International Dinosaur Discoveries

Early Dinosaur History Outside the United States

How did the “Badlands” of the Red Deer River Valley form?

The badlands of the Red Deer River Valley, in Alberta, Canada, were carved by melt-water torrents when the ice sheets retreated approximately 10,000 to 15,000 years ago. There is some evidence that flash floods, rather than rivers, were the agents that created the present Badlands topography. These landscapes include narrow, winding gullies and channels; heavy erosion; steep slopes; and little or no vegetation.

During the time of the dinosaurs, this area included numerous deltas and river flood plains that extended out into a shallow, inland sea. The Late Cretaceous deposits of sand and mud often included the bodies of dinosaurs. Over millions of years, as material was laid down layer upon layer, the deposits turned into rock, fossilizing the dinosaur bones.

The advance and retreat of four glacial ice sheets over millions of years—along with other natural erosion processes by wind and water—caused significant wearing away of the area. The material on top was removed, and the exposed Cretaceous period sedimentary rocks were carved into the Badlands of today. The Cretaceous layer is known as the Horseshoe Canyon formation and is continually eroding, exposing fresh dinosaur fossils.


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