For decades, dinosaur fans have made the trek to southern Alberta to check out the fossil finds in Drumheller. But, if you venture northwest to the County of Grande Prairie, you’ll find one of the world’s densest bonebeds: the Wapiti Formation.
Paleontologists discovered the area after a Grande Prairie teacher named Al Lakusta found fossils at Pipestone Creek during a nature walk in 1974. This led scientists to identify a new species, the horned dinosaur Pachyrhinosaurus lakustai (named in honour of Lakusta). Many other dinosaur species have since been discovered in this bonebed, making it the perfect spot for the Philip J. Currie Dinosaur Museum, which opens its doors to the public on September 3, 2015. Located in Wembley, Alta. (a few minutes from the city of Grande Prairie), the facility is named for the famed palentologist who helped create Drumheller’s Royal Tyrrell Museum.
Here are four ways you can learn about Alberta’s prehistoric past at the Philip J. Currie Dinosaur Museum:
Watch dino science in real time
Visitors can peer through a glass wall in the on-site Palaeo Lab to see science in action. Stand in the overhead viewing gallery or on a giant porthole right above the lab to see researchers examining fossil evidence.
Meet five new dinosaurs
Most of the fossils in the museum come from the Wapiti Formation, which was created towards the end of the Age of Dinosaurs (between 80 and 69 million years ago). The museum’s collection includes five newly named species that have never been on display before.
Get a big-picture view
Tour the Pipestone Creek Bonebed by helicopter to get a better grasp of the geographic area that’s changing our understanding of the prehistoric world. Guests are given an iPad to use during the tour, which includes plenty of information about the area. Tours run every 20 minutes at a cost of $195 per person (plus GST).
Throughout the museum, interactive displays capture the imagination. Use your iPhone to flesh out a dinosaur skeleton before your eyes or make an ecosystem appear around a dinosaur. Plastic bubbles within exhibits allow kids (or crouching adults) to feel part of the dinosaur world. Jumbo screens in the galleries feature chase scenes between predators and prey.
Three Days in Jasper, Alberta
Situated in the largest and most northerly national park in the Canadian Rockies (Jasper National Park), the town of Jasper is your base camp for outdoor adventure. Rent a fat bike at Fairmont Jasper Park Lodge, ski at Marmot Basin Ski Area and go ice walking in Maligne Canyon.