It is no secret that southern Saskatchewan is one of the world’s preeminent goldmines in terms of fossils and evidence of prehistoric existence. We brandish this reputation proudly with the display of our hometown hero, Scotty the T. rex who stands tall (the largest in the world, in fact) in the T. rex Discovery Centre in Eastend, and more recently, in the Royal Saskatchewan Museum (RSM) in Regina. Because of Scotty’s legacy, Eastend is rightfully put on a pedestal as Saskatchewan’s dino-hotspot. What I didn’t know is that Grasslands National Park (GNP) is a source of equal pride for local palaeontologists. The Badlands in the East Block facilitated one of the earliest dinosaur discoveries in Canada. To this day, scientists dedicate hundreds of hours a year (predominately in the summertime) trying to expand on the insight that GNP has already offered us.
As part of their devotion to the East Block, the RSM in conjunction with Parks Canada has developed a program set out to make these frequent discoveries accessible to the public. "Fossil Fever" is a five-day annual event where small groups are given a hands-on education while accompanying a crew of esteemed dino-experts on a routine dig. Dinosaurs aside, the event offers a stunning guided view of the scenic, hidden gem that is the GNP East Block. On top of that, we are shown the authentic process of an excavation accompanied by historical facts pertaining to the positive paleontological impact of these timeless badlands.
The tour is incredibly family-friendly and uses a language that is intended to be grasped by all age groups. That said, participants came from all walks of life, including a young lady I met who came as part of a solo mission from Calgary specifically for the event.
Following the practical portion of the day, we were welcomed to back to the camp for the evening’s “Fossil Talk”. These are fun public lectures given by the RSM palaeo staff. Many participants even stayed in one of the park’s tipi accommodations camping alongside the palaeo staff as part of the bona fide (or should I say BONE-a-fide) experience.
This is the sixth year of the Fossil Fever program with Grasslands National Park and it has been received with widespread acclaim. Definitely a bucket list staple for those with a curious mind!
To learn more about Fossil Fever go to: https://www.pc.gc.ca/en/pn-np/sk/grasslands/activ/ff1