Portraits of Wildflowers

Perspectives on Nature Photography

Alberta’s badlands

with 42 comments

Three years ago today we visited the badlands east of Drumheller, Alberta.

We stopped there once near the beginning of our trip, and now again near the end.

If you’re looking for a great place to visit, this it it.

© 2020 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

September 12, 2020 at 2:16 AM

42 Responses

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  1. Wow — my Mom was raised in Winnipeg, much farther east, in the plains above North Dakota.


    September 12, 2020 at 7:15 AM

    • Though I’ve not been to Manitoba, I’ve always had the impression it’s pretty flat. An Internet search seems to confirm that. I didn’t find any mention of badlands there, but I did come across several comments about Winnipeg having a mosquito problem.

      Steve Schwartzman

      September 12, 2020 at 8:02 AM

      • If you make it to Manitoba and enjoy smoked fish, be sure and try the Winnipeg Goldeye. And, yes: Manitoba is flat, but it’s pretty. Like Saskatchewan, it’s a prairie province.


        September 12, 2020 at 8:35 AM

        • And I noticed online that Manitoba has lots of lakes, including Lake Winnipeg, which on the map looks about the same size as Lake Ontario. Both are gifts of the last ice age.

          Steve Schwartzman

          September 12, 2020 at 12:04 PM

  2. It’s nice to see this area again. I remember your visit there, and how much I enjoyed seeing the geological formations. ‘Drumheller’ is equally memorable: such an interesting name. The first photo reminds me of Monument Rocks in western Kansas. I just found a page that presents a collection of such sites in Kansas, and tucked it away under “Someday, maybe.”


    September 12, 2020 at 8:26 AM

    • And I’ve tucked away Monument Rocks since your trip there. Here’s what I found out about the name Drumheller: “Americanized spelling of German Trum(pf)heller, an occupational name for a drummer, from an enlarged form of Middle High German trumbeler ‘drummer’ (from trumbe ‘drum’ + the agent suffix -er).” I’ll certainly beat the drum for that place.

      Steve Schwartzman

      September 12, 2020 at 12:07 PM

  3. Here is mother nature’s artwork on a grand scale. The forces of wind and water may have been at work here.

    Peter Klopp

    September 12, 2020 at 8:38 AM

    • On a grand scale indeed. Perhaps you’ve been to this area already; if not, it’s not all that far from where you are, and well worth a visit.

      Steve Schwartzman

      September 12, 2020 at 12:08 PM

  4. It is pretty cool to see such drippy, gloppy looking rock.


    September 12, 2020 at 9:13 AM

    • I like your description. The only other person ever to say “gloppy” in a comment here was Linda, in 2015.

      Steve Schwartzman

      September 12, 2020 at 12:10 PM

  5. Oh wow, I had no idea they had a place like this! The rock formations are really interesting. I spied a walrus in one! 😀


    September 12, 2020 at 1:37 PM

    • A few months earlier we visited the badlands in South Dakota, which I’d known about since I was little. Shortly after that visit I was surprised to learn that Alberta also has badlands, so we made a point of including them in our trip to the Canadian Rockies. We didn’t, however, see any walruses there.

      Steve Schwartzman

      September 12, 2020 at 2:12 PM

    • It just occurred to me that there are also probably many people who don’t know Nevada has as many scenic geological sites as it does. For example, I’d never heard of Valley of Fire or Red Rock Canyon till we spent some time in Las Vegas in 2016.

      Steve Schwartzman

      September 12, 2020 at 4:41 PM

  6. Wow! this is really cool! I had no idea this sort of environment/landscape existed in Alberta!


    September 12, 2020 at 5:24 PM

    • Welcome to the club; many of us didn’t know that Alberta has badlands. Even better, those badlands are only a couple of hours ENE of Calgary, and the Rocky Mountains are just a couple of hours WNW of Calgary. As a result, a visitor can see both on the same trip, which is what we did.

      Steve Schwartzman

      September 12, 2020 at 5:34 PM

  7. Amazing formations!

    Eliza Waters

    September 12, 2020 at 8:39 PM

  8. I love the otherworldliness of badlands, be they on the cis- or the trans-side of the border.


    September 14, 2020 at 10:34 PM

    • I was happy to enter the otherworldly worlds of badlands on both sides of the U.S.–Canada border in 2017 (and also to have crossed the U.S.–N.Z. “border” that year). My three years of Latin in high school left me knowing the meaning of cis- long before its recent popularization in certain circles.

      Your mention of badlands reminded me of “Shadowlands”:

      Steve Schwartzman

      September 15, 2020 at 6:32 AM

      • I remember cis- from chemistry class, Steve, one of the few facts that stuck. 🙂

        And other than both words ending in -lands, I don’t see the connection between the badlands and the movie. Is there one? (BTW, I just ordered the film from the library, thank you for suggesting it).


        September 16, 2020 at 5:53 PM

        • My mind glommed onto the fact that both words end in -lands. There’s no other connection I’m aware of, except that the movie and the geological feature are both good. Happy viewing of the film in the days ahead, and of the badlands at a future date.

          Steve Schwartzman

          September 16, 2020 at 5:59 PM

          • Thank you, Steve, I surmised that the ending –lands triggered your neurons. The film sounds intriguing, so I look forward to it.

            We have seen the Dakota Badlands, but it was so long ago that I hope we will be able to do it again. I very much would like to return to Nebraska and keep going to both South and North Dakota. One of these days…


            September 16, 2020 at 6:35 PM

            • That’s what we did: we came up through Nebraska and into South Dakota, never having been in either state before. We used Rapid City as a base to visit Badlands National Park to the east and the Black Hills to the west; we also did a day trip over to Devil’s Tower in Wyoming. It was a great trip.

