80 Million Year Old Fierce Sea Creature Found By Canadian Fossil Discovery Centre

Fiece Ancient Sea Creature Discovered by the Canadian Fossil Discovery Centre

Fierce Ancient Sea Creature Discovered by the Canadian Fossil Discovery Centre

©2008Angie Haggstrom

In the town of Morden, Manitoba sits the very exited staff of the Canadian Fossil Discovery Centre. The source of the excitement is the discovery of an 80 million year old mosasaur no far from Miami, Manitoba. The eerie prehistoric creature is said to be the biggest find in the province in more than 25 years.

The skeleton is estimated to be between 10-12 metres long and was thought to be the king of the ocean back in the day. The creature is believed to have breathed air. In its skeletal jaw, the creature sported teeth just over 5″(13cm). Even with massive teeth like that, the mosasaur could dislocate its jaw willingly to devour larger meals. The centre’s curator believes it may be an earlier relative of the snakes, a crocodile with fins, or a Komodo dragon that inhabits the earth today.

The mosasaur, named Angus, won’t be lonely at the centre. The centre has another mosasaur named Bruce who was discovered in 1974 at Thornhill, Manitoba. Other fossils have also been discovered in the same area Angus has been sleeping for millions of years making the area a priceless find.

Perhaps most interesting about this story is the fact that the ancient monster was discovered by visitors and summer students to the center during a public dig. The Discovery Centre holds all sorts of different programs and workshops not only for children and intern paleontologists, but also for the general public. They hold digs where members of the public can accompany professionals into the field to look for real dinosaur bones and not fake ones buried in the sand like with many programs. The centre also offers trained volunteer positions to those staying in the area.

The Canadian Fossil Discovery Centre holds approximately 600 different objects from the late Cretaceous period. The centre focuses purely on marine reptile fossils although it does house many different fossil plants, minerals, rocks, and invertebrates. The centre is open from 1-5 every afternoon all year around. At the time of this post, they only charge $6 per adult, $3 per student, and $12 per family. What an inexpensive afternoon!

For more information, please visit the Canadian Fossil Discovery Centre or you can learn more about Mosasaurs on Wikipedia.

(This post can also be found here: http://www.traveltheprairies.com/manitoba/80-million-sea-creature-canadian-fossil-discovery-centre/)


Mutant Fish Found Close To Alberta Oil Sands Says CBC

Imagine your children go to the dock to go fishing and catch a fish with two mouths. This is precisely what the CBC reported yesterday( see pic and news story here). The news giant said the fish came from Lake Athabasca in Wood Buffalo National Park. The fish appears normal except for the fact it has two mouths – one underneath the other. Interestingly, it was found only a fewbefore days from a water quality conference in Fort Chipewyan, Alberta.

Read the rest here: http://www.traveltheprairies.com/canada/mutant-fish-found-alberta-oil-sands/

First Solar Heated Community in Canada – Another First for Alberta

Great Green Attractions in the Canadian Prairies

Great Green Attractions in the Canadian Prairies


If you travel to Okotoks, Alberta to see The Big Rock or Head Smashed in Buffalo Jump, you may notice another unusual sight in the area. The Drake Landing Solar Community consists of 52 1500 square foot houses and 800 solar panels shining proudly from garage roofs. This is a first for North America, but the Okotoks community is even greener than you think.

The 1.5 MW collected by the community’s solar panels heats a series of pipes carrying glycol to a water heating and storage area. Then the hot water is kept underground to supply the entire community with hot water and heat during the winter. In all, the system looks after all but 10% of the heating and hot water costs of the community.

Community design and the housing itself takes environmental concerns into account as well. The first thing you may notice about the community is the proximity of the houses. Each home in the community sits close to its neighbors. The not only cuts down on the amount of piping to upkeep and repair, but it also helps to eliminate heat loss through the piping.

To conserve the heat produced by the solar panels, the underground storage cells and homes have high-rated insulation. Each home constructed in the city used only local resources and recycled materials. The community practices recycling, conservation, and other green initiatives. The total energy savings is estimated at 110.8 GJ and should eliminate 5.65 tonnes of green house gas emissions per year.

