To locals it’s The Okotoks Big Rock, but the name doesn’t convey its significance. It has been designated a Provincial Historic Resource. Well this is a really big rock, 16,500 tonnes (18,200 tons) to be precise. It’s 41 by 18 metres (135 by 60 feet) and is 9 meters (30 feet) high. And it’s sitting out on the prairie.
Let’s start with a bit of history, to understand what is it and how it got here. Big Rock’s origin is in the Rock Mountains. A massive landslide occurred near Mount Athabasca about 30,000 years ago. This is 280 kilometers (175 miles) as the crow flies to the north east from its current location. Distance traveled was far more because the route was not direct.
Millions of tonnes of rock were deposited on top of the Athabasca Glacier when the landslide occurred. Glaciers “flow,” certainly much slower than a river of water. Over the ages this pile of rock moved eastward and then down the eastern edge of the Rocky Mountains. During the process, rocks were deposited in what is known as the Foothills Erratic Train. The Train runs 644 kilometers (400 miles) from Jasper National Park to northern Montana. Pieces ranged from gravel to enormous boulders. The largest of these is the Okotoks Erratic, our Big Rock.
Our local town’s name is derived from The Blackfoot word for rock which is “okatok”. Big Rock has cultural significance for the Indigenous people in the area. Here is a Blackfoot legend:
“One hot summer day, Napi, the supernatural trickster of the Blackfoot peoples, rested on the rock because the day was warm and he was tired. He spread his robe on the rock, telling the rock to keep the robe in return for letting Napi rest there. Suddenly, the weather changed and Napi became cold as the wind whistled and the rain fell. Napi asked the rock to return his robe, but the rock refused. Napi got mad and just took the clothing. As he strolled away, he heard a loud noise and turning, he saw the rock was rolling after him. Napi ran for his life. The deer, the bison and the pronghorn sheep were Napi’s friends, and they tried to stop the rock by running in front of it. The rock rolled over them. Napi’s last chance was to call on the bats for help. Fortunately, they did better than their hoofed neighbours did, and by diving at the rock and colliding with it, one of them finally hit the rock just right and it broke into two pieces.” Credit: Alberta Culture and Tourism https://www.alberta.ca/okotoks-erratic-big-rock.aspx
CyArk is a nonprofit whose mission is to “digitally record, archive and share the world’s most significant cultural heritage and ensure these places continue to inspire wonder and curiosity for decades to come”. They produce high quality 3-D digital scans of archaeological and cultural heritage sites. There are only three sites in Canada that have been preserved in this way. The Big Rock is one of them. CyArk partnered with the Government of Alberta and SarPoint Enginerring and the scans were done in September of 2013. The results can be found on their website here: https://www.cyark.org/projects/okotoks-erratic/overview
Trip Advisor list The Big Rock as the Number One thing to do in the Okotoks area. When you are visiting the area we hope you now have some understanding. And it’s why there are a number of businesses that use Big Rock in their name. Make it part of family day trip. For other day trip ideas click here.
Camping in Calgary has always been popular with visitors to our fair city. In addition to travelers, camping is a favourite family activity for locals. With travel restrictions brought on by the pandemic, locals are choosing getaways and vacation options close to home this year.
Even before the pandemic we were seeing a rise in popularity. There are many reasons for this:
- Family tradition
- Experience the outdoors
- Explore nature
- Improve physical and mental health
- Disconnect from technology
- Family bonding
The popularity of the activity is increasing and a recent study found that Millennials are embracing this and now comprise 40% of people who camp.
Two families came together to create and grow this campground into what it has become today. We are now in our second generation running operations. Over the years we have seen a great deal of change. In the early days people arrived in the family car and pitched a tent. It was a very simple pleasure for simpler times. (Read more)
This post was provided by Dylan Snyder, team leader and real estate consultant at The Snyder Group.
Home Security Tips for Campers
Home security is just as important for an RV as it is for a standard residence. Without proper security, an RV can be vandalized, stolen or burgled. Many people keep important and valuable items in their RV, like money, electronics and important documents. In the event that an RV is compromised, all of these important belongings could be taken. People who enjoy taking out their RV can follow this advice to help keep their RV and belongings safe. (read more)
The Love of Camping
Spending a day, a weekend or longer in a family campground in Southern Alberta is great fun. What is it about camping that makes it so eagerly anticipated? We think it can boiled down to essentials which hold true whether you are sleeping in a tent or travelling in a Class-A motor home. It’s an escape from the rat race, it’s a chance to get closer to nature, and it’s participating in an activity as a family. Most camping enthusiasts would also add their love of sitting around a campfire to the list. here is no doubt a lot of people love camping and it’s popularity is growing. You can find most of these essentials at any campground, so when choosing a family campground here is a brief list of things to consider.
Travelling to your campsite is an opportunity to enjoy some scenery but the fun of camping happens after you arrive and get set up. If you are doing a weekend camping trip, choosing a campground that is closer to home means the fun begins sooner. Closer also means lower fuel costs. (read more)
Having a campground wedding allows you to be creative and unique. Some current popular wedding themes that lend themselves to choosing Riverbend Campground as your venue are Rustic, Country, Vintage and Nature. Two fascinating themes that were held a Riverbend Campground last summer were a Viking Wedding and a Biker Wedding.
The photos of this wedding were taken by Mike Yukon of YukonArt Photography and were used with permission. You can contact Mike through his website here.
Cameron Campos Officiated at the biker wedding and had this to say: “I had the opportunity last summer to officiate a wedding for a young couple at Riverbend Campground. I live in Okotoks, and spend a lot of my summer at the river, but had never been to the campground before. My regular spot on the river, upstream from the campground, is a little haven of nature, and Riverbend Campground was no different. (read more)
Eight municipalities south and west of Calgary formed a tourism marketing group that billed the members as “Cool Little Towns.`We have updated this post as some significant changes have taken place. This original organization was municipally run with the long term goal of transitioning operations to participating businesses. The transition has taken place and the new organization is Foothills Tourism. Check out their website here. The Towns are still cool and new organization features even more communities.
This post looks at the original eight communities. All are a short drive from Riverbend Campground which means there is lots to do within an easy drive when you stay here . We have previous posts that featured day trips to two of the original towns Okotoks and High River. In addition to these two, the towns of Bragg Creek, Black Diamond, Turner Valley, Longview and Nanton, along with our Municipal District of Foothills, cooperated to present themselves as the “Cool Little Towns.” (read more)
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. (read more)
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. (read more)
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 . . . (read more)
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. (read more)
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, Ancestry.com, 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 Ancestry.com 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 (read more)…
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… (read more)
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. *Click here* for 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.
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 So
uthern Alberta community of Lundbreck. The church was moved to Heritage Park in 1964.
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.
Our little chapel has a less grand history but is a special little spot for us. (read more)
In the past twelve months we have had two RV fires. The most recent was a Class A motorhome that was destroyed in a fire on January 8th. The Okotoks Fire Department responded and says it took two hours to extinguish the fire. The trailer on the next site had some exterior damage but was saved by the efforts of the firefighters.
We want to ensure the safety of all of our campers. Before starting the season, do a though safety review. Does your unit have working smoke and carbon monoxide detectors? These should be checked and tested regularly. Make sure you have a fully charged fire extinguisher in your RV. Everyone should know where it is, how to operate it and what types of fires it can be used for. (read more)