Badlands are a complex terrain of largely unvegetated gullies and hills formed by differential erosion of soft shale and harder sandstone. Buttery slick when wet, and without shade in the hot sun, these lands were referred to by French explorers as "bad lands to travel through" - giving rise to the term 'badlands'. However, to many they are beautiful and fascinating.
'Scotty' - Saskatchewan's Own T. rex
In 1994, a remarkably complete skeleton of a Tyrannosaurus rex dinosaur was discovered in badlands along the Frenchman River in southwestern Saskatchewan. Dubbed 'Scotty', the fossil dates from the end of the Cretaceous Period, about 65 million years ago. Analysis of fossil plants, plant pollen, and other animals contained in the same rock layers allows scientists to interpret the environment in which Scotty lived - a deciduous forest with seasonal rainfall and no winter frost. Things sure have changed!
Scotty's teeth in place in T. Rex quarry and a Triceratops skull
For Dinosaur Detectives: Why badlands are a good place to look.
Badlands are ideal places for paleontologists to look for fossils. There is little vegetation to cover the rock that contains the fossils. The rock is being continually eroded, exposing new material every year. To find dinosaur bones, rocks of the right age - that is, rocks that formed during the Age of dinosaurs - must be exposed. Younger and older rocks can contain fossils, but not of dinosaurs.
Making Badlands - what's the recipe?
Badlands form where the natural recipe is right - the required ingredients are a semiarid climate resulting in sparse vegetation, steep slopes, summer thunderstorms that produce flash floods, and underlying soft rocks. Why do these conditions favour badlands?
Badlands: not just in Alberta!
The Drumheller and Dinosaur Provincial Park areas in southern Alberta may be Canada's best known badlands, but southern Saskatchewan can lay claim to its own, in the Big Muddy, Frenchman River valley, Grasslands National Park, and Avonlea regions.