On tiptoes we climb, one of us giggling and one maybe just a little fearful. It’s not every day that I get to climb seven storeys holding hands with my niece’s three-year-old son to stand beneath the gigantic teeth of the world’s largest Tyrannosaurus rex in the badlands of Drumheller, Alberta.
A Badlands Original
Step by red metal step, we start counting off the stairs inside the belly of the giant dinosaur, rubbing our hands across castings of dinosaur fossils. I stop to admire a brilliant Jurassic-themed mural painted by local artist Gary Cox and quickly feel a tug on my hand – the child urges me upwards. One hundred and one, one hundred and two… the numbers are now counted silently in my head as the climb continues.
She is a beauty – yes, she’s anatomically-speaking a girl dinosaur – a silent sentinel towering above Drumheller’s Visitor Information Centre. This Queen of the Tyrant Lizards stands 26 m (86 ft.) high, stretches 46 m (151 ft.) long and weighs in at 65,771 kg (145,000 lbs). She is a Drumheller original, almost 4.5 times the size of an actual Tyrannosaur, made of fibreglass and steel.
A Look Back in Time
The pace quickens as we near the Plexiglas viewing platform, large enough for 12 brave souls, tucked neatly in the giant’s mouth. The view of the Red Deer River Valley from here is spectacular – well worth the climb. Floodwaters from melting glaciers carved this valley more than 10,000 years ago, creating the badlands, which are spread out below us, maroon striped hills stretching to the horizon. This land of eroded riverbanks, coulees and canyons is now fertile ground for the discovery of dinosaur fossils. Weather-beaten pillars of limestone and sandstone known as hoodoos dot the landscape, the Red Deer River winding through it far below.
I point at the river to show the little guy the bridge we canoed under yesterday. But he’s otherwise engaged - waving frantically at mum and baby brother down below. In unison, mum is frantically waving at her husband, signalling for him to stop taking pictures and take hold of his son’s hand. Mere minutes later, we’re all sitting on the beast’s foot, smiling at the camera. One more for the scrapbook!
Picture Perfect Dinosaurs
Don’t put the camera away yet. Drumheller has over 30 quirky and colourful concrete dinos dotting the town’s street corners. Time to pose for a few more pics – our favourite is the firehall dino – before heading out for our next badlands adventure to see the real thing at the Royal Tyrrell Museum of Palaeontology.