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Photography

If you enjoy taking photographs, then you will love the Canadian Badlands. Here, there’s an endless supply of creative scenes to capture. Explore with your camera for hours or pull over for a spontaneous shot when the lighting and vista are just right. The scenery is spectacular: surreal hoodoos, weather-sculpted coulees, intimate river valleys and vast rolling prairies, and an immense blue sky. The man-made objects are equally as compelling – faded grain elevators, derelict coal mines, historic irrigation aqueducts, old windmills, towering teepees and sweeping steel bridges. Did we mention giant, gnarled cottonwood trees, huge dinosaur skeletons, quirky town mascots, and weathered western faces?

The tours described here are organized geographically. They are intended to coincide with the trips visitors might normally make through the Canadian Badlands.

Be sure to look up driving times before you depart. A full list of visitor centers as well as contact information for attractions on this tour can be found bydownloading the tour document.

The Canadian Badlands Touring Routes aim to follow good secondary highways and occasionally, offer gravel-road alternatives. Please drive carefully and respect private property. Every effort has been made to ensure accurate information at the time of publication. You are advised to conduct further research in advance. We are unable to accept responsibility for any inconvenience, loss or injury sustained as a result of anyone relying upon this information.

Tour Route

1. Before you leave.

Unlike many parts of the world, the light here is clear and often soft, with more hours of sunshine than most parts of Canada. The sky is forever shifting, unveiling magnificent sunsets one moment and cascading thunderheads the next. The palette of colours changes through four distinct seasons and is enlivened by fields of brilliant yellow canola and deep green grains that turn to golden in late summer. Prairie thunderstorms have been known to spawn and produce dramatic photos.

As a general rule, the best time to take photographs is the early morning and evening, when the light is softest. This is particularly true in the badlands, where the bright sunlight on rock formations can be difficult to capture at mid-day. That said, perhaps the austere nature of the landscape is exactly what you’re hoping to capture.

Nearly all the photographic subjects suggested in this tour will change with the seasons and the weather. You’ll want to return, camera in hand, whenever you can – no matter what the season. While most camera-toting visitors arrive in summer, the long days of late spring bring a green freshness to the landscape, and the red, yellow and golden hues of fall are especially stunning. Photographers should also not neglect winter, when a fresh blanket of snow brings new drama to the Canadian Badlands.

A good, basic camera (film or digital) will suffice. For those wishing to expand their photographic horizons, a wide-angle lens (28mm or wider) is nice for landscapes. A longer telephoto lens is handy for portraits, wildlife, and other close-up shots. A tripod is useful if you like to carefully compose your shots, take lowlight photos, or include yourself in images. A polarizing filter can enhance skies and help cut mid-day glare. And don’t forget to bring lots of film (or sufficient digital memory) and spare batteries. Once you start taking pictures in the Canadian Badlands, it’s difficult to stop.

2. Drumheller Valley

The Drumheller Valley packs an amazing number of fascinating things to see and do. Eroded hills, coulees, hoodoos, panoramic viewpoints show us the true beauty and diversity of nature. A world famous dinosaur museum, a swinging pedestrian bridge, a river ferry ride, and restored coal mining site show us that man-made settings can be just as beautiful.

It’s dusk at the Hoodoos Recreation Area, southeast of Drumheller, and just before the sun disappears from the western horizon, the waning light turns the sandstone towers to gold and – click – you’ve captured the spectacular moment on camera.

The ghost towns of Wayne and Dorothy offer a unique opportunity to travel back in time by simply walking a few steps from your car. Dramatic contrasts between old and new and rusted and worn buildings and machinery offer unparalleled settings. You might even capture a ghost or two on film!

3. Red Deer to Dry Island Buffalo Jump Provincial Park

Dry Island Buffalo Jump Provincial Park is the site of a historic Aboriginal buffalo jump. Take in one of the most spectacular views of the Red Deer River Valley and its badlands formations. Sunrise is an ideal time to visit this spot for amazing photos. The valley walls are bathed in rays of gold as the sun rises for the day.

A summer visit to this region offers a great opportunity to see fields of flax, canola, wheat, and more growing and blooming. Farmer and ranchers working their land and tending to their livestock give you the perfect chance to take a snapshot of how the Wild West is today.

If you are looking for a truly one of a kind opportunity, be sure to stop by Torrington and take in the Torrington Gopher Hole Museum.

4. Dinosaur Provincial Park to Medicine Hat to Cypress Hills Interprovincial Park

A splendid river valley, a park world famous for dinosaur fossils, a giant teepee, and a forested oasis amidst the short-grass prairie define this region of the Canadian Badlands.

Blackfoot Crossing Historical Park offers visitors a chance to sleep in a teepee where you can take photos of the night sky or roaring campfires. Watch the Annual World Chicken Dance Championships where colors, dance, and crowds give you the chance to capture some amazing moments.

Dinosaur Provincial Park is home to some of Canada’s most extensive badlands landscapes and is also a hotbed for fossil discovery and excavation. The coulee walls are home to unique birds, insects, and wildlife. Go for a hike and see if you can snap a shot of a scorpion hiding under warm rocks under the afternoon sun.

Frame a grazing pronghorn in Cypress Hills Interprovincial Park against a stunning background of forested slopes and valleys, untouched by glaciers during the last ice age. Lakes throughout the park offer an amazing array of panoramas.

5. Lethbridge to Writing-on-Stone Provincial Park

This short tour combines the many photogenic attractions of a scenic southern Alberta city and a spectacular provincial park. Lethbridge is a perfect setting for candid photos of vibrant urban life. A visit to the Galt Museum offers a glimpse of stunning architecture. The Oldman River Valley divides portions of Lethbridge. Viewpoints offer easy access to the vistas of this valley. Be sure not to miss the High Level train bridge.

Writing-On-Stone Provincial Park is one of the most picturesque places to visit in all of the Canadian Badlands. Complete with hoodoos, cliffs, canyons, the Milk River, and petroplyphs, the park is a must visit on any photographer’s list.

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