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Canoe Down Dinosaur Valley

Starland County, Alberta


Added by Tanner Thompson

See the Badlands by boat, while canoeing down the Red Deer River. The best way to take in the Hoodoo Trail.

We put in at the Morrin Bridge along Highway 27, you can start further upstream the Red Deer River at Content Bridge, or Dry Island Provincial Park to make it a 3 or 4-day trip. We went from Morrin Bridge to East Coulee which is about 55km down the river we stayed overnight in Drumheller so both days were 7+ Hours on the water but I'll get into the details of this amazing trip.

*CAUTION: River flow rates need to be fairly high to do this trip so early spring/summer when run-offs are the highest is best. Check this site http://www.environment.alberta... and make sure the Discharge (m3/s) is at least 60

We rented canoes from Valhalla Pure Outfitters in Red Deer, that cost 126 dollars for 2 canoes between 4 people, which works out to 31.50$ per person for 2 full days of canoeing. Not bad. https://vpo.ca/topic/vpo.store...

Now, we had two vehicles, so the first day consisted of dropping off a pickup vehicle in East Coulee which is 18km south of Drumheller by road. Once we got back to the start point at Morrin Bridge we were off around 1 pm. We packed things you normally take on an overnight hike, tent, sleeping bag, mat, food, etc. The only exception was everything was waterproofed in 5-gallon pails or dry bags.  

Day 1: Directly from where we started you are in Badland country. The river valley is cut into the sedimentary rock which makes for gorgeous views while on the water. On your way to Drumheller there are plenty of camping spots near the river, however the closer you get into the town the less available land there is on the shore so take this into consideration if you are camping at an unmarked campsite.

The thing that makes this trip so great is that no two trips down the badlands are alike. Many people choose different take out points and put-ins and go for longer or shorter amounts of time. Even starting from Drumheller is an option, however, we found the river to be very slow past Drumheller so starting here would require constant paddling.

We stayed the first night at River Grove Campsite in Drumheller which is not on the river like it seems, it's actually a little hike up and under the main street bridge but after a day on the water I bet you won't want to hike all your gear to a camping spot. (We sure didn't) I would recommend staying somewhere along the river before Drumheller. You can camp anywhere along the river bed or on the islands in the middle of the river just be mindful of the farmland and fires are probably not a good idea. 

*Also there are a small section of rapids just before Drumheller that isn't too much to handle but can get you wet if you travel right through them. It's best to stick to the right-hand side here to be safe.

Day 2: If you stay before Drumheller or at the River Grove Campsite make sure to check out the town, either in the morning, or make a pitstop as you pass through the next day. The town is famous for a lot of dinosaurs and fossil deposits found near the area and also houses the world's largest dinosaur that you can walk up and look out of its mouth (its a fake dinosaur but still pretty cool).  There is also the world famous Tyrell Museum that houses an incredible collection of dinosaur fossils and skeletons, and they are still discovering more to this day. 

Make sure to pull your boat off to the southern side of the river just as you pass under the bridge in town, there will be a green space which is the closest point to downtown. Pull off here and explore a bit of Drumheller and maybe grab a dinosaur fossil souvenier. 

After stopping in Drumheller you can continue down the Red Deer River. The town fades away and you are taken by the sheer beauty of the Badlands. Along the way you pass some tourist attractions, a suspension bridge, hoodoos, and can go exploring anywhere alongside the river when you take a lunch break. The river meanders along all the way through to East Coulee and further to Dinosaur Provincial Park and eventually to Empress, Sask where it empties into the South Saskatchewan River. Our final day was just past the hamlet of East Coulee which was set right near the Atlas Coal Mine. All around this area was a major coal industry as Joseph Tyrell discovered a huge coal seem here in 1883 as well as all the dinosaur skeletons. I would camp here to explore the Atlas Coal Mine as a nice end to the trip. 

As I said before there are many ways to do this trip, I would recommend starting near Dry Island Provincial Park and extending the trip a day or two, or possibly starting in Drumheller and finishing at Dinosaur Provincial Park Campground. Either way, make sure to do your research on the route you are taking but you can't go wrong with this beginner canoe trip.

* It is best to pick up a river map before you go on this adventure as there is a lot more information to be had. 

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