RDRWA Outreach Update - Out & About (July 2016)


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Click HERE for a video of Camp Phoenix


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Click HERE for a video of Dickson Dam and Reservoir

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Submitted by Janessa Matthew


A hiking story: Our day at Dry Island Buffalo Jump and Fyten Lea

Amanda Duern, the RDRWA’s Communications Assistant, reflects on a recent RDRWA event that saw over 30 people explore Dry Island Buffalo Jump Park and the Nature Conservancy’s Fyten Lea site.

On behalf of the entire team at the Red Deer River Watershed Alliance, I would like to give my thanks to all those involved with our recent “Hiking Learning Journeys” at Dry Island Buffalo Jump Provincial Park and the Nature Conservancy of Canada’s Fyten Lea site. Our many thanks to the Town of Trochu for their sponsorship of the day, which allowed participants to attend at no cost and to enjoy a delicious BBQ lunch. We really appreciated Trochu Councilors Bill Cunningham and Mark Garneau joining us for the day. Thank you, also to long-time RDRWA volunteers Rob & Tjarda Barratt for being our guides and sharing their extensive knowledge of the area (and for welcoming us into their home!). Thank you, also to Alia and Kalene from Nature Conservancy of Canada for touring us around the beautiful Fyten Lea site. We thank all other participants for sharing their knowledge throughout the day. If anyone wishes to publish their photos on the RDRWA website, please feel free to contact me by email at communicationoutreach@rdrwa.ca.

We started the day at Rob and Tjarda Barratt’s, and we then carpooled in groups to drive the few kilometers over to the North End of Dry Island Buffalo Jump Park. The group headed out along the edge of a farmer’s field bordering a steep ridge overlooking the park. The hilly forests transitioned into sandy hills, and upon approach, we start to see the stripes of sediment layers representing 65 million years of geological history. The group’s guides, Rob and Tjarda Barritt, began to explain the history and geography of the park. They explained that the North side of the park has little to no human footprint and that we would be visiting a famous Royal Tyrell dig site. Rob explained how the landscapes here are unique in that they were not created by fault movements or folded over onto other faults (like the Rocky Mountains), these formations were formed by massive glaciers that cut through the earth exposing the sediment layers as they moved at the end of the last ice age 10,000 years ago. The sediment layers provide consecutive year-by-year history of the landscape, from today down into 65 million years. With that explanation, the group left the grassland area and headed straight down into another ecosystem, the badlands. On our descent, the temperature increased steadily. The view was breathtaking with our eyes not knowing where to settle in amidst all the detail of the carved ridges in the hoodoos, the caverns for the burrowing animals, the vast ravines and cliffs, or the odd bright flower and sprouting cactus amongst the scattered shrubs. We made our way to the photo location where Tjarda passed around photos of the same hoodoo from 1946. Climbing the formation, I was sure I could not be the only one who felt as though I was channeling my inner mountain goat balancing on 2/3 inch wide ridges sculpted at 45 to 90 degree angles. To all stand on the top of these steep structures felt like a group victory as Joey Temple, our Outreach Coordinator, snapped our group pictures.

Pressing on with the temperature steadily increasing, we trekked another kilometer or so to the dig site. Here Rob spoke out about the paleontologists, whom he got to know personally, and the remaining fossils. It is speculated that 20-30 Albertasaurs were lost in an event such as a fire because of all the petrified wood found in the same small area. A total of 23 complete skeletons were excavated. The excavation was completed in 2010, but the Royal Tyrrell Museum of paleontology left a plaque to mark the location. Dry Island Hike 2016


















After a snack and water break, we decided to start hiking to the actual Dry Island – or “mesa”. Here we transitioned again from one ecosystem to another. From the heat of the badlands and the dry arid sand, we walked directly into the veil of the forest onto a muddy and mossy floor.

Dry Island Hike 2016

After so much time under the hot sun, this was a welcome break, but we didn’t have much time in the cool of the forest as we swiftly arrived at the top of Dry Island, with a breathtaking view of the entire park.

Dry Island Hike 2016

Here, Bill Cunningham pointed out the other side of the park far off in the distance, to the picnic site and the Buffalo Jump at least 3 kilometers away. Just in time for my water to run out, we looped around the ridge to head back. Although we could see where our cars were parked – only a kilometer away from hilltop to hilltop – we know it’s almost 3 kilometers by foot. After trekking back through the cool forest, we stopped at the riverbed excavation, and Rob explained that the sturgeon bones being excavated here are almost identical to today’s sturgeon – they are “living fossils”.

Dry Island Hike 2016The thought brings so many questions to mind: why has this species evolved so little over time? Why has this species survived when so many others have gone extinct? Rob went on to say that the excavators had hoped to set up a canopy for the site, but without approval from the park, they were left with a tarp as the only option to protect the dig site. Motivated by lunch, the pace for the rest of the way back to the vehicles was much quicker. As Rob commented, Josée set a break neck pace.

We then carpooled to the Fyten Lea location, just a few minutes drive away, and enjoyed the food and refreshment in the shade with several dachshund pups for our entertainment. RDRWA Board member Alia Snively spoke about the Nature Conservancy Canada’s goal in the Red Deer Region to protect the grassland ecosystem in this area. As only 17 percent of the original Alberta foothills fescue grassland remain intact, the Nature Conservancy has conserved 7,640 acres in this region through land purchases, donations, and conservation easements. The Fyten Lea site was stunningly beautiful. We hiked over to a cliff overlooking the Red Deer River with another humbling view, and I paused to reflect on the fact that this view is millions of years of history in the making. I captured a few more photos of the awesome panoramas, and of the wild mushrooms in the cutline. I was very grateful to head back to escape any more heat from the sun and feeling a deep respect for our Earth and the organizations that I have the honor to work with at the Red Deer River Watershed Alliance.

Submitted by Amanda Duern - Communications Outreach Assistant


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