A Unique Prairie Setting

Starland County lies entirely in the transition zone between the Grassland and Parkland Natural Regions of Alberta.  The extreme southern portion of Starland is a northern type of Mixed Grassland While much of the rest is Northern Fescue Grassland.  Central Parkland vegetation occurs along the northern fringe.  Within this setting there are a several important ecological areas that should not be missed travelers interested in wildlife and the natural world.

Badlands

Probably the best known natural landscape in Alberta aside from the Rocky Mountains.  Starland County's western border lies along the Red Deer River which encompasses some of the most pristine badlands ecosystems in Alberta.  Aside from the beautiful canyon views bird lovers will enjoy it as a prime nesting habitat for rare birds of prey including the Prairie Falcon, Turkey Vulture, Golden Eagle, Merlin and Ferrugnous Hawk.  Horsethief Canyon is a popular attraction in this area and some of the best views can be seen from the public viewpoint located off Highway 838 coming north out of Drumheller on the top of the valley hill.

Rumsey Natural Area

The southern portion of the Rumsey Natural Area lies within the northern border of Starland County.  Together with the Rumsey Ecological Reserve to the north, this natural area protects the largest remaining undisturbed tract of non-sandy aspen parkland in Canada if not the world!  Elsewhere in the world these ecosystems have largely been cleared and converted to farmland.  The area is known for its knob and kettle topography which in wet years fill with water and become some of the most productive waterfowl habitat in North America.  While this makes the area excellent for migratory bird watching the main attraction is the numerous Sharp-Tailed Grouse Dancing Grounds found here.  For information on access, direction and use of the area individuals are advised to call Environment and Sustainable Resource Development Alberta at 403-742-7516.  Please note that some of this land is used for grazing and hunting.

Handhills

Located in the South East portion of Starland County and visible from Highways 9 and 27, the Handhills are a significant prairie hill system.  Extending 3500 feet above sea level and 500 feet above the surrounding plains the Handhills provide unmatched views of the Alberta Prairie.  The hills themselves have a large gravel cap which protected the ground underneath from the erosion experienced by the rest of the prairies surrounding it.  Today we are left with one of the most prominent prairie hill systems and and excellent spot for a day trip for travelers to the area.

Updated 2 years, 8 months ago on Mar 4th, 2015