The Royal Tyrrell Museum of Palaeontology in Drumheller

Drumheller is about 90 minutes from Calgary. The drive there covers a great deal of prairie farmland and wide-open spaces. There was not much to see in March, but we were treated to a snowy owl sitting on a fence post, looking at the world hurtling by.

In our party, I was the only one who had seen the badlands before. To keep the sudden shock of the change of terrain a surprise, I did not mention it much to the rest of our group. When you drive into Drumheller there’s a sudden downhill and you are abruptly faced with sudden arid sedimentary rock with visible layers. Hoodoo (rock tents) appear as well as gullies and ravines. It makes you think you suddenly landed on Mars. There were Ooohs and Ahhhs in the car.

On this particular trip, we did not see anything much of the town of Drumheller, but it’s all rigged up to celebrate the vast dinosaur fossil collection found and yet-to-be-found in the Red River Valley. The museum is named after J.B. Tyrrell, who discovered the Albertosaurus in 1884. This kicked off the hunting for further fossils in the area.

The Museum was only opening in 1985 and my first visit was back in 1990. Since then the displays have grown tremendously and the diversity of the collection is mind boggling. What is also powerful is to have a palaeontology museum so close to where you can simply go and find fossils. I think it helps make the exhibits in the museum more real. In the early part of the 20th century, fossil finds were shipped overseas or to Toronto’s Royal Ontario Museum.

During our visit the museum was working to display the fossils with the stories of how they were found. One story has a couple of young boys in the Crowsnest Pass area in 1981 discovering a T Rex fossil in excellent condition. Nicknamed Black Beauty, due to the minerals present during fossilization, the fossil and surrounding rock — once prepared for transport — weighed 9500 kg!

Our quiet March weekday when we visited left us with the sensation that we had the place to ourselves. Make sure to check out the massive ichthyosaurus fossil that was found in a BC riverbed. Right next to it was this cool arboretum called the Cretaceous Garden. In it was a tree that was grown from seeds found in China that are, amazingly, the same type of spruce found in the Cretaceous era fossil record.

Please enjoy the photos attached to this post. They tell the story of the Tyrrell Museum better than I can. When in the gift shop, the best buy was the $10 book called “Inside the Royal Tyrrell Museum of Palaeontology.”

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