Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Fossil Hunting in Dinosaur Provincial Park

We've camped at Dinosaur Provincial Park many times, already hiking every interpretive trail in the park, biking the public loop road, and paddling down the Red Deer River. This year when we made our annual trek south to camp here, we wanted to try something new.

Fossil Hunting in Dinosaur Provincial Park (Family Adventures in the Canadian Rockies)
Fossil Hunting in Dinosaur Provincial Park

On our quest to do something new and adventurous this year in Dinosaur Provincial Park, we still hiked the public trails, biked around, and floated down the river, but we also signed up for a guided tour with a parks interpreter. We wanted to access the private reserve and we wanted to do some "off the beaten path" exploring through the badlands.

Fossil Hunting in Dinosaur Provincial Park (Family Adventures in the Canadian Rockies)
The private reserve that you'll only see with a guided tour


Our Centrosaurus Quarry Hike in Dinosaur Provincial Park



There are many tours that you can sign up for in Dinosaur Provincial Park, but we wanted to choose one that was adventurous. We wanted to go for a decent hike and to really do some exploring. We chose the Centrosaurus Quarry Hike because it was aimed at families with kids 7+ and because it sounded like a rugged hike (which is right up our alley!)

Fossil Hunting in Dinosaur Provincial Park (Family Adventures in the Canadian Rockies)
Exploring the private reserve in Dinosaur Provincial Park on the Centrosaurus Quarry Hike


The Alberta Parks website describes the tour as follows:

"Hike through rugged (dry) streambeds and over sandstone and mudstone ridges to reach a bone bed that contains the remains of hundreds of horned dinosaurs! The Centrosaurus Quarry Hike is your best opportunity to see the unequalled concentration of dinosaur fossils that makes Dinosaur Provincial Park world famous. This former dig site is one of many horned dinosaur bone beds found in this UNESCO World Heritage Site."

I don't know about you, but I thought it was super cool that we were going to hike to an actual bone bed and that we'd get to see fossils out in the wild (rather than seeing them in a museum.)

Fossil Hunting in Dinosaur Provincial Park (Family Adventures in the Canadian Rockies)
Following our Parks Interpreter to the Centrosaurus Bone Bed

Details on our guided hike:



Our hike was 2.5 hours long and we reserved in advance. You can either make a reservation on the Dinosaur Provincial Park website or you can book your tour in person at the Visitor Centre when you arrive (though they sell out early so I recommend booking in advance.)

We took a shuttle bus to get into the reserve and then started our hike. The hike itself was only a couple of kilometres but we took many stops for interpretive lessons on the landscape around us and the history behind the area. Our guide involved the kids in all of the lessons, getting them to act out situations, and making it always interesting for them.

Fossil Hunting in Dinosaur Provincial Park (Family Adventures in the Canadian Rockies)
Interpretive guided hike through the badlands

The hiking was generally quite easy but we were fortunate to be doing a morning tour when it wasn't too hot yet. In the summer I imagine the tour would be much more challenging with the heat. And I wouldn't want to do an afternoon tour in the summer!

More information can be found here on the Alberta Parks website including pricing, times, and availability for tours.

Fossil Hunting in Dinosaur Provincial Park (Family Adventures in the Canadian Rockies)
The Centrosaurus Bone Bed on the Quarry Hike

Our Experience at the Centrosaurus Bone Bed


When we arrived to the Centrosaurus bone bed, we quickly discovered a giant covered box area. Once the lid was removed, we could see an excavation site and the remains of the Centrosaurus horned dinosaurs. We were given a short introduction to the area, discussed theories behind why so many bones would all be found in one spot, and were given some instruction on how to go find fossils and bones on our own next.

Fossil Hunting in Dinosaur Provincial Park (Family Adventures in the Canadian Rockies)
Centrosaurus bone bed

After looking at the bones in the excavation bed, we got to walk around the area, set up on a bench, where there were seriously hundreds of bones everywhere! We'd find them embedded in the rocks around us and we'd step over them as they sat there, right under our feet, lying all over the place on the ground.

Fossil Hunting in Dinosaur Provincial Park (Family Adventures in the Canadian Rockies)
Centrosaurus bones we found in the bone bed area on our quarry hike

The bone bed area was also a lovely place to just explore, take photos, and gaze at the badlands scenery all around us. Even without a bone bed, it was worth the hike to this beautiful bench.

Fossil Hunting in Dinosaur Provincial Park (Family Adventures in the Canadian Rockies)
Surveying the Badlands from the Centrosaurus Bone bed location

Other Guided Tours in Dinosaur Provincial Park


There are other tours for families with younger children including the Explorers Bus Tour.

"Experience the stunning views of the beautiful badlands from the comfort of a park tour bus and during short excursions off the bus (4 stops). You will visit an in-situ Hadrosaur dinosaur display plus you will experience the unquie geology while you learn about the explorers who have travelled to this special place over the past 100+ years."

This tour would be enjoyable in the summer months when it gets crazy hot in the badlands.

Fossil Hunting in Dinosaur Provincial Park (Family Adventures in the Canadian Rockies)
Guided tours are a great way to get off the beaten path in the badlands

The Fossil Safari is another "all-ages" tour I recommend for families.

"Get a feel for what makes Dinosaur Provincial Park so special. Join us on a safari through the badlands for a chance to observe plants, animals, and dinosaurs! Visit an "in-situ" fossil site where you can discover fossil material on the surface; no digging in this protected area! Take a close look at micro (small) fossils and learn about the diversity of animals that lived here 75 million years ago in the late Cretaceous. All ages are welcome and will enjoy this safari."

Fossil Hunting in Dinosaur Provincial Park (Family Adventures in the Canadian Rockies)
Find the best places to explore on a guided tour of Dinosaur Provincial Park

Please visit the Alberta Parks website for information on all tours.


And you can visit this following link for more information on Dinosaur Provincial Park.


For More on Dinosaur Provincial Park, check out the following stories I've written: 

- See more at: http://www.rockiesfamilyadventures.com/p/camping-super-guide.html#sthash.LOGRzHeA.dpuf

Camping in Dinosaur Provincial Park


Camping in the Alberta Badlands 



Wild about Dinosaur Provincial Park



Hiking in Dinosaur Provincial Park  



- See more at: http://www.rockiesfamilyadventures.com/p/camping-super-guide.html#sthash.LOGRzHeA.dpuf
- See more at: http://www.rockiesfamilyadventures.com/p/camping-super-guide.html#sthash.LOGRzHeA.dpuf

Fossil Hunting in Dinosaur Provincial Park (Family Adventures in the Canadian Rockies)
Alberta Parks Ambassadors get to explore the coolest places!


Disclaimer: I am an Alberta Parks Ambassador and was given a complimentary tour for myself and my family. All opinions and words are my own.



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