Encompassing badlands and prairie Dinosaur Provincial Park (established 1955, 70 km2) lies along the Red Deer River in southeastern Alberta. The badlands, named because the land is not arable, possess an exotic beauty and contain layers of sandstone and mudstone deposited by rivers almost 75 million years ago. The sediments were carried by prehistoric rivers to the Western interior seaway, which covered the great plains region of North America. Each layer of sediment contains characteristic fossil plant and animal species of the epoch in which it was transported.
The fossilized remains of dinosaurs and other reptiles, amphibians, birds and primitive mammals are abundant, allowing scientists a detailed glimpse into a chapter of Earth's history. No other area of comparable size has produced such a diverse record of dinosaurs and their contemporaries. The hoodoos and gullies, etc, characteristic of the region, were formed as a result of erosion processes following the last Ice Age. Vegetation is sparse and desertlike (eg, cactus).
Bus tours and hikes are organized in summer and certain areas are restricted. Exhibits at the field station of the Royal Tyrrell Museum of Palaeontology are open year-round. Improved visitor facilities were opened in 1995. The park has been declared a United Nations World Heritage Site.