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GoNOMAD DESTINATION MINI GUIDE:

East Coulee, Alberta


By Monk Media

WHY GO

To hike the Badlands of the Drumheller Valley: the dramatic remnants of a prehistoric sea bed cut out of the Canadian prairies. Hunt for fossils, dinosaur bones or perhaps a shark's tooth. Visit a former gas station-turned-workshop where they construct prehistoric skeletons commissioned for display all over the world. 

WHEN TO GO?

April to October. Consider the climate if you're planning to camp or do any extensive hiking. Summer temperatures in the open terrain can soar to around 40º C (104º F) during the day and dip to very cool and frosty levels at night.

GETTING THERE AND AROUND

Tripadvisor hotel reviews

East Coulee is 2 hours (150 km) by car northeast of Calgary. Take the Trans Canada Highway #1 east from Calgary, then Provincial Highway #21 north to Provincial Hwy. #9 east into the town of Drumheller.  From Drumheller, take Hwy. #56 south to Hwy. #10 east and follow approximately 15 km to the town of East Coulee.

Bus service is also available on Greyhound Bus Lines (403-265-9111) or Red Arrow (403-424-3339).  Most car rental companies have a network of outlets throughout the province of Alberta (Avis, Budget, Hertz and more).

BEST ATTRACTIONS

The dramatic landscape of the Drumheller Valley itself is the most striking attraction, with its coulees (steep-walled ravines) and hoodoos (uniquely shaped sandstone columns).

MOST UNUSUAL ATTRACTIONS

See what's going on at Prehistoric Animal Structures Inc. (PAST) where for over ten years they have been molding, casting and mounting prehistoric skeletons for exhibitions in museums from Chicago to San Francisco. It's easy to find.  Enter the village of East Coulee itself (population 197) and look for the old gas station. www.past.ca 

BEST ACTIVITIES OR TOURS

The world renowned Royal Tyrrell Museum approximately 25 km west of East Coulee is the region's calling card, with its extensive displays of prehistoric plant and animal life. But don't stop there. Head down Highway #10 to East Coulee for a more hands-on experience. Spend a day or more as a paleontologist with Groundworks, an organization specializing in both half-day hiking excursions and overnight Dinosaur Camps.

The East Coulee School Museum and Cultural Centre offers a look at more recent historical times with its focus on the once thriving coal industry. Nearby, The Historic Atlas Coal Mine interprets a thriving coal mine of the 1930s and offers tours of its 8-story tipple mineshaft--the only one of its kind remaining in Canada.

BEST LODGINGS

  • Groundworks Dinosaur Camp offers a back-to-nature experience where prairie meets badlands.
  • If you prefer a solid roof over your head, try Ghost Pine Cabin Wilderness Lodge outside of the town of Drumheller (+403-823-9673).

BEST EATS

  • The School Museum right in East Coulee offers lunch meals in its tea room.
  • The Last Chance Saloon in Wayne, a quasi-ghost town from the region's mining era, can be found south of Highway #10, west of East Coulee. The beer is cold, the "grub" is honest. The establishment's rough and tough history is played up, complete with a proudly advertised bullet hole in the wall, the result of a past customer who failed to settle up his bill.

BEST RESOURCES

past.ca 

albertasouth.com/c/dr/ground.html

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