Cool Little Towns

Today we are going to share with you some “Cool Little Towns” that are a short drive from Riverbend Campground. We have already shared a little bit of Okotoks and High River in previous posts and if you haven`t done so already you can find them here. In addition to these two, the towns of Bragg Creek, Black Diamond, Turner Valley, Longview and Nanton, along with our Municipal District of Foothills, cooperate to present themselves as the “Cool Little Towns.”

A visit to the “Cool Little Towns” website is worthwhile as they provide highlights for each of the participating communities plus events and tours. You will discover that some of the events are ongoing such as exhibits at a museum, while some, like festivals, happen over a weekend or on a specific day. Each tour has a theme and takes you through several communities. You can follow their tours or use one of their tours as a jumping off point for your own adventure. One example is the “One of a Kind Finds” Tour which offers up more than 40 boutiques, galleries, artisan shops and studios. You can expect to discover treasures you won’t find anywhere else. Your curiosity might take you into such eclectic establishments as Classic Rodeo Boutique in Nanton or Suncatcher’s Design Studio in Bragg Creek.

Now we are going to give you a little flavor of each of the other towns. Our geography includes prairie, foothills and the nearby Rocky Mountains. The first town we are highlighting, Bragg Creek, is the farthest west, and is in the heart of the foothills. As one would expect, the area is scenic, and heavily treed. This is considered the gateway to Kananaskis Country. Outdoor recreation is popular with nearby Elbow Falls, Bragg Creek Provincial Park and the Canyon Creek Ice Caves. Visitors come to enjoy hiking, fishing, off-roading, trail riding and sight-seeing. In town you will find is a vibrant community of artists and artisans and culinary champions.

This plaque tells visitors the history of Woo`s General Store in Black Diamond.

Black Diamond and Turner Valley are two towns so geographically close there has been talk over the years of amalgamating. A three kilometer walking path, the Friendship Trail, connects these communities. They date back to the 1880’s. Black Diamond was named for coal deposits found in the area and a significant milestone for Turner Valley was the discovery of petroleum in 1914. A local historian says that by 1942 the oilfield was producing 90% of Canada’s oil. Guided tours of the historic Turner Valley Gas Plant from this era are available during the summer. Outdoor adventures abound in this area and, within the communities, enjoy shopping and dining experiences. Two popular stops are the famous Chuckwagon Café and Cattle Co. in Turner Valley and Marv’s Classic Soda Shop in Black Diamond.

The famous Chuckwagon Cafe in Turner Valley.

South of Black Diamond, in the heart of ranching country, is Longview. The town experienced a boom in the 1930’s with oil exploration and production.  At that time it was known as Little New York and a sister town to the north was known as Little Chicago. All that is left of Little Chicago is a roadside monument. Paying tribute to the era is the Twin Cities Hotel, which is a popular spot for dining and live music. Another local attraction is the famous Longview Beef Jerky Shop. A short drive south is the Bar U Ranch. The ranch was established in 1882 and is now a National Historic Site preserving the west’s ranching history. Legend has it that the Sundance Kid visited the Bar U.

Next, the Town of Nanton, which is 49 kilometres south of Riverbend Campground. Years ago, Nanton was a popular stop for water when folks were travelling through the area. The town provided a public water tap, and Nanton water was well known throughout southern Alberta. This was one of the first waters to be bottled and sold, and the Nanton Water & Soda Company continues to operate today. There are two standout attractions in Nanton. The first is the Bomber Command Museum of Canada. For those interested in aviation and military history this is a must see. A highlight for many is being able to enter a restored Lancaster Bomber.  The second standout is the Canadian Grain Elevator Discovery Centre. Grain farming shaped the west and every fall farmers brought their harvest to the local grain elevator. These huge wooden structures stood as sentinels along the rail lines in almost every town and village. Most of these elevators are gone, victims of progress but Nanton has preserved three of them. The Discovery Centre tells of the history of farming in Alberta.

This look at our neighboring towns is not meant to be a comprehensive look, but rather a little flavor of each. Each town presents a plethora of shops, sights and adventures. We encourage you to visit and discover for yourself. Until next time, happy motoring.

