In 2014, I was sitting at a presentation during the Banff Mountain Film and Book Festival where a nice lady was reading snippets of her book about the prairies; A Geography of Blood. To my surprise, Candace Savage, the author, mentioned that a small town in Saskatchewan called Eastend has one of the most complete t-rex skeletons ever discovered. I immediately knew we had to visit.
I bought Candace’s book and started planning a trip to Eastend, with my son and his best friend, both of whom are dinosaur fanatics.
The T-Rex Centre is closed during winter so I started planning a summer trip to that part of Canada. We set aside five days in August to discover the region.
Our trip started in Eastend – located six hours from Canmore and, despite its name it is located in western Saskatchewan. Home to 600 people, Eastend has similar geography to Drumheller, but on a much smaller scale. No wonder they found a t-rex there! After setting up our tents we went out to explore the little town.
The next morning, we spent a couple of hours at the T-Rex Centre, a nice building located on a hill and completely integrated with the surroundings. The T-rex is called Scotty and Scotty’s cast was all there in its glory. We had a great time exploring its story. Mission accomplished, so we left Eastend for two nights at Cypress Hills, an interprovincial park that was also highlighted in Candace’s book.
Cypress Hills is as high as the Banff townsite and claims the highest elevation east of the Rockies. Unlike Eastend, Cypress Hills has no mosquitoes and we spent two enjoyable nights in that nice park, including a beautiful sunset at Bald Butte, a nice telescopic view of Saturn, two days at the public pool, antelopes while driving to the park and even saw a moose and her calf!
The sky in Cypress can be fantastically clear and the park has been designated a Dark-Sky Preserve. We had the opportunity to see the meteor shower there.
From Cypress Hills we drove to Dinosaur Provincial Park, in Alberta. It was our second visit and it seems we had not learned our lessons yet – summer is a time of mosquitoes and flies. Annoying mosquitoes and flies. We also did not manage to book any of the tours the park offers, which was a shame. I highly recommend them. They can be booked online and open months in advance. So, if you are organized enough to plan your trips, click here and book before arriving to the park.
We decided to not bring cooking equipment, so we were enjoyed local diners and restaurants, however the only place available at Dinosaur Provincial Park is not the best option. If you have enough space and want to guarantee a fairly decent meal, prepare one yourself while there. On the upside, the showers are free!
Dinosaur Provincial Park has a much larger badlands area than Drumheller and it is said that if you do not trip on a dinosaur bone while there, you are not there! We discovered for untrained eyes, you probably will trip on a dinosaur bone but may not recognize it – hence the tours. The tours will take you to places open only to guided groups and you will discover sites not open to the general public.
On your own there are a few short hikes from which to discover the landscapes, but you likely not going to see much of dinosaurs. There are two displays on the main loop and the small field station exhibits some bones. In the field station you can evaluate the merits of having a dinosaur as a pet – not all would have been all that bad! My son would die to have a t-rex as a pet!
If you have young children, my suggestion is to start with Drumheller and The Royal Tyrrell Museum. A couple of visits to that special place and some of their field trips will prepare the young ones for more ‘technical’ trips like the Dinosaur Provincial Park. Eastend and their T-Rex Centre is a special place to visit, if you are an aficionado. And if you are in Eastend, extend your trip to Bozeman, Montana. It’s worth the visit, as you already know.