The Drake Landing Solar community isn’t the only green first in Canada. Wind farms have also begun to spread across the prairies. Makes sense when you have the amount of winds we have here. Gull Lake Saskatchewan is home to Saskatchewan’s first wind power project. The $22 million dollar project consists of 17 massive wind turbines on the bench located on the south of the Trans Canada Highway. They generate in excess of 11 megawatts of electricity.

Mcgrath Alberta is home to 20 turbines that produces enough energy to run 13 000 homes with the 30 megawatts they produce. The Chin Chute Wind Power Project in Taber, Alberta supplies the energy for another 14 000 homes with 20 turbines producing 1.5 megawatts each.

While these may not exactly be tourist attraction, they are definitely one of those things you wonder about when you see them from the highway. Canada isn’t the greenest country in the world, but it is great to see the situation improving. Come to think of it, who is the greenest country in the world?

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(Photo provided by saavem from Stock.Xchng)

(This post can now be found here: http://www.traveltheprairies.com/alberta/first-solar-heated-community-canada-alberta/)

The Great Migration is Upon Us! Shorebirds and Endangered Species Heading for Chaplin Saskatchewan

The Piping Plover - Saskatchewans Endangered Species

The Piping Plover - Saskatchewan's Endangered Species

Click Here to Hear the Piping Plover


More than 100 000 birds descend on Chaplin, Saskatchewan, Canada every fall for breeding as well as a gathering site where they will prepare and rest for the long journey south for the winter. This might now sound that amazing until you see the sheer numbers of birds and variety of species that collect here starting in September.

This area has become so vital to the survival of songbird species, the area was designated as a Western Hemispheric Shorebird Reserve Network site in 1997. (For those who are like me, not an avid bird watcher, this is the highest reserve designation possible and is one of only five in Canada.) More than 30 species have been recorded in the area. In some instances, more than half of the entire population of a species can be found in the area at once. This brings forth scary thoughts especially when it comes to the large number of endangered species here such as the Piping Plover.

Four lakes (Chaplin, Reed, Old Wives, and Fredrick) are all within close proximity to each other make the area the ideal location for large bird populations. In fact, not far away is Cabri and the South Saskatchewan river. Here large numbers of bald eagles and geese nest every year.

The Chaplin Lake itself is a massive saltwater lake that literally sits in the middle of the prairie and the second largest in Canada. This lake not only attracted birds, however. A sodium sulphate also operates in the area a short distance away. It is easy to spot. The company uses the heat from the sun to evaporate the water and leave behind the crystal white mounds and streams that mar the area. It smells terrible, but it really is interesting to see.

These birds are truly remarkable, and with so many important species and rituals occurring in one place, it is also one of the most important locations in North American. Without this area, hundreds of species would be gone from this planet forever. If you would like additional information on the Chaplin area’s reserve, you can visit the Western Hemisphere Shorebird Reserve Network or visit Saskatchewan Tourism.

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(This post can now be found here: http://www.traveltheprairies.com/saskatchewan/great-migration-shorebirds-endangered-species-chaplin-saskatchewan/)

The Journey of a Lifetime: Churchill, Manitoba’s Hudson Bay Quest

Hudson Bay Quest - Churchill, Manitoba

Hudson Bay Quest - Churchill, Manitoba


For anyone how travels to Churchill, Manitoba on March 21, 2009, the sound of dogs barking will be unmistakable. The Hudson Bay Quest is a 400 km self-sufficient dog sled race running from Churchill to Arviat, Nunavut along historic lines used by the Hudson Bay Company. The typical four-day event is an exciting celebration of the history of dog mushing and Canadian culture.

Created by the owner of Wapusk Adventure owner Dave Daley and a group of fellow mushers, the race was intended on growing the sport of traditional dog sledding. Now in its sixth year, it is one of the most popular events in the area. Approximately 20 teams take off on the morning of the first day and endure extreme cold, winds, polar bears, and the wild to make it to the other end.

