philip j currie dinosaur museum

A Real Jurassic Park – Grande Prairie, Alberta

I am no dinosaur nut and I most certainly don’t follow paleontology news but when we heard that one of the densest dinosaur dig sites in the world was on our route to Alaska…we knew we had to check it out.

Grande Prairie, Alberta is directly on route to the Alaskan Highway and it’s commonly noted as a good place to fuel up, stuff the fridge with groceries and take care of those last minute auto or RV services needed before hitting the ALCAN…and that’s about all the majority of Alaska travelers like us knew about this small town.

But it’s about to get a lot more interesting!  With a spankin’ new dinosaur museum, bone bed tours, volunteer programs, educational programs and even helicopter tours of the dig sites…Grande Prairie is no longer a simple pass-through town, it’s a worthy destination to add to the #AlaskaBound journey.

Grande Prairie Alberta

The new Philip J Currie Dino Museum is scheduled to open later this year and while we couldn’t experience what will be, we did manage to talk our way into a “hard hat” preview of the new digs (pun intended).

We kicked things off with a quick but exhilarating areal tour of the big dig site. It all felt very Jurassic Park-esque with the flowing Wapiti river below and lush treetops nearly touching our helicopter’s skids (that’s the landing ‘feet’).  I found myself searching left and right hoping to see a giant tyrannosaur head pop up above the tree line and look up at us as we zoomed by (sadly, no such luck).

Once we landed back at the museum we wandered around the mostly empty halls with the education coordinator (she was chock full of dino excitement) who gave us grand mental visions of the coming interactive displays, what local dinosaurs looked like and she even showed us a sneak peek at the working fossil lab.

The museum is named after Paleontologist Dr. Philip Currie who is the real life version of Dr. Alan Grant in the Jurassic Park movies (seriously, they modeled the character after Dr. Currie according to sources).  So…if you ever find a dinosaur on your travels, you now know who to tell about it, the one and only world famous Dr. Currie.

It was a school teacher back in 1974 that discovered the first bone here in Grande Prairie.  Since then, the discoveries just keep coming and it’s led to this new state of the art museum way out here in the middle of nowhere…yet only a few miles from the digging action.  The museum will take visitors on a journey from paleo to petroleum (which just sounds cool).

The museum isn’t open yet so if you are Alaska bound and headed towards Grande Prairie, you’ll want to check the website to see what’s going on and if there’s something fun you can join in on.  Oh, and if you’re traveling with kids it’s an incredible educational stop and I did notice the children’s programs are already in full swing.

If you like flight and archeology then spring for the heli-tour, otherwise save the dough and take the $5 bus out to the dig site for a short hike and close-up viewing of the dig location.

Where We Parked It

What made this an extra fun, and interesting, stop to us is that we were able to camp at Pipestone Creek, which is just a few miles from the largest dig site in the area (and one of the largest in the world).  It’s a nice county run park set back off the main roads that runs along the wapiti river.  It’s a peaceful and beautiful area that is big favorite of the locals on the weekends and we can totally see why. However…bring your bug spray, bug zappers and the entire anti-bug arsenal because the prehistoric mosquito’s here will physically carry you away and leave your bones to be discovered alongside the hydrosaurs!


Road Report

Fuel Prices – Gas and Diesel were fairly priced sitting around 1.07 per liter for unleaded.  They do have a Costco so fuel up there if you’re a member, it’s some of the cheapest fuel you’ll see for a while.

Road Conditions – The road leading into and out of Grande Prairie is in excellent condition. However, the roads leading to the campground are dirt and when wet are very muddy.  But get used to it because if you’re headed to Alaska, there is a lot more of that coming your way!

Dates Visited – May 29 – June 1, 2015

Have you ever visited a dig site or a really cool dino museum?  Share your story or favorite museum stops in the comments below!

Disclaimer – A big thanks to our hosts Pipestone Creek Campground and the Phillip J. Currie museum for taking the time to give us the behind the scenes tour.

Hello there! I honestly don’t know what to say, so I am going to tell you a bunch of random facts instead. I'm a fish eating vegetarian who hates spiders and loves snakes. I almost never took vacations growing up. I wanted to be Pippi Longstocking (still do). I misspell about every other word I write and still struggle with grammar. I love splurging on a good high tea (which is really hard to find these days). And whatever you do, don’t tell me I can’t do something, because then I'll HAVE to do it!

Comments (27)

  • Carol

    You don’t have to go all the way to Alaska to see a great dig site–in fact, you don’t even have to leave your home state of Texas. The Waco Mammoth Site has recently been designated as the Waco Mammoth National Monument.

  • Thank you for sharing! My eldest son is OBSESSED with dinosaurs. We’ve already put the dig site/museum in Texas (I think) on our list of places we need to visit once we hit the road as a family. Going to add this to our list for when we travel through Canada!

