I packed my gear into my car under a strong chinook arch knowing I could not ask for a better day to see something new. I even grabbed my drone hoping it would not be too windy, but the chinook winds only got stronger as the afternoon wore on.

 Red Rock Coulee is an almost out of this world phenomenon in the Southern Alberta landscape and I am willing to bet most have not heard of it. Red Rock Coulee is located 35 minutes south of Medicine Hat, in a rather isolated corner of the prairies where the badlands meet southern prairie plateaus. Red Rock Coulee is listed on the Alberta Parks website as a natural area, spanning more than 320 hectares, and it is important to note that there are no facilities there.

A giant sandstone Concretion at Red Rock Coulee is surrounded by volcanic ash. PHOTO: Ryan McMillan

Sandstone concretions have formed these giant boulders that become exposed as the ground erodes from around them. I even found the start of one that looks like the crown of a bald man’s head poking out of the ground. The diameter of these concretions varies but they are around 2.5 metres in diameter placing them among the largest in the world.

8ft diametre concretions across an almost lunar or martian landscape. If you look closely you can see ripples from the area under the sea, forming these concretions. PHOTO: Ryan McMillan

The landscape is littered with these giant red rocks, some intact and others crumbling or breaking apart. The grayish clay underneath them is a layer of volcanic ash from an eruption from another epoch. When you stand at the right place with gray earth beneath you and red rocks all around, it feels like you are on another planet. One can imagine themselves on the surface of Mars — at least until you spot the windmills off in the distance.

The wind blows a wall of dust across the prairies in between Red Rock Coulee and the mountains. PHOTO: Ryan McMillan

Going out in early springtime meant I did not have to worry too much about rattlesnakes, so I found myself freely exploring the area, appreciating the rocks up close. I even found a cactus that survived the winter and was soaking up the warm afternoon sunshine.

Badlands meet prairie plateaus and the windmills in the distance are a reminder that this is still planet earth. PHOTO: Ryan McMillan

The prairie sky and contrasting elements below made for a perfect photography experience in early spring. Alberta has so many hidden gems and landscapes that not only need to be explored but protected to enhance our learning and intrigue future generations.

Erosion exposes the massive concretions causing them to crack and fall down into the gullies. PHOTO: Ryan McMillan

As we transition to the end of the semester and look forward to the summer months ahead, plan a day trip or two and go see something of nature.

Prickly pear cacti soaking up the sun overlooking Red Rock Coulee. PHOTO: Ryan McMillan

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