Grain Elevators, once found in nearly every town in the west, are gone. The people of Nanton have save three and you can study their history at the Canadian Grain Elevator Discovery Centre.

A Day in High River

The Museum of the Highwood and Visitor Information Centre is a great place to start your day in High River.

We have recently been writing about taking day trips while staying at Riverbend. This post takes a look at the Town of High River, just 22 kilometers south on Highway 2. This is another of the “Cool Little Towns” of Southern Alberta. Travelling the highway to town and driving around town, it is clear that agriculture is a main focus of the region.  To the east is mostly grain and to the west, especially through the foothills, mostly cattle.

Southern Alberta experienced devastating floods in 2013. Here at Riverbend, we saw extensive damage when the Sheep River overflowed the banks. The Highwood River which flows through the Town of High River had a history of flooding in low lying parts of High River. Nothing from the past compares to what the town faced four years ago. The town was under water and the entire population of 13,000 was ordered to evacuate. These events received extensive media coverage and the pictures and video can elicit an emotional response, yet these don’t come close to what one experienced being on the ground, in the midst of the event

Much work has gone in to rebuilding after the 2013 flood. New streetscapes invite visitors to walk downtown.

A staggering $200 million has been spent on flood mitigation and the town now claims to be “…the most well protected town in Canada, from flooding.” The resilience of the residents shines through in what the town is becoming in their rebuilding. The historical portion of the downtown area has seen extensive rehabilitation and restoration. Some buildings in this area that, prior to the floods were starting to show their age, have a new lease on life. Vacant store fronts are filling up and as you walk through the area, it’s hard to image what happened here such a short time ago. The Town had an opportunity to almost reinvent itself, and in some ways is better for it.

During your visit to High River make certain to visit the Museum of the Highwood. It’s located in the old train station (406 First Street). One exhibit tells of High River’s “big screen” credits. With the wide variety of scenery in the area, quite a bit of motion picture and television production has been done in the area starting with the 1926 film, “Chip of the Flying U” starring Hoot Gibson. Another historical site is the Sheppard Family Park which is billed as a “Southern Alberta Pioneer Life Showcase.” The Park features the McCoy log cabin originally built in 1883, a heritage home from 1899, a one room school house and a barn built in 1913. There is a playground and picnic area and the site is home to a community garden project. This showcase has been lovingly cared for by community volunteers. Extensive damage occurred during the floods. As the community has been rebuilding, the volunteers were first focused on personal homes and area businesses. You will find some facilities still have work ongoing. At this writing, the McCoy cabin is very close to completion and will soon be open to the public.

Another favorite feature of High River is the historic murals. These are found on the sides of buildings throughout downtown. They depict the rich history of the area including harvest, cattle drive and aviation. One is titled “Sunday Afternoon at the Polo Match.” You might be surprised to learn about the popularity of polo in this area going back about 130 years to the 1880’s. In fact, the High River community of Polo Park is on the site of the former polo grounds. Murals also feature famous residents from the past, former Prime Minister Joe Clark, and author W.O. Mitchell. You can find a guide to a walking tour of the murals on the Town of High River website here.

Maggie’s Store is a movie set in downtown High River for the CBC Television series Heartland.

Unique shops, galleries, restaurants and a community full of friendly and industrious prairie folk, you’re sure to enjoy your day in High River and you can be sure High River appreciates the return of tourism to their community.

A Day in Okotoks

A great place to begin your day in Okotoks is the Museum and Archives.

When you are camping at Riverbend, you will find lots to keep the family busy in Okotoks. With recent annexation, the west half of the campground is now within the Town of Okotoks.  Whether on the doorstep or actually in the town, we feel that we are part of life in this “Cool Little Town.” The Town’s motto is “Historic past, sustainable future” which nicely sums up its character. The citizens take pride in both the past, coupled with a commitment to sustainability, and a bright future. One example of innovation in sustainability is the Drake Landing Solar Community. The homes in this community all have solar panels on the roofs of garages behind the homes which are tied into a central solar heating system. You will notice these homes east of 32nd Street just south of Drake Landing Drive. You can learn more about the community and how the system works here.

