Red Rock Coulee will make you feel like you’ve visited the planet Mars.
In this part of the Canadian Badlands, about 50-60 kilometres southwest of Medicine Hat , Alberta, when the sun is low in the sky, the entire landscape burns with a golden, orange glow that I have never seen before. The best time to visit is around dawn or at dusk.
Not a lot of people here. No fast food. No interpretive centre. At Red Rock Coulee you are alone under the big sky. Alone with the landscape. An occasional deer, the threat of rattle snakes and the tell-tale signs of ranching (grass, water, fence posts) in the far distance are the only reminders of life.
Round, redish sandstone concretions up to 2.5 metres in diameter, among the largest in the world, are scattered about the place in a haphazard fashion. They were formed in prehistoric seas out of materials like shells and plants, and then grew in size by collecting sand, sediments and minerals from the surrounding waters. You can actually see the growth layers on some of the broken boulders.
Tenacious orange, black and gray lichens cover the rocks. Temperatures here range between -46 C (-51 Fahrenheit) in winter and +42 C (108 F) in summer. Also, this is the sunniest place in Canada! Medicine Hat averages over 2,500 hours of sunshine every year. That’s about 330 days of bright sun. Bring your hat and a bottle of water. And don’t forget to fill the gas tank before coming out. There is no gas here either.