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Dinosaurs Beckon

by Jim Park

One of the greatest advantages we have as truck drivers is getting paid for traveling around this great country of ours. It's one thing to be out there, watching the world whizzing by, but it's quite another to stop occasionally and enjoy the sights along the way. So, to help minimize the risk of venturing down some path of no return (something you need to think about when going crop-touring in a tractor trailer), highwaySTAR's new 'The Professional Tourist' feature will guide you to places of interest in Canada that are more or less accessible to tractor-trailers. If you know of a place worth visiting, accessible to trucks, drop us a note and we'll write them up for others to enjoy.

Our first stop is Canada's dinosaur capital, Drumheller, Alta., a must-see for any driver, especially for anyone spending a little road time with the family this summer. Heading east on Highway 9 out of Calgary, the rich, rolling farmlands of southern Alberta suddenly split apart into a yawning canyon about 135 km later. They break away to reveal an astonishing, twisting, gash that's walled with multi-colored layers of sandstone, mudstone and coal alternating with shale. The rocks date back to the late Cretaceous Period, just before the demise of the dinosaurs.

The Drumheller Badlands are one of the few areas in the world where sedimentary layers from earlier time periods have been scraped off by natural processes, exposing a rich cache of fossils and even complete dinosaur skeletons. Flood waters from melting glaciers carved the Red Deer River valley more than 10,000 years ago, exposing dinosaur fossils and creating what is known as the badlands.

The Royal Tyrrell Museum in Drumheller, which opened in 1985 to share the rich history of the region, features exhibits about the geological history of the planet, and the spectacular diversity of life that has appeared on Earth over the past 4.5 billion years. The dinosaur collection, the largest in Canada, features dozens of skeletons, many of which were unearthed in nearby Dinosaur Provincial Park. You can stand body to toe with an ancient tyrannosaurus rex, walk the 70-ft length of a plant-eating camarasaurus, or just marvel and the many forms of life - massive or microscopic - that have thrived on Earth for periods of time humans can't even imagine. You can also participate in a dig for dinosaur fossils, or take a guided or self-guided tour of the surrounding area.

Plan on spending no less than half a day at the museum, and be prepared for the kids to want to spend a whole lot more time than that. It's only a minor diversion from the beaten trail, and well worth any excuse to get there.

The museum sits a couple of minutes west of Drumheller on Highway 838. There is limited room to park a truck, or you can leave the truck in town and take a cab to the site. Bus transportation to Drumheller is available from most major centers if you find yourself laid over somewhere nearby. Visit www.tyrrellmuseum.com on the Internet, or call toll free in Canada, 888-440-4240, or toll free in Alberta, 310-0000, and ask for 823-7707.

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