  • Preston

    If your coming back thru Grande Prairie please stop by GO RV I think the staff would be very intrested in meeting you and hearing about living in a camper

  • Norah

    More tips for when you next come back to Alberta.
    Dinosaurs! Oh yeah, we’ve got them, big time.
    The Royal Tyrrell Museum in Drumheller is an amazing museum…if you’re into dinosaurs. The unfortunate part is that it’s in Drumheller, which I am sure has a lot of offer, I’m just not sure what that is yet. Drumheller is the northern most point of what is called the Badlands, headed south from there is Dinosaur Provincial Park. If you’re going to check out the Badlands (which I highly recommend) start from the south in Writing on Stone Provincial Park and them up towards Dinosaur Provincial Park. Then hang a left and head to Calgary…unless you’re into dinosaurs, then go to Drumheller.
    Since I expect that you’ll head back to Lake Louise one day, you can book a Burgess Shale hike through the Yoho Info centre in Field BC (20 minutes from Lake Louise). The Burgess Shale is a UNESCO protected site and a treasure trove of trilobite fossils. Because it is protected, you cannot go up there without a guide (looting and the whatnot). Again super cool if you’re into dinosaurs, but who cares! The hikes are Amazing! Mt. Stephen is the shorter and horrifically steeper; the Burgess Shale hike is something like 25km long, but it’s a gentle grade and the views are spectacular. You can actually do the hike by yourself, but you won’t go up into the Shale, unfortunately I cannot remember the name of the hike to save my life.
    If you do plan to come back, feel free to get in touch. I have a lot of connections in the tourism biz and would be happy to hook you up.

  • Love your posts about your adventures! My husband and I are full-time teardropping campers with plans to go to Alaska next summer. Your posts definitely are helpful as we plan our trip. Thanks for a fabulous website!

  • A

    In southern Alberta at Drumheller is the Royal Tyrrell Museum Just across the bourder to the west in BC is Burgess Shale site The whole provice is a paleontologist’s dream!

  • I was surprised when you didn’t stop at Drumheller, AB near Calgary. It’s also all about the dinos but the whole “town” is geographically awesome. It’s like another world!

    • oh man, sounds neat. Oh well, you can’t do it all in one trip so we’ll just have to add it to the “list”.

  • Ann

    Have you decided not to name your new rv? Or are you just waiting for the “aha” moment? Is this the first rv you’ve leased and not purchased? I don’t remember your discussion on leased vs. buy, could you touch on the pros and cons of that and why it was a good decision for you? (Or send me to the blog where you discussed it already)

    • yea there were a ton of elk in the park we just didn’t see any…however we did see plenty out and about.

  • Dennis

    Great post. I had to look at the river pic twice to find singa.. It was a “where’s Singa” moment

  • I highly recommend Ashfall Fossil Beds We were traveling to the Black Hills with another couple. (each in our own RV) and stumbled across this site in the “Middle of Nowhere”, Nebraska. It is a wonderful site with a museum building which covers the major portion of the archeological dig. It is an active dig so my may get to interact with an archeologist.
    Ashfall Fossil Beds State Historical Park is located 4 miles east and 6 miles north of Orchard, NE,
    or 2 miles west and 6 miles north of Royal, NE, or 7 miles west and 3 miles south of Junction of Hwy 14 & 59

  • Bruce Neumeister

    So, how are you liking the gas powered coach? Do you miss the diesel power and ride features badly? All review opinions would be helpful…thanks!

    • We’ll get to that soon Bruce, keep in mind we’ve only been in this coach for a month and its been pedal to the metal sine day one.

  • Marlin Stevens

    If you ever get over to Utah, check out Dinosaur National Monument. It is located on the border between Colorado and Utah. One of the biggest finds around, the digsite has been completely enclosed in a building for many years. Thousands of dinosaurs embedded in the old Lake Bonneville lake bed. So many they are intertwined with each other and it takes an expert to tell one bone from the other.

    Quick stop on your way to Canyonlands.

    I have now put Grande Prairie on our list of stops for Alaska later this year. Thanks.

  • Olivia

    I’ve recently found your videos on YouTube and love watching your travels vlogs and blogs. I wish I heard from you guys everyday! Have you ever considered doing a daily vlog on YouTube? If you do consider doing this you might generate a lot more subscribers to your channel!
    Best of luck, Olivia

    • Thanks for the comment Olivia, we have considered a daily vlog but it’s just not what we want to do at this time. Putting together quality videos, travelling, writing and editing photos is already more than a full time job. Also it’s nice to have new subscribers to share our story but we always say it’s quality over quantity 🙂

  • CootersOnTheGo

    With every update I wish more and more that this was an Alaska year for us. Guessing it won’t be for another year or two but man am I looking forward to it. At least by then I will be able to partake in all of the Dino activities.

    Thanks for the awesome updates!

  • what a super cool discovery! Love these kind of hidden gems. The aerial tour looks awesome.


    • Nina,
      It was a total bummer because the dig site was temporarily closed for updates to the trail and viewing area. Our original plan was to fly over the area then hike in to see the dig site up close. Oh well, we still had fun, can’t wait to see the place in full swing when it opens in a couple months.


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