dinosaur

Dinosaur Provincial Park, the world’s largest cache of cretaceous fossils, is located in Alberta’s Badlands. Calgary, the closest international airport, is over two hours by car, to give readers a sense of how much nothing is nearby.

We did Dinosaur Provincial Park in one day.

Here’s how:

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MTM, the fossil-finding expert.

Arrive early.

While the park offers ample campground space, visitors like me who want to sleep in a lodge are out of luck. We booked an Air B & B, set our alarm clocks, and made it to the park by 9am. The Badlands are a desert environment. Mid-afternoon gets hot. Booking a morning excursion keeps everybody more comfortable.

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MTM found this gorgosaurus tooth.

Book at least one guided tour.

Dinosaur Provincial Park is massive, but much of it is a natural preserve for paleontologists and park staff. The natural preserve is only open to those on a guided tour. We chose the morning Fossil Safari and were picking our way through a fossil bed by 10am. A park guide helped us determine which of our finds were fossils (everything MTM found) and which were rocks (everything I dragged over.)

Take a gander at DPP’s guided tours HERE.

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The men enjoying our picnic by the Red Deer River.

Take a picnic.

The park offers ample picnic areas, with tables and fire pits. Firewood is even available at a kiosk. With only one snack bar onsite and the town of Brooks a thirty-minute drive away, bringing a picnic equals the best shot at a full belly.

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Because everybody puts gorgosaurus fossils in their mouths, right?

Be gobsmacked.

When we took our guideson Cooper to Dinosaur Provincial Park for his sixth birthday, we didn’t expect to enjoy it as adults. We booked a visit to the paleontology lab thinking it’d give us some blessed air conditioning. Instead, we took a fascinating tour with a real paleontologist and got a chance to touch real fossils. Outside, fossils were EVERYWHERE. By the time we boarded the bus for our sunset photography tour, we knew what to look for.

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Dinosaur Provincial Park’s Natural Preserve near sunset.

The lesson? You never know what might happen when you book a trip you think you won’t like. We loved Dinosaur Provincial Park and are already planning a future trip to Alberta to expand our horizons.

Read all about Cooper in my NYT best selling memoir Not Without My Father. Click HERE to get a copy in your preferred format.

What places have surprised you?

Tell us about your experiences in a comment today.