You Can Hunt for Dinosaur Fossils and Camp Out Under the Northern Lights at This Magical Park in Canada (Video)
Though time travel isn’t possible yet (get on that, Elon Musk), there is one way to get a peek into the past and a natural science lesson along the way: taking a trip to Canada.
Known as the Thanatotheristes degrootorum, it is one of the oldest tyrannosaur species ever discovered at 79.5 million years old, according to an article published by researchers from the University of Calgary and the Royal Tyrrell Museum of Paleontology in the journal Cretaceous Research.
So, why does this matter? Because it proves that the next dinosaur discovery could be made by you when you visit the same park De Groot did to find his fossil.
“Alberta has a rich dinosaur history, and we have uncovered some of the biggest finds on Earth here in the province,” Dr. François Therrien, curator of dinosaur palaeoecology at the Royal Tyrrell Museum, said in a statement. “The discovery of Thanatotheristes degrootorum is historic as it marks the first new species of tyrannosaur to be unearthed in Canada in 50 years.”
The badlands of southeastern Alberta happen to be home to some of the richest fossil sites in the world. And all are welcome to hunt down our prehistoric past at Dinosaur Provincial Park, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, where more than 400 dinosaur skeletons have been discovered to date.
In the park, guests can join in a number of hikes and tours to see the region, or choose to get a bit more hands-on with the park’s fossil safari tour. On the two-hour tour, guests will learn techniques that the pros use for identifying the remains of turtles, fish, mammals, and dinosaurs. Guests are welcome to camp at the park using their own tents, or by renting one of the luxury safari tents already set up for everyone’s enjoyment, starting at $105/night.
For dinosaur enthusiasts who want a bit more adventure than just a hike, Alberta's Dinosaur Provincial Park also offers one-, two-, and three-day guided excavation programs throughout the year. As part of the group, guests will participate in real digs, which contribute to ongoing research projects at the Royal Tyrrell Museum. Those tour dates and information can be found on travelalberta.com throughout the year.
Of course, guests are always welcome to simply head out on a hike in the region to look for surface fossils, just as De Groot did. According to Travel Alberta, De Groot found the dinosaur skull fragments while hiking in a rural area about 62 miles from the center of the park.
“John always said that one day he would find a dinosaur skull,” De Groot’s wife, Sandra, said in a statement. “Finding the jaw was exciting. Hearing that it is a new species, and seeing it given our family name, was beyond belief.”
Oh, and if you needed one more reason to camp out in Canada’s badlands, we’ve got a big one: the Northern Lights.
Every year October through March, Canada’s badlands, including Dinosaur Provincial Park, become a prime viewing destination for the Northern Lights. That’s because of the area’s northern latitude and minimal light pollution. But, to up the ante on this trip, we suggest spending a few nights camping and excavating at Dinosaur Provincial Park, then heading a few hours away to the Cypress Hill Provincial Park Dark Sky Reserve, which limits its use of light and hosts many stargazing events including the famed Summer Star Party.
So yeah, we can’t travel back in time, but we can get a taste of it through old bones and even older stars above.