The photo above shows the layers of ironstone, sandstone, and mudstone, that are the key building blocks of Dinosaur Provincial Park.
Let’s look at those layers and also at how columns, like the ones along the bottom, can eventually metamorphose into the hoodoos that make the badlands so unique.
Actually, a couple have already made that transition.
Not long after the snake sign, Charlie and BJ got their first glimpse of the badlands.
And the closer they got, the better it got.
Before heading out, however, they checked the welcome signs. They’d seen them before, but these signs looked new. New information? No. The signs were just a redo to impress visitors.
Their first stop would be the parking lot, P, on the left just after they started counter-clockwise around the loop.
But then Charlie noticed a sign he couldn’t remember seeing before, A World Record, which claimed that Dinosaur has produced more species of fossils than any other spot in the world.
He already knew that fossils from Dinosaur had been shipped to museums in Drumheller, Toronto, Ottawa, New York City, and beyond, but he didn’t remember this particular sign. Nor did BJ. And it didn’t look new.
Charlie, however, unlike BJ, didn’t usually read signs, so he could easily have missed it on previous trips.
The little parking lot across the road from the trailhead for the Badlands Trail is where BJ made Charlie sit on a bench with his egg salad sandwich and tea and listen to her talk about the origins of the park, using the notes she’d made from various websites on the Internet.
She’d explained that the area had been semi-tropical, with rivers coming in from British Columbia laden with silt, which created the delta that the park sat on, and which covered the dead plant life and dinosaurs, and which eventually hardened into sandstone and mudstone formations. And on and on.
But that kind of stuff was BJ’s thing, not Charlie’s, yet he was fully aware that she’d read every sign to him out on the trails, while he’d be surreptitiously looking around for interesting light, and shapes, and textures, and only half listening. Not even half.
So let’s leave BJ for a second and look at some of the things Charlie saw.
As was said, Dinosaur Park mostly consists of three kinds of sedimentary rock: ironstone, sandstone, and mudstone. But the rock that gives these badlands their classic hoodoos is the ironstone.
Those ledges in the last shot above, especially along the top and at the bottom right, are ironstone. And that ironstone is what creates the Sleeping Giants.
Here’s how that works:
Ironstone keeps the sandstone and mudstone from eroding. It works like an umbrella. And that’s what makes possible those large hills and hoodoos.
You can see the darker, red ironstone layers in each of the photos below.
When the ironstone does begin to rust and break up, you get columns of sandstone and mudstone below the pieces of ironstone that are still intact.
And these columns, as the ironstone continues to disintegrate, gradually become hoodoos.
Eventually, though, you end up with nothing but ironstone debris.
Before we move to the next chapter and see Charlie’s notion of abstracts, it might be helpful to have a closer look at those layers, starting with mudstone at the bottom and moving up through sandstone, ironstone, and a bit of rust.
OK, now it’s time for the next chapter, unless you want to check out a couple more signs below that BJ would love to read to you if she could, but she’s already busy reading them to Charlie.
And the payoff from all this for Alberta.
One final tidbit: You may remember the technician, Dexter, from Part VII, Chapter 5, who came to service Charlie and BJ’s furnace and air-conditioner. Dexter told Charlie about photographing eagles, when he worked out at Dinosaur, that were feasting on the carcasses of deer that he’d had to shoot.
He said the deer were often on big chunks of ice that had gotten stuck on a little sandbar in the center of the river, and they weren’t able to swim to shore.
Charlie suspected he’d shot the deer to bring in the eagles, so he could photograph them. Deer can readily swim. There’s no way those deer were stuck on a sandbar.
That’s the Red Deer River below that Dexter was talking about, and that’s a typical sandbar between this shore and that little island.
My guess is that Charlie was, indeed, justified in questioning Dexter’s claims. That sandbar’s not much more than a running jump from this shore.
Copyright © Glenn E. Christianson, 2017- 2022. All Rights Reserved.
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