I always knew I would like Grasslands National Park, from the first time I read about it when it was created, in some magazine that I subscribed to. I remember the article saying that we, as a country, had preserved many beautiful places – like Banff and Jasper, but had neglected what some folks would call “mundane” or “boring”. Then someone wonderful realized that there wasn’t much natural, untouched prairie left, and it is such an important part of Canadian history and heritage, that it should be preserved. Thus Grasslands National Park, one of the few remaining stretches of undisturbed dry mixed-grass/shortgrass prairie grasslands. I love the prairies – the skies that go on forever, the teaming wildlife – raptors circling over prey, the coyotes howling at night, just all of it. So I was going to enjoy my planned two days at Grasslands (I thought it would be nice to see, but not much to do).
I arrived very grumpy (sorry, park staff!). I had a flat tire and had to get two new tires in Minnedosa, which meant a delay and an expensive overnight. My windshield got hit by a big rock and now had a bulls eye crack. The last bit of road was gravel, and newly put down, and my little car was very skittish. The new campground (just opened) was very uncomfortable looking – totally gravel which is great for the RVs that were there, but very uncomfortable for me in a tent. The very patient park warden (is that the right word?) let me set up my tent in the overflow area, on grass (yay).
I LOVE THIS PARK – I ended up staying 5 days! I helped in a Citizen Science paleontology project for a day, I saw the badlands, I just walked on the prairies – picking a direction and walking that way for over an hour, then turning around and walking back. I thought about what it would have been like to live on this land before all the people came, or what it would have been like to be in the early wagon trains – not hard to imagine because the land is still the same, and there aren’t any people around.
As a side note, I asked a scientist what defines “badlands”, expecting some kind of biogeoclimatic answer, but the answer was that the early settlers called these lands terres mauvaise (literally bad lands) because the land was bad to bring a wagon through. How prosaic.
I was there for the Badlands Blast, which is a special annual event at the park. It ends Fossil Fever week, and is a combination of a celebration of the recent fossil finds and the early settlers. There were about 250 people there, probably only 50 of them campers – the rest were locals. It felt like we were welcomed into their celebration, the food and the singing and the dancing. A good time was had by all.
I’ll be back!