Drumheller, Alberta is home to dinosaurs, cute shops, art galleries and still more dinosaurs. If you are looking to go camping in the general area but feel the prices are a bit more than you can stomach, never fear! There is free camping near Drumheller and the town of Rowley will not disappoint.
Rowley is officially a ghost town, having once had a lot more residents than it currently does. Today, there are eight who call the one block town home – a huge spike up from the previous six which occurred when two little boys showed up! On the weekend, the old ball field turned camping ground has more residents than the town does. Located just on the edge of town, the old ball field is a gigantic grassy camp site.
There are built-in barbecues, fire pit rings and even chopping blocks. The grass is level enough to keep trailers happy and makes a fantastic bedding for pitching a tent. On the outskirts of the field there are three, rather aged, outhouses.
You don’t “do” outhouses?
Don’t worry. This free camping comes with running water, too! In town, there is a set of public washrooms which include flush toilets, sinks and even a shower with hot water!
Enjoy the sights of Rowley
The residents of Rowley offer this free camping near Drumheller as a way to upkeep and maintain their little town. They keep the grass beautifully manicured, come up with stashes of firewood that are safely stored in dry sheds, and maintain all of the buildings. Several of the residents offer tours and have the keys to let you into all of the different buildings. There’s an old schoolhouse, moved from up the street a few miles, which sits in the town. There’s a museum in the old railway station, called the Yesteryear Artifacts Museum.
Rowley used to have an ice cream shop by the railroad station, which was very popular, as Rowley was the last stop on a day trip train tour. Unfortunately, it became more and more difficult to maintain the tracks, so eventually the route was shortened, stopping before it reached Rowley. The little town has managed to reinvent itself, though, offering the museum and camping now.
There is a bank, a general store, a church, a rebuilt garage, several different train cars, restored wooden grain elevators, an old hospital, a community hall, a playground and a saloon. The buildings are full of artifacts, simply call to arrange a tour. Sam’s Saloon is only open on the last Saturday of the month, when Rowley hosts their wildly popular pizza night.
Throughout the years, Rowley has acted as a filming location, with notices of filming posted on the community notice board. It is perhaps most famous for its role in Bye Bye Blues. Filming is another way the town highlights the history of the prairies, and generates revenue to keep the little hamlet preserved.
Is this really free camping?
OK. So, I fibbed a little when I said it was free. Camping here in Rowley isn’t entirely free, but it is done by donation. So, it can be free if you are stingy. But don’t be such a tightwad and make a donation, you putz! So, if you are looking for an affordable way to visit Drumheller, come stay in Rowley, where your donation goes a long way to preserving turn of the century prairie culture and offers you more to look at in the area, beyond just Drumheller.