              Steve Schwartzman

              September 16, 2020 at 8:21 PM

  9. As always the images are stunning! Pondering all of that light, my eyes seemed to squint just a bit – expecting that strong light to reach the line of the equator!

    The internet sessions continue to be hit-and-miss – depending on if the neighboring restaurant is busy or not.. and today the focus is Hurricane Sally. When the mid-afternoon news replaced their movie, the owners called, ‘Lisa! Mississippi!’ — and the Latin News was giving live images of people boarding the storefront windows..It was funny to hear ‘Mississippi’ spoken with an Asian/Latin accent! They were back in the kitchen when the satellite images showed the current storm’s position.

    Youtube videos are loaded and I’ll go home and see what they say about the predicted tides and rainfall,etc. Most likely I’ll be back tomorrow when the ‘aftermath’ images will tell the storm.

    The country has moved to ‘green’ this week – things back to norm, though most of us will continue to be cautious, esp when avoiding indoor crowded restaurants.

    Playamart - Zeebra Designs

    September 15, 2020 at 4:47 PM

    • Being down near the Equator, you probably don’t need any extra light from Alberta—assuming Alberta had any to spare. Here, too, there’s plenty on the news shows about Hurricane Sally. In the summer of 2019 we drove across Mississippi’s Gulf coast, so places like Biloxi are still fresh in my mind. Your mention of an Asian/Latin pronunciation of Mississippi makes me wonder how the indigenous tribes who lived along that river actually pronounced its name. What we ended up with in English is likely to be only a rough approximation of the original.

      What you say about moving back to green this week is good news indeed. You’ve probably seen that things in the United States are tighter than that, with plenty of new cases still being registered each day. Eve and I would already have taken a couple of trips this year, but not till there’s a vaccine—which almost certainly means 2021—will we risk traveling again.

      Steve Schwartzman

      September 15, 2020 at 6:24 PM

      • I understand totally about traveling, and as much as I’d like to arrange a visit to the USA before winter, it doesn’t seem like a smart choice.
        Depending on the area of Ecuador, there are times when clouds shroud the intensity of the sun, which is good b/c the sun bites really fast – even if the temp is in the 80s.. it can be deceiving. Many times the band around the entire equator has clouds. In Jama if the sun was shining in the morning, I knew to prepare for strong winds in the afternoon. Opening the door to the balcony often produced such strong winds that anything not weighed with a book or rock would blow across the room.

        Back to your image… When I looked at it again last night that first one looked like a huge chunk of petrified tree.. I remain wondering if indeed it was/is!

        Playamart - Zeebra Designs

        September 16, 2020 at 4:09 PM

        • I didn’t know about the winds you’re subject to there. Don’t go blowing away on us.

          As I understand it, the first picture doesn’t show anything petrified. Rather it shows what’s called a hoodoo. In fact it’s the same one shown in the middle picture at:

          And here’s an article about hoodoos in general:

          I don’t think I knew about hoodoos before we traveled out west.

          Steve Schwartzman

          September 16, 2020 at 4:44 PM

          • Am now back online and see the Tropical Storms/hurricanes have leaped to ‘Beta.’ Amazing. Haven’t looked at any news/weather yet…

            Playamart - Zeebra Designs

            September 18, 2020 at 4:18 PM

            • I saw that on the news a short while ago, too. They said it’s only the second time that the namers of those storms have had to go into the Greek alphabet.

              Steve Schwartzman

              September 18, 2020 at 5:37 PM

  10. This is already high on my wish list, and you’ve helped me to cement its prominent position there. Thanks!


    September 18, 2020 at 7:04 PM

    • I had no idea how scenic southern Alberta is till we went there three years ago. My one recommendation is to go outside the main tourist season if you can. We made our first visit to this site near Drumheller in August, and tourists were all over the place. When we returned on September 12th, things were noticeably calmer. Likewise for the must-see Royal Tyrrell Museum of paleontology in the town: on our first attempt there were people standing several deep in front of the exhibits, so I traded back our tickets then and found the museum had returned to normal when we visited again three weeks later.

      Steve Schwartzman

      September 18, 2020 at 7:13 PM

      • I’ll file this for retrieval when we get our chance to pay our own visit, hopefully within the next couple of years. Thanks again.


        September 20, 2020 at 3:10 AM

        • I hope long-term storage charges won’t accrue before your retrieval. And from my memory banks I just retrieved the fact that the triev in retrieval is etymologically the same as the troub in troubadour.

          Steve Schwartzman

          September 20, 2020 at 4:28 AM

          • That is so cool. I consider myself a troubadour of a sort, and I wrote a song that is something of a saga of my life’s experiences, with that as a title. I think I may have to share it on the blog soon, and will provide you a link when I do.


            September 21, 2020 at 3:53 AM

            • Also in the group is contrive. We hope you’ll contrive to retrieve your troubadour song.

              Steve Schwartzman

              September 21, 2020 at 4:28 AM

              • Stay tuned, as we say.


                September 22, 2020 at 2:01 AM

                • You got me to thinking that people wouldn’t have said “stay tuned” before the age of radio, approximately a century ago. I was wrong: I’d forgotten about musical instruments. I went searching and quickly found a lawsuit from 1898 about a piano that wouldn’t stay tuned. Even so, “Stay tuned” in the way you used it, as an imperative, must have been rare, unless people talk to their musical instruments more than I imagine.

                  Steve Schwartzman

                  September 22, 2020 at 4:03 AM

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