Go West, Day 11 – Drumheller, Alberta

Author: Larry St Aubin

Today we drive to the badlands – Drumheller, Alberta – the dinosaur capital of the world.

The land on which Drumheller is located is on Treaty 7 territory, Métis Nation of Alberta Region 3, and the traditional territories of the Blackfoot Confederacy (Siksika, Kainai, Piikani), the Tsuut’ina, and the Îyâxe Nakoda Nations

Stopping in Lloydminster for breakfast. We gain an hour. Our route takes us along the border between Alberta and Saskatchewan. It is still early so the only choice is a 24 hour Esso where I get a coffee, bran muffin (which was surprisingly fresh), and gas.

Hoo Doos Trail. The Hoodoos are a group of stone columns with caprocks situated on approximately 11 hectares of land between Drumheller and East Coulee. Ranging in height from roughly one to three meters, the group of approximately 10 Hoodoos feature white sandstone caprocks overlying dark brown marine shale bodies.

The shorter trail goes around the hoodoos. However, the stairs to get to the trail are metal. Eve gives it her best shot but I can tell she is anxious about them. I can carry Greta up but not both

Hoodoos go by many names in different places. While hoodoo is the most common name, they are also referred to as “fairy chimneys”, “sand mushrooms” or even, rather absurdly, “goblins”.

The word “hoodoo”, however, actually comes from West Africa. In the Hausa language it means “to arouse resentment and practice retribution”.

There was another short lookout so I tethered Eve to a post and took Greta up to look.

“Drumheller’s famous badlands and coulees along the Red Deer River began to form at the end of the last ice age (approximately 10, 000 years ago) with the melting of the ice sheets which covered most of Canada.  When large volumes of melt water that had been dammed by glaciers were released, the rushing water flowed south and eastwards to form the Red Deer River valley. The melt waters removed sedimentary layers of rock, creating the badlands deep canyons, exposing the harder Cretaceous period rocks.”

Drumheller Pedestrian Trail

T-Rex photo. You can climb up to the mouth of the T-Rex for a view of Drumheller through its mouth. However, they don’t allow dogs to go up so we take a photo with it in the background. Because I was early, there were not cars to obstruct.

Last Chance Saloon, established 1913, located in the small village of Wayne, 20 minute drive south of Drumheller. A western movie, Running Brave was filmed here and the rock and roll band Northern Pikes filmed a part of a video here. Numerous music videos and commercials have been shot at this location, including Truman Capote’s “In Cold Blood” & Jackie Chan’s “Shanghai Noon”. The Canadian Pickers Antique Show was filmed here in August 2010, and aired in 2011.

“There is a story about three strangers who walked in the hotel and ordered drinks. When the bartender brought their drinks, they refused to pay. So the bartender calmly walked back to the bar, pulled out a 45 calibre revolver and fired three shots in the wall, one over each of their heads. The recalcitrant customers wasted no time in leaving. This sounded like a story from the 1920’s but according to the saloon owner Dayman, this happened sometime in the 1970’s. The bullet holes are still there with a frame around them above the piano.”

“The piano is another long-time fixture dating to 1927. It originally sat in the hotel lobby. In the early days, there was no music or dancing allowed in bars. A bar was not supposed to be a place where you enjoyed yourself; it was meant for drinking. But that regulation didn’t dissuade the relatively isolated Rosedeer Hotel. The piano was on caster wheels, and was rolled into the bar. If someone spotted a strange car approaching the piano would be wheeled out the door and into the lobby again. “That old piano has seen many miles”, said Dayman. In the early 1970’s Mrs. Dien Dayman was solely responsible for convincing government officials to change the existing laws to allow dancing in taverns. Music is now an integral feature of the Last Chance Saloon. Besides the piano, folks are welcome to play the guitar or washboard. On a warm summers evening the party might move to the outdoor patio in the back.”

It was the only place that had a pet-friendly patio even though, Located in Wayne, it was 8 km outside of Drumheller. But they were really dog friendly, with all the staff coming over to say hi to them. In September they have a music festival called Waynestock. You can see the stage in the background.

They have their own meat smoker so I ordered the Mesquite smoked brisket sandwich with the homemade baked beans. Onion rings and a Happy Valley Brewing IPA makes for a tasty lunch.

THEN: The land where Downtown Drumheller is now located was the territory of Plains First Nations. During the summer months, groups would converge on the plains to hunt bison, celebrating with feasts and dances.

Blackfoot camp on the prairies, 1874

Europeans arrived in the Drumheller region with Joseph Tyrrell and the Geological Survey of Canada in 1884. That year Tyrrell discovered coal deposits and a dinosaur skull (of an Albertosaurus) in the Red Deer Valley.

Ranchers first settled in the area in 1897, and Thomas Greentree was Drumheller’s first citizen, built a house in the valley in 1902. In 1910, Mr. Greentree sold his land to Samuel Drumheller who conceived the idea of building a townsite. Famously, the town’s name was decided with coin toss between Drumheller and Greentree, with Drumheller being the victor.

First store in Drumheller, 1909

We went for a little walk along the Red Deer river. They have a path to follow. We went down by the trees to stay in the shade

Came across this chewed log and the one next to it with the fence protection around it. What gives?

It was very hot so we headed back to the car. There are many buildings with dinosaur statues outside. This one was part of the community centre and even had a name – Helsley.

Art work on the wall of the Curling Club.

I gave the pugs a bath and put them to bed. I was headed to the Tyrrell Museum.

Tyrrell Museum. I’m going to give the Tyrell a separate blog. The place was amazing – from the well-lit pieces, the layout, the direction for gallery to gallery. There was so much information and I took so many pictures. It will take a couple of days to put together but we be a great memory for me.

After the museum I headed out for dinner. There is a song that refrains – “wherever you go in the world, you’ll find an Irish pub”. I went to O’Shea’s for a pint of Guinness and Mac & Cheese.


  1. OMG your meals are so yummy looking. I’m glad you had such a great time at the Museum while I’m sure the girls enjoyed a nice rest.

    • Yes, it’s great being able to let them sleep in the hotel while I go out. I tend to miss out on a lot of things because I can’t take them in with me. For this trip I planned them not being around for a period of time.

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