Millions of years ago, this region of Central Alberta, located 64 miles southwest of Red Deer, was the hunting grounds for dinosaurs that thrived in this vast wilderness during the Cretaceous period. Today, these ancient hunting grounds make up Dry Island Buffalo Jump Provincial Park. It attracts thousands of vacationers every year for its dinosaur fossils and the rich bonebeds of Albertosaurus discovered and preserved here.
In addition to taking vacationers to ancient times when dinosaurs used to roam the earth, the provincial park also has plenty of other recreational activities to offer. Outdoor enthusiast can paddle their canoes in the lazy river or camp, picnic, and trek along this fascinating and diverse landscape.
Those who love hiking and birdwatching will love Dry Island Buffalo Jump Provincial Park as it offers outdoor enthusiasts the chance to see as many as 150 species of birds that reside or migrate to the area. Forage a little deeper and you will be witness to some of the most scenic spots in Alberta.
Wildlife and birds are not the only attractions of the park. The badland landscape itself is teeming with rare and unique formations, with sensitive plants, coulees, and native grasslands. The unusual mix of gale-force winds, thundering rainfall, and Red Deer River itself has given Dry Island Buffalo Provincial Park a very diverse topography that is simply majestic to look at.
The Dry Island Buffalo Jump Provincial Park is located 13 km or eight miles north of Trochu. To get to the Park from Highway 21, take township road 344, and drive east for 19 km or 12 miles until you reach the park entrance. Driving during the wet season is dangerous as the roads get really slippery around the park. The roads, however, are wide and well-maintained so arriving in large RVs or motorhomes should not pose a problem.
Dry Island Buffalo Jump Provincial Park is only a day-use area, yet there are camping facilities provided at Tolman Bridge. Even though the campground is located 20 km south of the park, it is still officially a part of it.
Tolman is one campground divided into two, east and west. Willow bushes divide all the campsites in each part, and not only provides privacy but also creates a windbreak.
Located deep in the Red Deer River Valley, Tolman East Campground is home to 40 unserviced campsites. The campsites in the campground are well treed and the cottonwood trees provide shade and comfort for campers.
Tolman East Campground provides several amenities that include fire pits, boat hand Launch are, pit/vault toilets, playground, and water pump. From the campground you also have a clear view of Tolman bridge.
Tolman West Campground is home to 25 unserviced sites and offers facilities such as a cooking shelter, fire pits, hand launch, pit/vault toilets, and a water pump.
Firewood is not available at the campgrounds thus it is wise to bring your own. Get your sites on a first-come, first-served basis.
A loop of 13-kilometer runs through Dry Island Buffalo Jump Provincial Park and is mainly used for hiking. Campers also enjoy walking, backpacking, and mountain biking on the same trail.
In addition to this loop, there is a smattering of trails all over the park, unmarked and unnamed yet just as rewarding. Since the bush is really low and scarce, it is easy for anyone to find his or her way through the trails. The land is like a dessert around the river, very rugged and devoid of vegetation. The trails winds through the coulees and native grasslands, offering majestic views of the Red Deer river valley.
The Red Deer River offers anglers plenty of spots to fish from the shoreline or take to the river on kayaks for more remote fishing areas. Red Deer River supports and sustains goldeye, northern pike, walleye, mooneye, rainbow trout, cutthroat trout, and whitefish which make for a rewarding and entertaining fishing experience.
The landscape of the Dry Island Buffalo Jump Provincial Park is very unique. On one side of the river is a desert-like terrain, with cacti and hoodoos, while the other side of the river is covered in thick vegetation and grasslands. The boat launch area located near the campground offers kayakers, canoers, and paddlers the opportunity to explore this diverse landscape from the water for some truly panoramic views of these thriving badlands.
There are more than 150 species of birds that call this place home or temporary home in case of migratory birds. Campers have frequently spotted golden eagles, Swainson’s hawk, red-tailed hawks, turkey vultures, mountain bluebird, belted kingfishers, varieties of warblers, and prairie falcons. If you sit on the river bank, you’ll be able to catch sight of blue herons, ducks, willets, and marble godwits wading into the river.
The Dinosaur Fossils at the Dry Island Buffalo Jump Provincial Park is one of its greatest attractions. Years ago, a Tyrannosaurus Rex dinosaur fossil was found here and today, people come from far and wide to look at it. The fossil is displayed at the nearby Royal Tyrrell Museum. These fossils include an internationally acclaimed Albertosaurus bonebed along with the bones and teeth of the aforementioned Tyrannosaurus and Dromaeosaurus.
Interestingly, remains of fish, clams, mammals, birds, and turtles that lived at the same time as the dinosaurs were also discovered here. These fossils are assumed to date back 63 to 68 million years ago.
Wildlife is very frequently spotted by the campers, allowing them to not only admire them up close but also offering a chance to capture some good nature photography. Some of the most commonly sighted wildlife include white-tailed and mule deer, badgers, coyotes, and white-tailed jackrabbits. Beavers and muskrats live by the river and are commonly sighted.