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Article and photos by Russell Purcell

Photo Gallery:
Alberta’s Hwy 9 and the Drumheller Valley

Driving across the Canadian Prairies can be a monotonous task, even when behind the wheel of an exotic sports car like a Porsche 911 Turbo. The reality is that once you begin the journey eastward from Calgary you quickly lose sight of most of the topographical features that give our vast country its identity. Once you become accustomed to the set of scenic elements that dominate this gently rolling landscape, comprising a patchwork quilt of coloured earth and grassy crops supported by a cast of puffy, cartoon-like clouds, the novelty is gone and boredom steps in, making for long spells of sameness interrupted by the occasional highway crew, accident scene, or remnants of road-kill.

As you streak through Alberta you may spot the occasional oil-pump rocking up-and-down like a dunking bird toy, herd of buffalo, or car-sized, round hay bales that often perform the secondary function of advertising through the use of wrap technology. Saskatchewan and Manitoba deliver Canada’s iconic grain elevators to the visual menu, which stand stoically above tiny hamlets that appear to be lost in time.

The straight and narrow
Welcome to Drumheller
Top: the straight and narrow of crossing the prairies; bottom: Welcome to Drumheller! Click image to enlarge

This bland feeling is amplified if you stick to the Trans Canada Highway as it cuts a relatively straight route from urban centre to urban centre as it travels the path of least resistance over the terrain. I suggest you bust out a road atlas and do a little research before planning a trip through this region. I did just that before departing on my journey, as I knew there had to be some interesting sections of road to explore in an area as immense as this. My research lead me to Highway 9, a rural highway which begins at the Trans-Canada Highway, about midway (32 km) between Calgary and Strathmore near the town of Langdon. The first stretch heads north for about 50 kilometres before you cross the Rosebud River and begin to head east towards one of the most unusual places in Canada, the town of Drumheller.

I have always had an interest in dinosaurs and fossils, and had aspirations to be an archaeologist until I realized that dust, shovels, and pesky blood-sucking insects would become part of my daily routine if I chose that career path. However, my interest in these legendary monsters still burns strong, so the appeal of visiting Drumheller made this detour a highlight of my trip. Drumheller is located in the heart of the Canadian Badlands in Southern Alberta (138 kilometres from Calgary) and is the self-proclaimed “Dinosaur Capital of the World.”

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