Our area has a rich history and an enthusiast can spend time learning about the early days of life in the Foothills. A trading post was established in the area in 1874, with settlers arriving a short time later. The original name was Sheep Creek, this was later changed to Dewdney and finally to Okotoks. Check out the Okotoks Museum and Archives at 49 North Railway for more history. Just east of the museum in the old railway station you will find the Okotoks Art Gallery. Check here for current exhibits and events.

The Okotoks Art Gallery is located in the former CPR train station.

While walking around the downtown area, watch for informational signs found at historical buildings and locations. Businesses in the downtown area have established an association called Olde Town Okotoks. The members range from boutiques and retail shops to galleries, and from restaurants to health and beauty. Look for information on their ongoing “Shop & Win” promotion. Lots of activities take place in Olde Town. Recent events included BuskerFest and a Taste of Okotoks. Scheduled over the next few weeks are the Okotoks Show & Shine on August 14th, ChiliFest on August 27th and HarvestFest on September 24th.

Okotoks is a very walkable town. In addition to strolling through Olde Town there are 85 kilometres of pathways. Especially popular are pathways through the river valley and a pathways map is available on the Town website here. Other popular outdoor facilities and activities in the summer are the Water Spray Park which has recently been expanded and the Skateboard Park, both located at the Recreation Centre on Okotoks Drive. Your active youngsters might like to spend time at the BMX Track in the river valley. If you find yourself looking for things to do with the kids on a rainy day, the activities in town include bowling at Millenium Lanes, Okotoks Cinemas , Playtopia kids indoor play facility, and Paint it Up pottery studio to name a few.

For adults looking for activities, Crystal Ridge Golf Course is a popular 9-hole facility within the town limits. D’Arcy Ranch Golf Club on the west side is an 18-hole public course with views of the mountains to the west. An interesting tidbit about D’Arcy Ranch is that in 2013 it achieved designation as a Certified Audubon Cooperative Sanctuary. Just east of us is scenic River’s Edge Golf Course which features a hole with signature island green. There are other options and you will find our list here with links to their websites.

In spring and summer and fall, baseball is a big sport for both participation and for fans of the local Okotoks Dawgs Baseball team. Their regular season goes from early June to the end of July. The team has had another good season, and visitors in early August might be able to catch a playoff game or two.

Choosing to include a stay at Riverbend Campground puts you on the doorstep of Okotoks with a buffet of things to see and do in one of Southern Alberta’s Cool Little Towns.

When walking around downtown Okotoks look for these insights into a property’s historical significance.

Head-Smashed-In Buffalo Jump

Exhibit depicting the hunt at Southern Alberta’s Head-Smashed-In Buffalo Jump Interpretive Centre.

While you are staying with us here at Riverbend there are many day trips that will immerse you in history, bring you closer to nature or perhaps offer a day of family fun. Situated as we are, with the vast prairies of the east rising to meet our Foothills and then on to the majestic Rocky Mountains to the west, we have much for you to choose from. Today’s post looks at Head-Smashed-In Buffalo Jump. This historical site is a one hour and 20 minute drive south from the campground.

Your time visiting this outstanding attraction will give you amazing insight into the history of First Nations people here in the west. Head-Smashed-In is the world’s largest, oldest and best preserved buffalo jump and has been designated a World Heritage Site by United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO). This is a prestigious recognition of the historical and cultural significance of this site. UNESCO World Heritage Sites from around the world include India’s Taj Mahal, Britain’s Stonehenge and Egypt’s pyramids.

Historically our Indigenous people were hunters and relied on the buffalo. For nearly 6,000 years, long before guns and horse were introduced to North America, the hunt saw buffalo stampeded over a cliff. This required much planning, favorable weather, timing and great skill. “Buffalo runners” disguised in animal hides were dispatched to locate and herd buffalo into position. This required a deep understanding of the animal’s behavior. When the herd was in position they were then driven into V-shaped drive lanes which had been established and remnants of these are still visible today. The annual hunt provided food, tools fashioned from bones and hides for shelter and clothing. This primitive culture experienced years of plenty with good hunts and some years of shortage. Archeologists studying the site have determined the first sign of human activity in the area goes back 9,000 years. Its first use as a buffalo jump was 5,700 years ago which places its origin in time before the pyramids and before Stonehenge.

