Tag Archives: royal tyrrell museum

Walking With Dinosaur Gardens

Time is running away, and there’s not that much time left until next weekend’s Reptile and Amphibian Day hosted by the Dallas-Fort Worth Herpetological Society, but there’s time for a subject currently near and dear to my heart. Namely, dinosaur gardens. This is what I get for dreaming last night about building a vivarium arrangement in tribute to the classic Lost Spider Pit scene from King Kong. I may even pull it off this weekend, and if I do, there WILL be photos.

To start, I could refer you to the single greatest tribute to Mesozoic Era flora I have yet to view, the Cretaceous Garden exhibit at the Royal Tyrrell Museum in Drumheller, Alberta, but that wouldn’t be fair. It’s not fair because ongoing renovations mean you won’t be able to see it again until next year. When it reopens, though, it’ll probably be as glorious as it was when I visited it in 2006.

If you’re open to travel, and you can get out there before the end of the month, Trey Pitsenberger brought up Plantosaurus Rex, the current exhibition at the Conservatory of Flowers in San Francisco. The way my schedule runs right now, I have no chance of getting out there before it closes on October 21, but that shouldn’t stop anybody else.

A bit closer to home, we have permanent exhibitions in Austin, with the Hartman Prehistoric Garden set up to take advantage of dinosaur tracks and indigenous animal fossils. With the heat breaking in Austin, it’s actually safe and sane to go outdoors when the big yellow hurty thing is in the sky, and I speak from experience when I say that now is the time to head out that way. (Twenty years ago, I heartily looked forward to road trips to Austin for the Armadillocon science fiction convention held around this time in October, and I pretty much stopped going when Armadillocon moved to the end of August.) In fact, try to make a road trip of it and head down to the San Antonio Botanic Garden for its Dinosaur Stampede exhibition (PDF) while you’re at it.

Much closer to home this time of the year, the Heard Natural Science Museum in McKinney is hosting its annual Dinosaurs Live! exhibition, complete with a Halloween wander through the dinosaurs on October 20. I generally tell myself not even to consider events the weekend before a big show, but this might be worth hitting just as a break after repottings and trimmings.

The weekend after the Halloween at the Heard event, we have something peripherally related. Namely, the Dallas Palaeontological Society and the Palaeontological Society of Austin host the 30th annual Fossilmania in Glen Rose on the weekend of October 26. Speaking as a longtime attendee, this isn’t just an opportunity to view and purchase fossils, both plant and animal, but it’s an excuse to visit Dinosaur Valley State Park and view the famed Glen Rose dinosaur tracks. Again, because of the lack of crippling heat, wandering around and viewing the scenery, especially alongside the two 1964 World’s Fair dinosaurs at the front of the park, gives a lot of inspiration for palaeo-based gardening.

Finally, no guarantees on this, but the Czarina and I have some personal good news involving upcoming museum events. Namely, the Perot Museum of Nature and Science in Dallas just announced that it plans to open a month early, on December 1. Seeing as how we married under the Protostega skeleton in the old Dallas Museum of Natural History a decade ago next December, we’ve been contemplating having some sort of event for our tin anniversary at the Museum. Anybody interested in coming out on December 28 to celebrate?

Prehistoric gardens

Five years ago next month, my in-laws were in the middle of a massive and thorough house renovation, so they considered “stay at home and watch as the air conditioning went blasting through the holes in outside walls and through the missing floorboards, or go someplace with more amenable weather.” To their credit, they decided that this was the perfect time to go to Canada. Banff, Alberta, specifically. Considering that at that point I hadn’t been in Canada in 30 years, and even then only to Ontario, I certainly wasn’t going to argue about a family expedition. That is, until we got into the rental car and the Czarina suddenly panicked about on which side of the road Canadians drive.

(Now you have to understand that I love the Czarina in the way I love oxygen, a steady supply of drinkable water, and the ability to pull off a really good fart joke when being chased by mobsters, ninjas, and dinosaurs. However, telling her that the Oxford Dictionary definition of “credulous” has her picture next to it works every time. A perfect example was when the whole extended clan went on a jaunt through the trails in Canmore Nordic Centre Provincial Park, and we passed what once was the hinge to a gate, still attached to a tree. It looked like a spigot attached to the tree, so the Czarina asked about its purpose. “It’s for gathering pine syrup,” I said. “Canadians only use pine syrup on their pancakes. They save that maple crap for Americans who aren’t smart enough to know better.” I had her going for a full ten minutes until she saw me fighting laughter, and then OH MY GOD THE BEATINGS, as Jeff Somers would say.)

I don’t want to intimate that I don’t love the Czarina’s family. Anything but. It’s just that usually their idea of fun is a bit different than ours. While everyone else wanted to go white-water rafting, we were loading the car for a sidetrip to the Royal Tyrrell Museum in Drumheller. After arriving in Calgary before driving to Banff, the car rental clerk asked our plans for our vacation, and when I brought up the word “Drumheller”, this poor Newfoundland girl just shuddered. “It’s so FLAT.” I simply responded “In other words, just like North Texas.” And it is. The only realy difference between Calgary and Fort Worth is that the latter has a surplus of cactus and a drought of Mounties, and the only way we were absolutely sure we hadn’t teleported to West Texas on our way to Drumheller was noting that all of the highway signs listed kilometers instead of miles.

Anyway, the Royal Tyrrell Museum actually managed to exceed its reputation in the US. Its Burgess Shale exhibit was the next best thing to seeing the actual formation, and its dinosaur collection is simply incredible. (This includes the life-sized Albertosaurus and Pachyrhinosaurus models out in front. With the latter, I couldn’t resist a Steve Irwin pose, and I’m glad I wasn’t deported.) The most intriguing draw, though, was the spectacular Cretaceous Garden. In particular, one glass wall looks over the Drumheller badlands, giving a particularly poignant comparison between the conditions 90 million years ago and now.

Not that the Cretaceous Garden is the only one of its type, even on the continent. For instance, the Zilker Botanical Garden in Austin has the Hartman Prehistoric Garden, similarly planted with flora comparable to that in the area during the Cretaceous. I just wonder, though, what would it take to set up a similar garden here in Dallas?