The skill and endurance needed for this race is nothing short of absolutely amazing. Miriam Korner, fellow Saskatchewan freelance writer and photographer, is the only female to enter the race and was able to sum up the race perfectly. When asked what her goals for the race were, she replied “Don’t get wet, don’t get lost, don’t get eaten by polar bears, and finish the race with happy dogs.” For a native of Germany, her fifth place finish is nothing short of an unbelievable feat. For more stories of life out on the trail, read the interesting anecdote at the bottom of her interview with Sleddogcentral.com. It’s one of those ‘that was too close’ moments that I’m sure brought on a few other words!

The entire event finishes off with a fantastic banquet and awards ceremony for various categories including the best lead dog and the unofficial ‘Best Snotsicle Award,’ which according to their website was 2.53 inches for anyone interested. To put that in perspective, I was once told that spit freezes in mid air at minus 50. I have no idea how cold it has to be for a snotcicle, but I could just about imagine what it would take to form an amazing natural phenomenon such as that.

The race itself is not for the faint hearted. Many of the mushers and teams simply can’t take the extreme conditions and grueling pace the race requires (and there is no way most could, be it 2-legged or 4!). It is not without its tragedies either. The participants all learn a lot about the art of mushing and survival while making life-long friendships with those who share their passion. For spectators, however, it is an unforgettable, nail-biting event.

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(Picture provided by ukpicker at Stock.Xchng)

(This post can now be found here: http://www.traveltheprairies.com/manitoba/churchill-manitoba-hudson-bay-quest/)

New Baby Giraffe Introduced to Calgary Zoo Visitors

*This is a video of the new baby giraffe at the San Francisco Zoo. Lots of great images and information!

©2008Angie Haggstrom

June 29th, 2008 brought a new life to the Calgary Zoo in Calgary, Alberta, Canada after a long 15 month pregnancy. One week later, on August 5th, loving mom Carrie and her beautiful unnamed daughter stepped out into the sunshine of their African Savannah side pen. Zookeepers will introduce them slowly to their herd to ensure that everything goes smoothly with a minimum amount of stress on the baby and the herd.

Fifteen-year-old Carrie is very loving and caring mother, but she is also very private and protective of her beautiful baby girl. The little unnamed calf is flourishing under her mother’s care and very curious about her new surroundings. She is the second calf born at the zoo, and with the string of unfortunate deaths the zoo has been experiencing, she is a welcome sight to all.

New animal babies are always good news, but for conservationists and animal experts, a new baby giraffe is very important. In the wild, giraffe numbers are continuing to dwindle, but the species is not endangered. Best of all, the baby giraffe isn’t the only new baby at the zoo. A one year old baby elephant named Malti and a three month old baby gorilla named Yewande are also residents of the Calgary Zoo.

The Calgary Zoo, which began in 1929, is the second largest zoo in Canada and features more than 1000 animals and approximately 290 different species. The entire zoo is divided up into a series of different ecosystems that allow you to travel the entire globe in one afternoon.

There is an Arctic and Antarctic exhibit complete with animals that are both alive and extinct including dinosaurs and penguins. Austrailia, Botanical Gardens, Eurasia, the Dorthy Harvie Conservatory, and the African sections include both indoor and outdoor exhibits that are complete with vegetation, animals, and climate that mimic the real locations. If bats and other nighttime creatures are your thing, be sure to check out the ‘Creatures of the Night’ exhibit. Be warned however, the reptile and nighttime exhibits aren’t the greatest places for those who are extremely squeamish.

Children and adults both love the zoo’s Primates exhibit. All sorts of primates can be seen playing and interacting in the exhibit. The Prehistoric Park is also another popular exhibit. The life-sized dinosaurs roam through a recreated ecosystem. Last but not least is the vast Canadian Wilds exhibit. Be sure to make note of the actual size of the elk, moose, and bears in the exhibit — Let’s just say that television is very deceiving.

