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Experience Grande Cache

The footprints of thousands of dinosaurs are preserved at numerous track sites in the region. They represent a unique category of fossils known as trace fossils which preserve a record of an animal’s activity. Over its lifetime, an animal could produce millions of tracks; as a result, it is actually more common to unearth the fossilized tracks of dinosaurs than to accidently stumble upon their skeletal remains.

Northern light sky in Grande Prairie
Photo Courtesy Travel Alberta & Jeff Bartlett 

Grande Cache is located about 430 km west of Edmonton. Dinosaur footprints were first discovered here in the 1980’s by staff at the former Smoky River Coal Mine when operations exposed the rocks in which the tracks were preserved. Many of these track sites were muddy bogs 90 million years ago, but due to the upheaval of the geological layers near the Rocky Mountains, the trackways are now located on steeply angled (between 40° and 60°) footwalls.

Thousands of footprints are congregated across more than 20 track sites. All show tracks of ankylosaurs, a heavily armoured, plant-eating dinosaur that had stocky legs and a short, heavy body. In some places, traces of meat eating, bipedal theropod dinosaurs are co-mingled with a dusting of bird traces. Mr. Jim Merrithew, Supervisor of Culture and Tourism for the Town of Grande Cache, says the diversity and profusion of dinosaur tracks is certainly not seen elsewhere in Canada and in only a few rare sites worldwide.

Photo Courtesy of Melissa Williamson

Currently, public access to the trackways is restricted. Learn more about the fascinating history of these tracks through the exhibits at the Grande Cache Tourism & Interpretive Centre. Additional exhibits feature aboriginal heritage, fur trading, ice age artefacts, and full animal mounts, local industry, and tree and geological descriptions.

The Centre, which offers hiking guides, maps and loads of information about the Grande Cache area, also includes the Bighorn Gallery Gift Shop, the Esson Gale Art Gallery, and an intimate movie theatre.