The history and story is well told at the interpretive centre. During your tour, learn how the geography, climate and vegetation influenced the lifestyle of the Plains people by examining the many exhibits. A small theatre presents a ten minute film “In Search of the Buffalo” which features local Blackfoot actors re-enacting activities around the hunt.

The interpretive centre is built into the side of the hill. You enter at the lowest level and start by advancing to the upper level and progress through the exhibits on various terraces which take you back to ground level. At the top an upper trail leads to a viewpoint overlooking the entire site and offers an excellent vantage point with prairie to the east and mountains to the west.

During the summer season food service is available in the Buffalo Jump Café featuring native-themed fare.  The gift shop features a wide range of souvenirs ranging from post cards to hand-crafted pieces created by First Nations artisans. Every Wednesday in summer, there are drumming and dancing demonstrations at 11:00am and 1:30pm. There are also more immersive experiences and interpretive walks which you can research by visiting the Head-Smashed-In Buffalo Jump website here. Your day trip to Head-Smashed-In will be a day full of history, culture, and nature.

High Water Readiness

Camping on the Sheep RIver

Camping on the Sheep River

If you have ever been here or looked for us on a map, you will know Riverbend Campground is located on the Sheep River.  For most of the year the Sheep is a quiet river winding through the foothills before emptying into the Highwood River about eight kilometers to the east of us and eventually into the Bow. During spring melt in the mountains, stream flow can be much heavier and some years the river breaches its banks and causes flooding. There have been some dramatic events in the past and we have seen the course of the river actually change.

As you can imagine, through the 30-plus years our families have been here we have seen and experienced all that Mother Nature is capable of, both the good and the not so good. Each year we are repairing and preparing in varying measures. Much work has been done in the last two years to protect our property and our community. The river bank has seen much of this work. We don’t expect any problems but are ever vigilant. Much monitoring takes place upstream and when authorities believe there is a risk, we are notified. We in turn notify campers to the best of our ability. In the past, members of our campground community came together and helped one another. RV’s located in areas that might be affected were moved to higher ground.

To facilitate notification in emergency events, the municipalities in our area have banded together and have a coordinated warning system in place called Safe Communities Alert Network (SCAN). If you are a month-to-month or seasonal camper we encourage you to sign up to receive alerts. You simply go to the MD of Foothills website here:  Here you will see information on the SCAN system with a link to create an account. When you go through the process you will be given options with respect to the types of notifications you are interested in receiving. Notifications can be sent to you via text message. The platform used was created by a developer called Everbridge, who has also developed an app for your smart phone. The app allows you to go into the site for updates.

Riverbend is also setting up a system which will allow us to send out notifications via bulk text message. We are in the process of inputting the cell phone numbers of our campers but you can opt-in to this by simply texting: “EZTHH10253” to 393939.

The Growing Popularity of Family Reunions

People have an interest in where they came from and family histories have been central to the human condition since, well, forever. In these modern times, interest in the study of ancestry and genealogy is growing. In our world with millions of strangers it’s comforting to find family and have filial connections. As more and more historical records are made available online, searching for one’s family history becomes easier. There are also tools to assist like family tree makers. The two major online players in this pursuit are Ancestry and MyHeritage. These sites grow because they have users that are actively adding content and and with a growing archive of family information more people join. The larger,, is said by Wikipedia to have 16-billion historical records by June 2014. As a measure of popularity, first understand that there are over one billion active websites now online. As of this writing, Alexa ranks as the 930th most popular. Ancestry and MyHeritage have very different business models. Ancestry offers users a free trial period and then charges monthly fees depending on services used. MyHeritage works with a freemium structure, with free access for a basic package and then charge users for more robust features.

The availability of these online sites, historical records and search tools make the research easier, and more people are learning about their family history. This growing interest is connecting people online as they build discover their family tree. This expanding circle of family results in a desire to meet. A family reunion is an opportunity to meet some of these newly discovered family members, exchange information, stories, historical records and photos.

Picking a Date & Location – A reunion can take a lot of planning and the further in advance you start your planning the better off you will be. The larger the event the more time you will need to plan and the larger the volunteer team you will need. Some suggest a year to plan and prepare, but a small reunion can be pulled together more quickly if you are organized, have a strong plan and strong team. Choose two or three possible dates and or locations and survey your family to see which of the options is the most popular. If you have specific venues, checking on their availability might determine your options. When checking with family on possible dates it is also a good idea to ask them what they would like to see in terms of activities and ask for volunteers.

