Red Rock Coulee: Alberta’s Natural Wonder

By Nerissa McNaughton on May 23, 2024.

In the heart of southern Alberta, nestled amid the prairie landscape, lies an otherworldly spectacle known as Red Rock Coulee.

Red Rock Coulee is a natural area located approximately 56 kilometres southwest of Medicine Hat, Alberta. It spans over 324 hectares, making it one of the smallest, yet most intriguing, protected areas in the province. The coulee's most striking feature is its massive red boulders, some of which measure up to 2.5 meters in diameter.

The distinctive red hue of the boulders at Red Rock Coulee can be attributed to iron oxide, commonly known as rust. Over time, the iron compounds in the rock react with oxygen, resulting in a reddish-brown colour. This oxidation process is similar to what happens when a piece of iron is left exposed to the elements and begins to rust.

These spherical boulders, known scientifically as concretions, are formed from layers of sediment that accumulate around a nucleus, such as a shell or bone. Over millions of years, this sediment hardens into rock due to the pressure exerted by the layers above it. Think of them like pearls – on a much, much grander scale! The unique spherical shape of these concretions is the result of uniform layering of sediment around the nucleus.

The journey to Red Rock Coulee is a scenic drive through Alberta's picturesque prairie landscapes. From Medicine Hat, head west on Trans-Canada Highway/AB-1 W and then take the exit toward Seven Persons/AB-887 S. Follow AB-887 S and Township Rd 120 to Range Rd 61. Once at Red Rock Coulee, visitors are free to wander among the boulders and explore the coulee's rugged terrain. While there are no designated trails, the area is relatively flat and easy to navigate, making it suitable for hikers of all levels.

Visitors are advised to wear sturdy footwear and bring water, as weather conditions can vary, and facilities very are limited.

So, whether you're a seasoned hiker or a curious traveller, Red Rock Coulee is sure to leave you in awe of nature's ability to create such captivating landscapes. Plan a visit to this natural wonder today!

Nerissa McNaughton is a freelance writer and a contributor to Great West Media. This story was written for the Great West Media & Southern Alberta Newspapers Hot Summer Guide advertising feature. The Hot Summer Guide is a special feature about summer activities, bucket list adventures, staycation options, road trips, attractions, events, and road trip-worthy food & beverage destinations across Alberta. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of the editorial staff.

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