Beer and Badlands in Brooks


This article is part of our #BucketlistAB campaign – allowing you to string together an assortment of destinations across Alberta’s south for a road trip you won’t soon forget. Start here and be sure to use the tag #BucketlistAB and let us know how the travels are going!

ANDREW PENNER for #BucketlistAB

Brooks, AB - After tipping back a pint at the just-opened Piston Broke Brewery (and, yes, there might be a little play on words in their name), I realized that the city of Brooks in the County of Newell was starting to grow on me. And, while new craft breweries typically win me over when I open the door and the friendly barkeep says “hello,” Brooks has much more going for it than tasty beer. The world-renowned badlands just to the north of town, for example, are an attraction worth traveling days to see.

Located in the heart of southeastern Alberta – approximately 180 kilometres east of Calgary on the Trans Canada Highway - Brooks is an oil & gas and agricultural stronghold, if there ever was one. The city, which has a population of approximately 14,000, is surrounded by oil fields and acres of golden wheat. However, as the grassroots folks who reside there will be quick to point out, there are many other draws.

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Visit the beach for water-based adventures

While beer and badlands were definitely the focal points on my recent early-spring visit, tourists flock to the area in summer to recreate at nearby Lake Newell, which Travel Alberta touts as one of the province's best kept secrets. Located 14 kilometers south of the city, Lake Newell is one of the largest and warmest man-made lakes in the province. Fishing, sailing, canoeing, beaching, swimming, SUPing, windsurfing, jet-skiing, and camping at Kinbrook Island Provincial Park, which is located right on the lake, are all popular activities. The lake is also home to the Lake Newell Resort, which features a marina, concession, and boat launch facilities.

Another popular attraction for visitors to the area is the historic Brooks Aqueduct. Built over 100 years ago by the irrigation division of the Canadian Pacific Railway, this massive concrete structure soars high above the prairie and spans a shallow valley that is just over three kilometers long. At the time of its construction, it was the largest concrete structure in the world. It was used for over 30 years to provide irrigation to nearby farmland. A stop to admire this engineering marvel won’t take long but any civil engineer in your group will appreciate the site.

After loading up on coffee and fresh, home-made brownies at The Steaming Cup (perhaps the coziest little craft coffee shop in Southern Alberta!), I made my way to the badlands at Dinosaur Provincial Park. Halfway to the park I made a quick stop to poke my head through the door at the famous 105-year-old Patricia Hotel (a legendary watering hole oozing with authentic Alberta charm) and vowed I'd come back to do it justice. But the road – and the badlands! - were calling. And they didn't disappoint.

I’m diggin’ those dinosaurs

Photo: Andrew Penner

Dinosaur Provincial Park, located approximately thirty minutes north of Brooks, is, without a doubt, one of the jewels in the Alberta Provincial Park system. Designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1979, the 73-square kilometer park is home to some of the most amazing fossil discoveries on the planet. Nearly 60 dinosaur species have been found in the park and over 500 specimens have been removed and exhibited throughout the world. If you are fascinated with dinosaur history – and stunning badlands topography! - this truly is heaven on earth.

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My visit started in the Visitor Centre where I met Donna Martin, the Head of Visitor Services at Dinosaur Provincial Park. “You picked a good time to come,” she said, as we strolled through the interesting exhibits and many awesome dinosaur fossils that are on display. “Right now you have the park basically to yourself. In summer, it's a different story here. People from all over the world come to visit this park.” After our short and informative tour through the exhibits, I hit the trails. Although there was still some snow lingering in the park and things were slick, Donna recommended I try the spectacular Badlands Trail.

Photo: Andrew Penner

There are a total of five walking trails in the park and all of them are under two kilometers in length. Three of them, including the popular Badlands Trail, are located along the 3.5-kilometer public driving loop near the campground and Visitor Centre. Due to the sensitivity of the terrain and the ancient fossils, the majority of the park is only accessible via guided tours by park staff at designated times. To book a tour visit and follow the links to the park and the tours and events page. And, don’t forget to book early if you want to stay in the riverfront comfort camps.

With gorgeous light and a beautiful temperature, I lingered along the Badlands Trail and took photos until sunset. Experiencing the golden, low-angled light paint the amazing shapes and textures of the badlands was spellbinding. Not surprisingly, the only model around to use in my photos was me. But that worked out just fine. I was a very willing participant!

When You Go

Read more about Newell via this one day itinerary.

Stoked on history and want to step back in time? Uncover Newell’s 2 day Historical tour here

The folks from Newell Tourism will help make your trip smooth.

Travel Alberta can help get your ready to experience Newell here.

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This article is part of our #BucketlistAB campaign – allowing you to string together an assortment of destinations across Alberta’s south for a road trip you won’t soon forget. Start here and be sure to use the tag #BucketlistAB and let us know how the travels are going!

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