A short distance from Spirit River lies a world famous dinosaur discovery site. It’s not the classic badlands scenery of Drumheller or Dinosaur National Park: this is the Peace Country, where the valleys are lush and green.
Imagine a summer not unlike this one, way back in the Late Cretaceous. It’s wet and stormy, the rivers are high and the water is muddy and fast. A herd of Pachyrhinosaurs, following the irresistible urge to migrate, arrive at a river that must be crossed. Dauntlessly they brave the mud and water, splashing into the current. Those at the front of the pack begin to hesitate as the water gets deeper and stronger. The smallest and oldest struggle most, and the danger is increasing as the dinosaurs behind them keep crushing forwards. A juvenile pachyrhinosaur is swept away, followed by another. The herd panics, losing their footing in the river, struggling to breathe, getting mired in the trampled mud…
A hundred or so pachyrhinosaurs died. Their bodies washed up in the mud, then rotted in the sun. Carnivores were attracted by the smell: they came and ripped the flesh, scattering the bones. The mess left behind was slowly covered by more river deposits, plants, glaciers…
A new river found its way into the same territory, washing away the collected sands and clays of millions of years. The bones of the ill-fated herd once again saw the light of day. They were discovered, examined, declared significant. A “new” species – a species new to science – was proclaimed: the pachyrhinosaurus lakustai!
Palaeontologists came to dig. The work of many summers produced tons of bone and 14 skulls. Local people and famous people learned of the site on Pipestone Creek. They came to see history laid out at their feet. They came to enjoy the natural world, the beautiful creek and Wapiti River, sandstone cliffs and colourful stones. They camped by the river and they played on the playground and in the water and the mud.
Other people thought: we should make a museum! The scientists could do their work there and the people could watch. Everyone could explore the bone bed and learn about pachyrhinosaurus lakustai and the raging river. And so they made plans. They were going to dig into the earth and this time put something back. Time passes slowly, but some day you will be able to walk through time, into the world class Philip J. Currie Museum.
For now, you can visit Pipestone Creek, camp by the river, play in the outdoors, and follow board walks to the bone bed. You might come across a small herd of scientists, perched high on the creek bank, unearthing the Pachyrhinosaur. Leave them in peace – both the scientists and the bones – they belong where they are.
If you have a favourite place to spend time soaking in the summer, let Spirit River know by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.