The Calgary Zoo has a lot more to offer its visitors. With admission running between 8-18 dollars, the zoo is actually one of the most inexpensive ways to spend an afternoon. Pretty amazing considering the costs of running the zoo and caring for all the animals. The zoo also provides all kinds of interactive programs and educational activities that prove to be a valuable and memorable experience for all. Finally, the zoo also accommodates large groups and functions. They also have an “Osprey Cam” where you can see right into the bird’s nest. (The hatching video is FANTASTIC!)

If you fall in love with the zoo, consider sponsoring an animal or giving a donation for yourself or giving it as a gift to someone!

*NOTE: The Calgary Zoo is hoping to release a video of the giraffe’s birth online. If they do (and it is locatable), I will provide the video or at least a link so that you can also witness the birth!

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(This post can now be found here: http://www.traveltheprairies.com/alberta/baby-giraffe-calgary-zoo/)

Massive Mountain Rock Travels More Than 200 Miles from the Rocky Mountains

Fascinating Alberta Travel Destinations

Fascinating Alberta Travel Destinations


Imagine, a massive 17 ton rock falls more than 200 miles from the mountains and lands in the middle of the prairie landscape. That is exactly what happened in Okotoks, Alberta, Canada. How about that for a fascinating stop in your Alberta travel plans?

Of course the idea that this massive rock rolled just shy of 250 miles isn’t possible. This large chunk of quartzite, known simply as ‘The Big Rock’ or ‘Okotoks Erratic Rock,’ was actually carried away by glacier ice more than 10 000 years ago. Quartzite is one of the hardest substances on earth, but this trait also makes it very fragile.

Experts believe that an ancient rockslide caused this piece of mountain to land on a glacier that was flowing down the Athabasca River that once flowed wildly past Jasper. Eventually, the glaciers began to melt and deposited into the middle of the grassland. As one traveler wrote about in his post, the local Aboriginals have their own unique story about the rock’s origins. For more information see this great page from Alberta Heritage.

The true magnitude of the stone is understood when you stand beside it. It has a way of humbling you and giving you a true perception of size and the realities of this world. It isn’t the only one. In fact the region from Jasper into the northern half of Montana is known as the Foothills Erratics Train and is the largest in North America.

If you do decide to travel to Okotoks, there are many other interesting things to do in and around the region. Several different tours are available that will take you through Okotoks and throughout Kananaskis and the Foothills. The town is only a 15 minute drive from Calgary.

The beautiful outdoors attracts people here from all over the world. In the winter, the region has some of the best skiing, snowboarding, snowshoeing, and cross country skiing in the country. Snowmobiling is a popular activity with the local residents and tourists alike.

For summer travel plans, there are tons of beautiful trails that you can hike, ride, and drive. The Cowboy Trail is a great opportunity to experience real modern life on a ranch with a taste of the area’s history. Water sports such as water skiing, whitewater rafting, kayaking, and canoeing are also popular sumer activities in the region.

How about a visit to the Chinook Honey Company? You get to tour a real bee keeping operation in action. You get to see how the honey gets from the bee to the table as well as other delicious treats and interesting items such as beeswax candles, beauty products, honey mead, and honey chocolate! They offer tours and tastings all year around.

Head Smashed in Buffalo Jump

Head Smashed in Buffalo Jump

One site embedded deep in the local Aboriginal culture is the World Historic Site known as Head Smashed in Buffalo Jump. (Virtual tour anyone? It takes a few extra seconds to load, but it is the next best thing to being there.) For almost 6 000 years, the local tribes would chase the buffalo up this massive cliff and run them off the edge. The buffalo would fall approximately 10 meters and either die or be hurt badly enough that the people could kill them The meat, bones, hides, and every aspect of the animal was used for many necessities such as food, clothing, shelter, and tools.

Many more sites and scenes are hidden throughout the region. The natural history of the land and the deep culture of the people here are displayed for all the world to explore. Whether you arrive by plane, car, bike or two feet, there is something for everyone in Okotoks.

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(This post can now be found here: http://www.traveltheprairies.com/alberta/massive-mountain-rock-travels-200-miles-rocky-mountains/)