Assembling your team – No one person can plan and execute a reunion on their own. You will need a team. Start with a chair or team lead. As you assemble your team, assign tasks based on team member ability and interest. General tasks are finances, lodging, food, activities/entertainment and communication.

If you have been thinking about your family reunion, contact us for pricing and availability. Also check out this page on our website with tips and links to suppliers in our area to get you started.

Getting Your RV Ready for the Season

Your RV has been in storage for winter, time to get it ready for the season.

We’ve known more than a few campers over the years that spend the entire week before the Victoria Day long weekend scrambling to get their unit ready. For many, it’s the first camping trip of the season. The fact that they secured a site for the long weekend shows they planned that much, but they took for granted that the old RV could be made ready in a jiffy. You don’t need to talk to an RV parts store and/or service centre to know it is their busiest, and perhaps most stressful week of the year.

One camper we knew seemed to miss that major freeze every fall, so hadn’t winterized in time and had to deal with leaks in the water line every spring. And even knowing it needed doing, it was always the week before the long weekend, going back and forth getting parts, and advice. Wherever that trailer is today, the water lines are probably 10 years newer than the trailer.

Here’s a quick list of to-do’s to get ready for this season. Start now. Keep a list of things that need attention so you can plan any work and plan your trip to the part store. General items you will likely need are batteries for smoke/carbon monoxide detector, clocks, remotes and flashlights. You should also have spare fuses on hand.

Check the exterior – do a complete walk around your RV. Depending on where your unit is stored over winter, you may have sustained damage; scrapes or dents caused by a careless driver or vandalism. You may also have hail damage which occurred last summer but wasn’t noticed at the time. Check your propane bottles. Have they expired?  Propane bottles are good for 10 years and it’s never pleasant to discover they need to be replaced when you take them for refilling. If they are still good, check the amount of propane you have. Remember, you can have them refilled here at Riverbend. Knowing this is required ahead of time is a good plan. You want to avoid running out when you’re cooking or when it’s cold and you need your furnace to run. Next, check the condition of your 12 volt battery/batteries. Lift them into place and reconnect.

During your walk-around check windows, doors storage bins, and the condition of slides and weather stripping if your unit has these. Check the roof area. Look for cracks or damage to the roof and to vent covers and air conditioning unit housing.

Check hoses, for both your fresh water and your tank dumping. Roll out your awning. Check the condition of the fabric. Are there any holes or tears? Does the awning function properly? If the awning spring mechanism needs adjusting, have this done by a professional RV technician. This is one task you should not attempt on your own.

Check your tires. Are they properly inflated? What is the condition of the tread? Are there cracks or damage to the sidewalls? If the unit has been sitting for a long period of time, the tire surface that is in contact with the ground will be a flat spot. Keep this in mind when towing and start slowly giving the tires a bit of time to warm up and regain proper shape.

Inside – First begin with a check to see if you have had mice. If you take precautions in the fall you minimize the risk but if your RV is stored at a rural storage location you are more likely to experience this. We have also found, the more sever the winter the more likely mice are to seek refuge out of the elements. The most obvious sign is dropping which will be found in corners of storage bins and closets. If they are present you will need to take care when cleaning to avoid being exposed to Hantavirus. This is rare, but is a concern. Check online for tips on dealing with this problem. If you have had mice, check electrical wires that run through the cabinets for damage.

When your electrical is connected check lights and the operation of your slides. If you are doing this on the street at home use extreme caution that you are not interfering with pedestrian or vehicle traffic. With water connected and lines pressurized do a quick check in areas that water lines are visible to see if you have any leaks. With your tank drains closed start running water through the lines to flush out the antifreeze. As this will drain into your gray and black holding tanks, plan to dump this in at an approved RV waste disposal station before adding chemical for normal use.

Replace the drain plug in the water heater, and adjust the values from by-pass to normal operation to refill the tank in this appliance. You may need to keep a hot water tap open to allow air to escape the tank as it fills. Do not attempt to light the hot water tank until you are confident that it has refilled.

