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Red Rock Coulee

SignMany features make Red Rock Coulee a special site to visit. Bedrock is close to the surface in this area, covered by only a thin layer of soil. Water erosion has carved the landscape over time and a badlands topography has formed in places. The bands of colour visible in the exposed bedrock are made of dark gray shales, greenish and gray sandstones, bentonitic clays and thin bands of ironstone.

The most striking features of this landscape are the round reddishSandstone Concretions boulders. These are sandstone concretions and at up to 2.5 metres in diameter, they are among the largest in the world. The boulders were formed in prehistoric seas as layers of sand, calcite and iron oxide collected around a nucleus formed by shells, leaves or bones. The concretions grew larger as the Sandstone Concretions circulating waters deposited more layers. The reddish colour comes from iron oxide.  Look carefully at the concretions - you may be able to see their "growth rings" (layers of sediment deposition) and fossilized shells, leaves or bones.

On the uplands above the coulees, grasslands contain colourfulWildflowers wildflowers such as Prairie Crocus and Yellow Umbrella Plant and provide habitat for Richardson's Ground Squirrel. Sagebrush, juniper and cactus grow on the coulee walls. Some of the species that have adapted well to the harsh, dry conditions of Red Rock Coulee include the White-tailed Jackrabbit, Mule Deer, Pronghorn, Prairie Rattlesnake, Bullsnake, Eastern Short-horned Lizard and Scorpions. Prairie Falcon, Western Meadowlark, Sprague's Pipit, Longspurs and Rock Wren are among the birds sighted.

A visit to Red Rock Coulee Natural Area is a great opportunity to observe unusual geological features and prairie plants and animals. There are picnic tables and pit toilets available. You are in rattlesnake country here, so proceed with caution while hiking. Wet weather may make walking conditions very slippery on the clay surface of the coulees. Please do not drive motorized vehicles into the Natural Area. The vegetation and soils can be damaged very easily.

For more information on Red Rock Coulee visit the following sites:

Reprinted with permission from "Alberta's Natural Areas" with permission from Alberta Sustainable Resource Development.

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