Take an authentic prairie road trip through Grasslands National Park to discover giant sunsets, wild bison, burrowing owls and a winery.
Suggested tweet: For wild bison, dinosaurs and cowboy quicksand, head for the grasslands of southern Saskatchewan http://ow.ly/r1AqJ #explorecanada
1) Where the buffalo roam: Herds of plains bison, the keystone species of the prairie ecosystem, flourish here in Canada’s last remaining tract of unbroken native grassland.
2) The bark’s worse than their bite: Chirping black-tailed prairie dogs pop out of their massive mounds and sound the alarm as outsiders approach their prairie-dog towns, the only colony in the wild in Canada. Or perhaps they’ve just spied a rare black-footed ferret on a hunting expedition.
3) Catch them while you can: Tiny, spotted burrowing owls, at once both endangered and adorable, reside spring through fall in old prairie-dog burrows. They migrate to Mexico in winter (like many other Canadians), but you can view them year-round at the Saskatchewan Burrowing Owl Interpretive Centre.
4) Cowboy country: Hike through the colourful Kildeer Badlands in the East Block, complete with eroded buttes and quicksand right out of a dime-store cowboy novel. The first dinosaur skeleton in western Canada was discovered here in 1874.
5) Prairie hospitality: Hit the Star Café & Grill in Maple Creek for a burger, make a pit stop for groceries in McCord (pop. 40), toss back a pint at the Limerick Hotel and then fall asleep to a chorus of frogs at The Crossing Resort where the skies are big and the sunsets enormous.
6) Home on the range: See rare Pronghorn antelope, with their distinctive horns and markings, sprinting on the open range at speeds up to 100 km/h (62 mph), along with other endangered animals that call this unique ecosystem home.
7) Winemaking on the edge: The warm microclimate of the highlands around the Cypress Hills Winery makes it the prairies’ only grower of wine grapes. You’ll want to sample the winery’s Saskatchewan sour cherry or Saskatoon berry wines.
8) Starry, starry nights: Big prairie skies are known for sunsets, but the 14-inch Celestron telescope at the observatory in Cypress Hills Interprovincial Park, one of Canada’s darkest Dark Sky Preserves, really lets you see the stars.
9) Sounds of silence: The world’s top acoustic ecologists studied the prairie soundscape and deemed Grasslands National Park one of the quietest spots on the planet. You hear nature, not noise pollution, in this rare place.
10)Dino destination: See 65-million-year-old fossils poking out of the ground near the new East Block visitor centre. And be sure to view Scotty, Canada’s largest and most complete tyrannosaurus rex, at the T.rex Discovery Centre in Eastend.
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