Story Ideas

Follow in the footsteps of giants and plot a prehistoric path across Canada.

‘Paleo-tourism’ shows its teeth via range of tours and museums from BC to Nova Scotia.

28 August 2013

Suggested tweet: Join the paleo tourists: plot a prehistoric path to hunt for dinosaurs across Canada #ExploreCanada

I’m on a fossil tour along the Puntledge River in the Comox Valley on Vancouver Island, BC, with Pat Trask, curator of natural history at the Courtenay and District Museum & Paleontology Centre. We are walking on what was the bottom of the sea 80 million years ago. Trask scrapes away at the loose layers of sediment along the elevated riverbanks to reveal the white fossilized outline of a prehistoric clam. He picks up pieces of shale, cracking them open to reveal the whirls of ancient ammonites.

Trask points to the spot where in 1988 his twin brother and niece discovered the fossilized bones of an elasmosaur, a 12-m (40-ft)-long extinct marine reptile with teeth to rival a T. Rex. Since then, Trask has guided more than 20,000 people on year-round fossil tours, which start with a visit to the museum in downtown Courtenay. Here, you can see the actual fossilized elasmosaur skeleton as well as a reconstructed cast of this two-ton sea monster. Walk through “more than 400 million years of pre-history on Vancouver Island,” viewing vertebrate fossil displays of mosasaurs, turtles, ratfish and the local one-of-a-kind vampire squid fossil that University of Tokyo scientists came and studied.  

Canada offers many options for dinosaur hunters:

·      Head to Tumbler Ridge to see a re-creation of a 100-million-year-old dinosaur trackway in the Dinosaur Discovery Gallery at the Tumbler Ridge Museum. The museum also offers summer Dinosaur Trackway Tours that include a Wolverine River lantern tour at dusk.

·      Hike amid coulees and hoodoos, prospecting for 75-million-year-old dinosaur fossils in Alberta’s Dinosaur Provincial Park, a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

·      Visit the world famous Royal Tyrrell Museum in Drumheller to see an exhibit of the albertosaurus, the toothy top predator of its era.

·      Set off on the Alberta Fossil Trail to learn more about ceratopsians (horned dinosaurs) that once thundered across the badlands.    

·      A skeleton cast of “Scotty,” Canada’s most complete Tyrannosaurus Rex, is on display at the T.Rex Discovery Centre in Saskatchewan’s “Dino Country.”

·      Manitoba’s Canadian Fossil Discovery Centre offers Fossil Dig Adventure Tours with a 100% success rate finding fossils of marine reptiles from the Cretaceous period.

·      In the Talisman Energy Fossil Gallery at Ottawa’s Canadian Museum of Nature, dioramas, life-size models, and more than 30 skeletons re-create the era that led up to the extinction of the dinosaurs. 

·      Fossils of almost 200 species have been discovered along Nova Scotia’s Joggins Fossil Cliffs. Learn more about these 300-million-year-old aquatic and terrestrial creatures of the “Coal Age” at The Joggins Fossil Centre


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