Philip J. Currie Dinosaur Museum - Atlas Obscura

Philip J. Currie Dinosaur Museum

Wembley, Alberta

Alberta's Pipestone Creek Bonebed is one of the densest fossil sites in the world. This nearby museum showcases some of the best finds from its "river of death." 


Around 72.5 million years ago, a catastrophic flash flood occurred in what is now western Alberta. The Pipestone Creek Bonebed is one of the world’s densest fossil sites. It earned the nickname “the River Of Death” because of of how it came to be filled with dinosaur fossils. Not far from the bonebed is a museum and paleontology research facility that celebrates the area’s rich history.

In 1973, local science teacher Al Lakusta started a one-man excavation of the Pipestone Creek Bonebed. Part of the Wapiti Formation, the site contains fossils that range from the Late Cretaceous to the early Paleocene. According to the CBC, Lakusta would bring fossils home and clean them in his bathtub.

When Canadian paleontologist Philip J. Currie came to investigate Pipestone Creek, he found riches in the form of dinosaur bones. Among those bones, it turned out, was a not-yet-identified species of horned dinosaur. The species was named Pachyrhinosaurus lakustai in Lakusta’s honor.

Plans for a museum near the site were discussed for many years, but did not start in earnest until the early 2000s. The original proposed name for the museum was “River of Death and Discovery Dinosaur Museum,” but it was changed to Philip J. Currie Dinosaur Museum, after the paleontologist who excavated the site. The museum is filled with interactive displays, and vistors can watch actual fossils being restored in the laboratory. During the summer, it’s possible to take a guided walk to see dinosaur fossils in their natural state.

Dan Aykroyd and his family were strong supporters of the fundraising efforts to build this museum, organizing several events and bringing celebrities all the way to northern Alberta. Patricia Cornwell was one of them and her 2012 book, The Bone Bed, is about a woman who goes missing digging in a dinosaur bed in the remote wilderness of Canada.

Know Before You Go

The museum is just off Highway 43, heading west from Grande Prairie, Alberta

In partnership with KAYAK

Plan Your Trip

From Around the Web