The Largest Badlands in Canada

Though common in the United States and other parts of the world, badlands is a rare terrain for Canada. The name "badlands" was p...

Though common in the United States and other parts of the world, badlands is a rare terrain for Canada. The name "badlands" was probably given by people who could not cultivate this land. But badlands are not as bad as they sound. It's actually quite the opposite, and many artists and just regular visitors find badlands very spectacular and even mesmerizing because of the variety of shapes and colours. Let's take a look at the largest badlands in Canada located in Dinosaur Provincial Park in the Southern Alberta.

Badlands in Canada are mostly found in Alberta and Saskatchewan, although other places in Canada may have smaller badlands as a result of agriculture's adverse impact. The example would be Cheltenham Badlands just north of Toronto. 
Badlands in Dinosaur Provincial Park is such a contrast to prairies that surround the park with their rolling waves of wheat, corn and just grass. 
As the matter of fact, most of my friends who have been to prairies find them very boring. They say it's flat and there is not much to see there. But, perhaps, because of my Ukrainian roots (Ukraine has been mostly the agricultural country for centuries), I actually found prairies quite appealing. One of my friends even told me, that his dream vacation would be to take a train in the Canadian prairies and look outside of a train window for hours. Why not?
But let's get back to Dinosaur Provincial Park. You may be wondering what it has to do with dinosaurs? The answer is simple - the park is home to the largest collection of dinosaur fossils ever found in the world. 
The period from 1910 to 1917 is called "The Great Canadian Dinosaur Rush" when scientists and collectors from all over the world excavated about 300 dinosaur skeletons. Among those fossils was a meat-eating dinosaur that has not been found anywhere else. Its name is "Albertosaurus".
Because of these unique dinosaur fossils as well as the striking scenery of badlands, UNESCO designated Dinosaur Provincial Park a World Heritage Site in 1979.
So how were these badlands born? Scientists believe that this particular piece of land was covered with the sea. Rivers flowing from the Rocky Mountains would bring sediments such as sand, clay and volcanic ash, and those sediments would be deposited and over time transformed into a sedimentary rock. 
The key factors that helped form the rock would be burial pressure, chemical changes and groundwater minerals. 
Over time, the sea water receded and the sedimentary rock covered with soil and vegetation. This area (Dinosaur Provincial Park) was no different from the rest of the Canadian prairies. But the latest glacier (about 14,000 years ago) changed that forever exposing the sedimentary rock while melting. Red Deer River valley is what is left after the glacier has gone. 
Wind, rain and ice have since been shaping the landscape by further eroding the soft sedimentary rock and forming the badlands.
The layer colours give you a hint whether it's sandstone, mudstone, ironstone or a combination of them. 
Probably the most vivid and memorable features at Dinosaur Provincial Park are the badlands hoodos (pictured below). Native people believed that they were sleeping giants standing at guard. At night, they would come alive and throw their heads on people sleeping nearby.
In reality, the caps that look like heads are made of ironstone, and beneath them is much softer sandstone or mudstone.
Eventually, a cap will fall and the rest of the hoodo will be eroded to the ground level.
Although these badlands seem lifeless, you'd be surprised to know how many plans and animals in fact live there. Some of the most "exotic" are northern scorpions, black widow spiders, prairie rattlesnakes and cactus plants. I only saw the latter though.
It's hard to believe that this is Alberta, and not Arizona or Texas.
I should also mention that Dinosaur Provincial Park has a campground for those who want to stay overnight. 
I saw quite a few people climbing the badlands. I guess the area circled by the dirt road is open for these kinds of activities, but the majority of the park is designated a wilderness and you can only enter there on a hiking trail.

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