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Grasslands National Park of Canada

Geology and Paleontology

 

Geological and Paleontological History

The impressive 70 Mile Butte lightly dusted by snow.  It is one of the highest points in the West Block of Grasslands
The impressive 70 Mile Butte lightly dusted by snow. It is one of the highest points in the West Block of Grasslands.
© Parks Canada / James R. Page, 2001 / 08.81.03.10(65)

The Frenchman River Valley is the canvas upon which the park's West Block is painted. This glacial meltwater channel features deeply dissected plateaux, coulees, and the conspicuous 70 mile Butte which rewards the adventurous with an impressive view.

Nearly barren of vegetation, the Killdeer Badlands expose the subtle colours of their soil layers
Nearly barren of vegetation, the Killdeer Badlands expose the subtle colours of their soil layers.
© Parks Canada / James R. Page, 2001

The park's East Block features the Killdeer "Badlands" of the Rock Creek area and is representative of the Wood Mountain Uplands. The landscape is characterised by the exposed layers of Bearpaw, Eastend, Whitemud, Frenchman and Ravenscrag formations. The Killdeer badlands untouched by glaciation, reveal the multicoloured hues representing 60,000,000 years of eroded strata.

Inoceramus shell fossils from the last intercontinental seaway 70-80 million years ago
Inoceramus shell fossils from the last intercontinental seaway 70-80 million years ago.
© Parks Canada / Colette Schmidt, 2001

This striking geological landscape with hundreds of metres of exposed sedimentary rock has opened a window to the brief interval of geological time representing the extinction of dinosaurs. Indeed, the revealing landscape of the Killdeer Badlands led to the first recorded find of dinosaur remains in Western Canada in 1874, by Sir George Mercer Dawson, a geologist and naturalist to Her Majesty's North American Boundary Commission.