Check your appliances – we generally start with the stove. Your propane has been off over the winter, and the gas has escaped from the lines. You will need a little time for the gas to refill the lines from the bottle to the appliances. With your propane turned on and burner lighter at the ready, turn on a burner. Hold the flame of the lighter in place. As the air is force from the line it will blow the flame gently. It might take several minutes for the gas to work its way to the point of ignition. Once you have propane in the line you should be able to fire up the furnace and other propane appliances.

We hope your unit has come through the winter is good shape and you are ready for another season. We look forward to each and every trip you take to Riverbend and hope to see you soon.



Riverbend Wetlands

Our new fountain is a visually pleasing feature on the lake with the added benefits inherent with water aeration.

One of the common observations offered by newcomers and visitor to Southern Alberta is that the area suffers from a lack of lakes. Certainly compared to Minnesota, the “land of 10,000 lakes” or their neighboring Canadian province of Manitoba, we have fewer lakes. For most, the attraction of lakes is the recreational opportunities inherent in large bodies of water.

Because of the smaller number of lakes, bodies of water that wouldn’t qualify to carry the designation elsewhere are lakes here. This might beg the question, what constitute a lake? Some opinion focuses on a threshold of 2 acre surface area, but in Montana a body of water has to be a minimum of 20 acres to be called a lake. But please grant us some license, for you see, it’s really no different from use of the word “mountain” here versus elsewhere. With our majestic Rocky Mountains giving us our perspectives, we sometimes marvel at the hills in other regions that locals feel earn the moniker, “mountain.”

In spite of having fewer lakes, we don’t have a shortage of water. From rivers and streams to a variety of water bodies. Southern Alberta has a number of reservoirs created to collect water for irrigation. As agriculture was the primary purpose, recreational use was considered secondary.

In addition to lakes and reservoirs we have wetlands, a critical component of the ecology of our region. It might surprise you to learn that 20 percent of the surface of Alberta is covered by wetlands. The two types of wetlands in Southern Alberta’s wetlands are “Shallow Open Water Ponds” and “Marshes.” Here at Riverbend Campground we are blessed to have both types of wetlands features. Our “lake” is a Shallow Open Water Pond located on the west half of the property. Our Marsh is located east of the main road just below the hill.

The fountain on the lake adds a visually pleasing feature while promoting a healthy aquatic ecosystem. The fountain provides aeration of the water. The primary benefits of aeration are an improved fish habitat, a reduction in algae growth, and decreased mosquito activity.

Our wetlands offer ideal habitat for a wide variety of wildlife. Those with an interest in bird watching will have opportunity to see some very interesting species. Here’s a list of some of the birds that have been spotted here at Riverbend with notation on species that have nested here. Make use of our Nature Trails to explore these areas of our property. These run throughout the campground. Some run up the hill to the road from the East End and some follow the creeks.  We continue to add new trails and upgrade the existing legs. The wood mulch we are adding provides a good walking surface, is aesthetically pleasing, helps with weed control, and minimizes soil erosion. A new trail starts behind the main west washroom, follows the creek east and exits in the area of the new tenting sites. It covers rough terrain and caution is advised.

Exploring the trails is a very quiet and pleasant way to see wildlife and different species of trees and undergrowth. If you catch the season right, you will be treated to several wild edible berries. Start by picking up a trail map at the office and begin your firsthand introduction to the Riverbend Wetlands.

Hope Ana Prayer Chapel

Small wooden churches were a mainstay of life on the Canadian prairies. As communities sprang up across the west, the church was a central part of life in the community. This history can be viewed in Heritage Park Historical Village in Calgary. Their church, St. Martin’s Anglican Church, was originally built in 1896 in the Southern Alberta community of Lundbreck.

There were many small churches, but only a few fit in the category of tiny. Cross Island Chapel in Oneida, New York bills itself as the world’s smallest church with a floor of 51-inches by 81-inches and a seating capacity of two. Perhaps while travelling the Dinosaur Trail, near Drumheller, you have taken a few minutes to visit “The Little Church.” The sign at this site boasts “Seating 10,000 people 6 at a time.” In addition to being a tourist stop it also sees the occasional wedding and worship service. Here’s a link to their Facebook page. The Little Church has even made it onto TripAdvisor’s list of things to do in Drumheller.

