ABOUT THE BADLANDS
What are the Canadian Badlands ?
Equally capable of inspiring song, spirituality, and honest wide-eyed wonder, the Canadian Badlands offers daytrippers and vacationers 90,000 square kilometers of adventure in a landscape that's easily more good than bad. Unlike almost anywhere else in North America the Canadian Badlands offers more than just cowboys, wildlife, and dinosaurs, with great entertainment, local culture and cuisine, and accommodations waiting to be discovered.
There's a reason filmmakers, photographers, and artists have used the Canadian Badlands as a backdrop. Very simply, no other landscape allows you to experience the raw, textured beauty of the West. You can explore copper rivers as they coil through wounds of sandstone displaying swatches of ochre, umber, and slate, all topped off with unfettered grasslands. Localized ranges of hills preserve the topography of the region as it was before it was scoured by glaciers.
If the landscapes aren't amazing enough, they are equaled by the reality that this was once home to an incredible array of dinosaurs and prehistoric creatures. Fossils found in the Canadian Badlands have changed our impression of the world and here, still today, it is possible to find evidence that could rewrite history.
Find out more about dinosaurs and get close up to fossils by visiting Dinosaur Provincial Park near Brooks or the spectacular Royal Tyrrell Museum of Paleontology in Drumheller where these stone echoes of the past are brought back to life.
Natural history is paralleled only by human history in the Canadian Badlands.
French explorers in the mid 18th century stumbled upon the arid lands of southeastern Alberta and quickly nicknamed them the "terre mauvais" or in English, "bad land" and from there the name stuck. Explorers continued to make the trek westward over the next few centuries. Farming and ranching were near impossible. Dust devils swirled during the hot summers and the wind howled through early shacks built to protect the brave during long, cold winters. The First Nations people however, survived and thrived by following migrating herds of buffalo across the prairies.
Valuable coal deposits were found throughout the region and gave rise to boomtowns such as Lethbridge, Medicine Hat, and Drumheller. In 1884, Joseph Burr Tyrrell not only found rich coal deposits in the Red Deer Valley, he also found the first Albertosaurus skull just outside of what is now Drumheller. Farming and ranching slowly became more profitable with the construction of infrastructure like the Brooks Aquaduct, until severe drought during the Great Depression turned the Canadian Badlands into the notorious "Dust Bowl" of the prairies.
Ghost towns and abandoned farmsteads dot the current Canadian Badlands landscape and attest to the difficult lives of the early settlers. Be sure to visit the Historic Clay District in Medicine Hat, tour the Atlas Coal Mine, and ride the rails of Alberta Prairie Steam Tours in Stettler to walk in the footsteps of the past and learn more about the way we were.
The Canadian Badlands is the perfect place for a getaway. Inspiration is around every corner. The region is a great place for activities of any kind. Geocaching, hiking, kayaking, and more are all experiences just waiting to be discovered.
The Canadian Badlands region has a lively music and performing arts scene complete with its own rural professional theatre, Rosebud Theatre. The extraordinary landscape of the Canadian Badlands inspires arts of all kinds. Medicine Hat offers an array of galleries and performing arts space. Admire original petroglyphs at Writing-on-Stone Provincial Park, visit the artisans of Empress, or you can stop and chat with the friendly painters and potters who sell their works in local galleries and gift shops throughout the region.
Get to know the Canadian Badlands by spending some time under expansive prairie skies. Golfing, hiking, canoeing, camping, stargazing, and bird-watching are just a few of the many options. Camping opportunities abound in provincial and municipal parks and at private, full-service facilities. Hike through hoodoos in the Drumheller Valley, Dinosaur Provincial Park, or Writing-on-Stone Provincial Park. Camp beside a lake or tree-lined irrigation reservoir or visit Lake Newell, the largest man-made lake in Alberta. The lofty Cypress Hills Interprovincial Park has excellent hiking and it's an astronomer's paradise being the world's largest dark sky preserve.
The Canadian Badlands offers a look into the Western way of living. Hometown hospitality, friendly folks, and home cooked food are a few of the defining characteristics of this lifestyle.
Few attractions let you breathe, and eat, like you were in the Wild West. The Last Chance Saloon in Wayne and the Patricia Bar offer their guest just that. Grill your own piece of Alberta Beef, sip a cold one from a quart sealer jar after a long hot summer day, and visit with a few locals at these renowned watering holes.
If you are lucky, you might get to catch the adrenaline of a real rural rodeo. Every summer weekend, rodeos in the Canadian Badlands let you get up close and personal to all the action. Feel the breath of a 1200kg bull as it stares you in the eyes with only a row of metal fencing separating the two of you.
Unique festivals happen year round. Smear a chunk of fresh butter on a steaming cob of corn during Taber's CornFest. Gather down main street and dine on a Western style meal while breaking bread with a few new friends. Hear the drumming and admire the elaborate costumes during the World Chicken Dance Championship at Blackfoot Crossing Historical Park.
It takes a special kind of person to succeed at farming or ranching in the Canadian Badlands. Get a hands-on feel for country living at one of many U-pick operations and guest ranches, such as the Reesor Ranch in Cypress Hills.
Visit Alberta Agriculture and Rural Development for more information about country fairs, farmer's markets, farm tours, country vacations and more.