Head-Smashed-in-Buffalo-Jump and the Cowboy Trail

After our cold snowy visit to Waterton Lakes National Park, the sun returned and even though it was still a bit chilly, we enjoyed the clear skyes.

Today we'd never be far from the Rockies, yet we'd stay in the prairies and foothills of Alberta.   We could see the snowy tops at the horizon while southern Alberta seemed to profit from its windy reputation to get a lot of wind energy. It reminded me of some places in California near the Mojave desert.

First we headed to the UNESCO world heritage site of Head-Smashed-in Buffalo Jump. This historic site and its museum had made a big impression on me in the past. I really wanted to show Jan and the children the location where for over 6000 years the indigenous people had triggered stampedes of Buffalo and lead them over the cliffs, providing hence food and materials for an entire nation for a year. 

We arrived a bit before opening time at the interpretive center of the Blackfoot tribe that is built in the same color agains the limestone rocks.  There weren't many visitors around yet. 

First we took the elevator up to the roof side where a trail led us to the sacred cliff hill with the drop off of more than 10 meters.  Actually in the past it had been much deeper since the use of 6000 years of this site, has created a bone deposit on the bottom of over 12 meters. 12 meters of archeological treasures giving us insights in material use, climate, vegetation, indigineous foods etc...

Inside the museum we learned more about the indigineous myths, culture, ...the importance of the buffalo and the disappearance of the buffalo, the arrival of the white in the area and the impact. Ha, did you know that our stereotypical image of the Indian on its horse is only very recent in history. The tribes had no horses until after the white settlers came into the area.

After our visit, Kabouter wondered when he'd see some real Indians...not realising that he'd been in Creston on the Ktunaxa reserve and store, run by the tribe and that also all people in Head-Smashed-in Buffolo Jump where Blackfeet. I guess it's confusing to learn that the indigineous people have assimulated wearing our clothes, driving our cars and ressembling us.

After that we started driving north on highway 22, also known as The Cowboy Trail. By doing so we avoided the busy multi-lane highway in the direction of Calgary. Instead we drove along scenic foothills and huge active ranches. At one point we spotted a group of cowboys on their horses driving a herd of cows across a trail.  Very exciting. 


It was my intention to stop and have lunch at Chain Lakes Provincial Park but Jan knew there was just a few kms further a national historic ranch that we could visit.  With a national Parks pass you can also visit all national historic sites in Canada.

By doing so I missed running in by coincidence with a former schoolfriend  who lives in Calgary and who happened to have that day lunch with her parents at Chain Lakes as I noticed that evening on Facebook.  Wow, haven't seen her in 24 years...just imagine that we'd land by coincidence at a picnic table next to her.

Well that didn't happen, because we visited Bar U ranch instead.  This is one of the biggest historic ranches that is kept in shape and gives as a result a good insight in the Alberta ranching history.  At it's peak, it owned over 30000 cows and 1000 horses  We visited farm houses, cowboy guest houses,  the cook house, the black smith, ...but also learned about the outside camps and cooking carts and how the huge drives were organised and how live happend on such drives.  Back home I saw the Good Volk episode again with Jeroen Meus visiting cowboys in Texas and that was very interesting so see so much still being alive.

Some more red chairs...as this is also a Canada Park's site!

Listening at the round-up campfire on life before fenced ranches

The children enjoyed the displays where they could test farming themselves or dress up as cowboys. We practised our roping skills and learned that our skills were non-existent.

It was a fun afternoon at the ranch and then it was time to return back to the Rocky Mountains for the last part of our vacation! 


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