The Hope Ana Prayer Chapel during renovations last summer

Our little chapel has a less grand history but is a special little spot for us.  You will find it nestled in a secluded little area on what we call The Island. It was originally constructed over the 2000 and 2001 seasons. It was fondly christened the “Hope Ana Prayer Chapel” If you have never seen it, you will get a sense of scale knowing it too has a seating capacity of six people.

The Chapel's "stained glass" windows.

The Chapel’s “stained glass” window.

During construction, some of our seasonal campers donated items like benches, lanterns and candles to the project. At various spots around the lake you could see the structure standing above the bushes, surrounded by the larger trees. Over time the undergrowth filled in and embraced our little hideaway. Along with flora, time and weather took their toll and this little gem fell into disrepair.

Last summer, our team rolled up sleeves, and with sawdust flying and hammers swinging the Hope Ana Prayer Chapel has been restored. We like to think the new edition is even better than the original. New roof, new siding, new windows, we think it turned out pretty well. It was finished in time to be used for a family wedding last summer. Have a look at some of our pictures, and when you visit us this summer, make sure to take a stroll onto the island, take a look, a picture or two and spend a few quiet minutes.

New roof, new siding, new lease on life.

Bird Watching in Southern Alberta

Blue Heron at Riverbend Campground

Blue Heron at Riverbend Campground

Our setting on the banks of the Sheep River features habitat that is favored by a variety of birds.  In addition to the river, we have our small lake and wetlands.  Water fowl are obvious, but we have much more.  Here is our partial list of birds that have made an appearance.  Birds that have nested at Riverbend are indicated with a diamond (◊).  Don’t assume you can view all of these when you come for a visit, we have been compiling this list for many years.  If you see something new we would love if you told us.

Common Loon

◊Pie-Billed Grebe

American White Pelican

Trumpeter Swan

◊Canada Goose

Finch at Okotoks Riverbend Campground



American Wigeon

Northern Shoveler

◊Blue-Winged Teal

◊Green-Winged Teal

◊Cinnamon Teal

Wood Duck


Ring-Necked Duck

Osprey nesting near the lake at Riverbend Campground Okotoks

Osprey nesting near the lake at Riverbend Campground Okotoks

Lesser Scoup

Common Goldeneye

Burrow’s Goldeneye

Hooded Merganser

◊Common Merganser

◊Northern Harrier

◊Red-Tailed Hawk

◊Swanson’s Hawk

Bald Eagle


◊American Kestrel

◊Ring-Necked Pheasant

◊Gray Partridge

Riverbend Campground Okotoks

Bohemian Waxwing

Great Blue Heron

Black-Crowned Night-Heron

American Bittern


◊American Coot

Semipalmated Plover


Lesser Yellowlegs

Solitary Sandpiper

◊Spotted Sandpiper

◊Common Snipe

Franklin’s Gull

Finch at Okotoks Riverbend Campground

Finch at Okotoks Riverbend Campground

Common Tern

Black Tern

◊Mourning Dove

◊Great Horned Owl

◊Downy Woodpecker

◊Eastern Kingbird

◊Barn Swallow

◊Tree Swallow

◊Northern Rough-Winged Swallow


◊Black-Billed Magpie

American Crow

Black-Capped Chickadee

White-Breasted Nuthatch

Red-Breasted Nuthatch

◊House Wren

Brown Thrasher

Gray Catbird

◊American Robin

Swainson’s Thrush

Golden Crowned Kinglet

Water Pipit

◊Cedar Waxwing

Northern Shrike

◊European Starling

Yellow Warbler

Yellow Rumped Warbler

Black Poll Warbler

Palm Warbler

Common Yellow Throat

Oven Bird

Wilson’s Warbler

American Redstart

Western Meadowlark

◊Yellow-Headed Blackbird

◊Red-Winged Blackbird

Common Grackle

◊Brown-Headed Cowbird

Northern Oriole

American Goldfinch

Baird’s Sparrow

Black-Eyed Junco

White-Crowned Sparrow

◊House Sparrow

◊Belted Kingfisher

◊Common Flicker

◊Yellow Bellied Sapsucker

◊Hairy Woodpecker

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