My niece, Kate, learned about Head Smashed in Buffalo Jump at school and has wanted to visit for more than a year. She received a "coupon" to visit the site as Christmas gift and the. Kraft-Mullane's decided to visit this week. They invited us for the day trip and we were happy to tag along!
The canola is blooming and when the sun decides to peek out from the clouds, it is absolutely stunning. Actually even when the sky is moody and grey, the canola fields glow. If you have never seen a glowing canola field, make sure to put it on your list. The prairies are spectacular in July.
We drove to Calgary the night before to break up the drive. When we left Calgary Tuesday morning, it was raining but our journey two hours south brought us to sunshine - for a little while at least!
Head Smashed in Buffalo Jump is a UNESCO site. It is located about two hours south of Calgary, 18 kilometres North and West of Fort Macleod on secondary Highway #785.
The site and interpretive centre tell the story of the Plains Buffalo culture for the past 6,000 years. The entrance fee was $15/adult.
We started by looking at the site where hunters drove the buffalo off the cliff to their demise. Over the years (thousands of years) the earth has built up so it doesn't look as steep as it once was.
Inside the interpretive centre we learned the creation story (Napi's World), all about the buffalo hunt culture and how important the buffalo were to the survival of the Blackfoot.
We watched a short movie that showed how the communal hunt was planned and executed. The Plains people carefully studied buffalo behaviour and the topography of the area and used it to their advantage for the hunt. It was fascinating and a little sad. BUT, the people used all parts of the buffalo - nothing was wasted and it really was what allowed them to survive through the harsh winters.
We also learned about the eventual demise of the hunting culture. Europeans crossed the ocean with horses and guns which totally changed the hunt. The Europeans mass killed the buffalo for their hides and almost brought the species that was so important to the survival of the Plains people to extinction. Fortunately the species has been protected and there are herds found in Alberta and other areas in North America.
Archeologists have dug up bones that date back almost 6,000 years. It is a fascinating place to visit. You can also do a hike around the site to see the drive lane (kind of like a runway to run the buffalo off the cliff) but it was raining when we finished inside the centre so we headed back toward Calgary.
All the learning made us hungry so we made a pit stop at Roy's Place in Claresholm for a late lunch. It was soooo good. We highly recommend a visit to Roy's Place. We didn't know it at the time but the owner has been on Chopped Canada and was featured on an episode of You Gotta Eat Here.
We could smell cinnamon buns when we walked in the restaurant so we ordered some to go. We had to wait 20 minutes for them but we would later learn it was well worth the wait. Plus we drove back to Calgary with the delicious smell of cinnamon buns!
When we got to Calgary we opened up the containers and we were treated to MASSIVE gooey cinnamon buns with a side of cream cheese. D'lish!
We had a fabulous road trip down Highway 2. There is so much to explore in Alberta. Next on our list (again, thanks to Kate) is Writing on Stone Provincial Park. It received UNESCO designation just this month.
As a footnote - the night we returned, I had a horrible dream. I dreamt that our little dog Westley fell off some very steep steps and splat on to concrete below. It gave me a sick to my stomach feeling and I couldn't shake the dream or the feeling. I told my sister about the dream and she thinks the spirits were talking to me. I'm not sure what they were trying to say but they have a scary way of communicating. So, just a warning - learning about buffalo falling off a cliff may mess with your sleep.