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The badlands, and Dinosaur Provincial Park in particular, is one of our favourite destinations during shoulder season. While the mountains still sport a layer of snow, it’s a great time to explore the badlands… before they start to broil in the summer heat. We had all but decided to camp under the cottonwood trees at Dinosaur PP. However, at the last minute we decided to stay at Kinbrook Island Provincial Park instead. Located 45 minutes south of Dinosaur PP on Lake Newell, choosing Kinbrook Island PP meant that we’d get to go kayaking as well as hiking… and as you’ll see, we were lucky in our choice.

We arrived Dinosaur Provincial Park to find a bit of commotion outside the visitors centre. A rattlesnake had decided that the signpost would make a great place to warm himself in the sun. Prairie rattlesnakes are native to the badlands and a very good reason to wear sturdy hiking boots and not to stick your limbs into dark holes. After a bit rattlesnake watching, a snack and walk on the Coulee Viewpoint trail, we headed to the trailhead the Cottonwood Flats Trail. Our plans to hike this trail was quickly kaboshed by a swarm of 10,000 or so mosquitoes. While we could have endured them, it was making us grumpy and we decided it wasn’t worth it. A beautiful trail, with lush cottonwoods and an abundance of wildlife, I highly recommend it either in the spring before the mosquitoes have hatched or in the fall. The mosquitoes hatching this past week was one of the reasons we lucked out by camping at Kinbrook Island.

When we got to our campsite at Kinbrook Island Provincial Park, we found that we had scored huge! Literally. We had a small field behind our tent as part of our site… perfect for a toddler to run, jump and play to his heart’s content. Adjacent to the marsh, flocks of pelicans and ducks flew overhead while red-winged blackbirds and yellow-headed blackbirds sang in the rushes. Though the clouds threatened, they only provided a little sprinkle and a brilliant backdrop for the sunset over the lake… Dinosaur PP wasn’t so lucky and was hit full force (the second reason that we lucked out with our choice for camping sites).

Sunshine greeted us Sunday morning and we spent the morning on the lake in our kayaks. M loved watching all the wildlife… a beaver, loons, ducks, red-winged blackbirds and yellow-headed blackbirds to name just a few I recognized. We took a break played on the beach and at the playground. We then took advantage of the relatively calm water and tried M in the hatch instead of on our lap… he loved his new viewpoint and more importantly the boat was stable even when hit by the wake of the power boats. 

After lunch back at our site, we packed up our gear and headed back to Dinosaur PP for hike on the Badlands Trail. One of my favourite toddler hikes in the park, the trail takes you through the hoodoos and the interpretive signs reveal information about the formation of the hoodoos as well as the wildlife of the area. M put his new hiking boots to the test on the rough terrain and pronounced them “comfy” (watch for an upcoming review once we put them through their paces). After a finally visit to the dinosaur playground, we then headed home through the backroads we love.

With a weekend of exploring, hiking, kayaking and camping over, we arrived home tired but satisfied. What will the next adventure hold? As explorers we have no idea… who knows which direction will entice us next weekend.

What adventures have you been enjoying? Share your stories below.

Reservations for both Kinbrook Island Provincial Park and Dinosaur Provincial Park can be made through Alberta Parks. For more family adventures and ideas at Dinosaur PP please visit Family Adventures in the Canadian Rockies recent post on the park.