for a special guided
and mosquito repellant are definite assets on any walking tour. Hand fans and
underarm deodorant will make you popular on a bus tour. Admission to the park
is free and guided tours are dirt cheap (starting at $2.25 per person). There
is definitely more than a day's worth of hiking and touring to be done here. Fortunately,
there are campsites both on and near the park.For
the less out-doorsie, the town of Brooks is just half an hour's drive down the
that we had a dino dig ahead of us, my son and I decide to just walk the trails.
The landscape is like nothing else in Canada. Kevin explains that this area was
once a lush subtropical
two, we depart for Drumheller, just under three hours drive northwest of Dinosaur
Provincial Park. The city's museum is named after Joseph Tyrrell, a geologist
who discovered an
the summer months, the museum offers a wide range of programs from half a day
to a full week. The programs are not dirt cheap. A Day Dig for adult and child
costs $140. A week-long program costs nearly a thousand. But for this price, you
get fed, transported and a chance to work beside an actual professional scientist.
A bargain if you want a taste of real paleontology.
7:30 the next morning, we join 13 others outside the museum front door. After
a short bus ride, we arrive at the scene of a disaster. There is death and carnage
everywhere - fortunately, we're
Lam, the museum's field technician, pulls back a tarp to reveal a long shallow
trench. "Once upon a time," he says, "a small herd of juvenile
Hadrosaurs (duck-billed dinosaurs) tried to cross a
down, we see a lot of brown rock and a few black stones. The stones have vague
familiar shapes to them. Vien points out a rib here, a vertebra there. The reality
of the ancient death scene
separating a 2-ton beast from ancient bedrock is not easy. Most bones were buried
in ironstone (an extremely appropriate name) that must be removed with extreme
care. Sometimes, it is even hard to tell what is a fossil and what is a just weird
recites the three ways to identify a fossil. "First you check the rock for
striations; fossils usually have lines running through them like a piece of wood.
Next check to see how much it
stick to your tongue? Now there's something Steven Spielberg forgot to mention
in his movies.
3 hours of pounding a chisel, Kevin finally finds a single, black tooth that was
almost thrown out with our waste debris. Although the offering is tiny, Vien is
thrilled. "This is only the
bad news was that after being allowed to hold the tooth for 15 seconds, Kevin
must give it up. Every specimen recovered on the dig belongs to the museum. No
exceptions. "We never know when a routine fossil we find today will unexpectedly
reveal itself to be something much more significant someday in the future."
Vien points out.
4:40 p.m., we depart the bone field, exhausted but happy.
last stop on the dino safari is the Devil's Coulee Dinosaur Heritage Museum in
Warner, a small town five hour's drive south from Drumheller. The tiny museum
is nearly lost in the shadow of a row of giant grain elevators but what the museum
lacks in size it makes up in user-friendliness.
per cent of the displays are hands-on; visitors are encouraged to pick up or run
their fingers over the exhibit. Twice a day, during the summer months, guides
will take visitors to the
bones abound in this area. Nearly every square foot is covered with tiny, fossilized
fragments of dinosaurs, reptiles and ancient mammals. Visitors are allowed to
look, touch (and even
stalking dinosaurs all week, Kevin desperately wants a souvenir to take home.
Unfortunately, Alberta's law prohibits the digging or taking away local fossils
without a permit. Fossil stores
all dino Safari sites in Alberta are equipped with gift shops. After 5 days, 1,000
kilometers and 200 mosquito bites, Kevin bags a t-shirt.
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