Story by Tom Jackson. Photos by Dax Justin/Travel Alberta

Time travel, Canadian Badlands style

Connecting to the past in Drumheller, Wayne, and East Coulee, Alberta


Drumheller is a place I’m told, you need to visit, and to experience the world of the dinosaurs. This is a soil steeped in a dry climate, that holds in its calloused hand the awe of the Dinosaur. The Royal Tyrrell Museum is the vault that houses live images of a billion years… the lab that puts the pieces of the timeless jigsaw puzzle on the table with patience and extraordinary care, reconstructing missing links in the chain of time.

I know I’m not the only one who has done this and I won’t be the last. But I am now dancing to the music of Dino rock. Perhaps I’m a little old for it, but I’m feeling young today. Hey, I’m dancing with a 115 million year old Armored Dino.

I was the second to touch one small Dino in 5 million years!

There is a never-ending sense of mystery here, as what we see is only a sliver of time and it’s a magic hard to let go of.

Some of the people here at the museum only go home from work because they have to.

I have to admit the living water fossils are a bit weird for me. Animals with no backbones… not plants. But it may be your cup of tea. You shouldn’t miss the chance to find out.

The Canadian Badlands Passion Play transforms the site into Galilee (the year 0 to Drumheller 2016). You will find value here if you’re looking for your spiritual self. Come to this place and you will find it. You might really want to be part of a story! The Greatest story ever told, on the greatest stage ever built, with one of the largest casts for theater ever assembled. Come to the Drum!

The pages of the Bible will unfold, if your spirit is wanting. You’ll want to see this. “The Passion Play”.


There is a haunted hotel in a place called Wayne – population: 29. It’s called The Rosedeer Hotel, housing The Last Chance Saloon. I didn’t meet a lot of people there, but the ones I met were wonderful and unique unto themselves – some discovering a new life, some reliving an old life, and some just living life. All in all, a common space providing comfort that followed the spirit of its hosts – present and past.

The Cook has been at The Last Chance Saloon for a year. “I nibble but I don’t bite… nibble, nibble, it’s all the same! I came here last year and I’m still here, so it must be great.”

I slept in the awesome, HAUNTED Rosedeer Hotel… with the lights on, of course.



East Coulee

In East Coulee, there are two relics. One is living, and that’s Bob. The other is a coal mine – Atlas Coal Mine. Bob is the historian who protects the history of the coalmine. He says that coal was discovered here before the Dinosaurs were discovered. Bob’s family was here, underground, in 1911. “It’s the mine that brought the Dinos”, he says with pride. “There were 35 mines in this valley before the Dinos showed up.” Bob was born in the valley, third generation underground, left in ‘60 and came back in ‘93. I asked why he returned. “The history!” He came back with his friend Ray. I asked Ray why he came. “The stories!”

Bob tells the story of how the mine sites displayed a red light that would come on in dangerous or unmanageable working conditions. When the light was off there was work. When the light was on there was no work. Subsequently, Bob says, “there was another industry that would occupy the men when the red light was on.” Bob was the Uber of the day. When the red light was on, Bob was a one-man transport company from one red light to the other red light, the Pleasure Palace.

June 19, 2016

This is Atlas Coal Mine, and we're looking at the last wooden tipple in Canada (a tipple is the structure used to transport extracted product into rail cars) and this is the last one! #mybadlands

Working underground can be precarious. When the men checked in, they passed through the “lamp shack” and were given a lamp and a copper badge. The lamp shack was the lifeline. At the end of day, it was always a priority to check that all copper badges were back in their designated spots. If not, there was a life search.

June 25, 2016

Windows of Color. Bob, a 5th generation coal miner at @atlascoalmine grew up with grit in his veins. #mybadlands

There was always music in East Coulee. Gramps played fiddle; Aunt – piano; Uncle – drums; and Bob – bagpipes and accordion.

There were three mining communities here – Drumheller, East Coulee and Wayne.

I asked Bob if he had any regrets. He said, “I regret when they amalgamated the three school districts into one school because my girlfriends all got to know each other.”

Tom Jackson
Tom Jackson is an actor, singer, producer, activist and fundraiser. He is known for the Huron Carole, and roles on North of 60, Star Trek and Law & Order. He is a passionate advocate of Canadian food banks and disaster relief efforts, as well as an Ambassador for the Canadian Red Cross. His mantra of being in service to others is secured with his choice to engage if it’s good business, good for the world, and good for the soul.