Okotoks Big Rock

Athabasca Glacier

Okotoks erratic, The Big Rock

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.

mapiong showing distance from origin to final resting place of Okotoks Erratic

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.

 Indigenous Connections

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

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.

The Viral Okotoks Tourism Campaign

Okotoks Attractions

There’s an abundance of things to see and do in Okotoks. We have a page called “Things to do in Okotoks Area” which has links to the websites of various attractions which you might enjoy. We also encourage you to check out our blog for “A Day in Okotoks.”

Tourism Campaign Goes Viral

In 2015 The Town of Okotoks launched a tourism marketing campaign that ended up gaining a measure of notoriety. The tag line for the campaign was “There are a number of things to do in Okotoks.” The Town’s marketing included ads on transit vehicle exteriors in the Calgary market. The fun began when a photo of the side of a C-Train car with the tag line was posted on social media. The line was displayed out of context and it struck people as so understated that it deserved some ridicule. It sparked a flurry of memes and the hashtag #thingstodoinokotoks went viral. Who hasn’t seen at least one meme featuring Jonathan Goldsmith – the famous face of the Dos Equis “the most interesting man in the world” campaign. The people of Okotoks took all of this in stride.

The Backstory

You might find the story behind the campaign of interest. The Town produces a Visitor’s Guide each year. For the 2015 publication they took the idea of the little paper fortune teller folks used to make when they we kids and made it the central theme of the guide (see photo). The outside flaps contained the words “Happening,” “Hip,” “Historic,” and “Hungry.” Inside the panels were number one to eight and each reveled one of the things to do. Panel number one said “Spend a throwback day in the museum” and panel two said “Get some grub! We hear the ice cream is delicious” and so on. The main campaign slogan was “Let your summer unfold in Okotoks” and the word “number” in the tag line both tied back to the fortune teller.

Campaign Wins an Award

In February of 2016 the campaign won the Growing Rural Tourism Award. This annual award is presented in partnership with Travel Alberta, Alberta Culture & Tourism, Alberta Association of Agricultural Societies, and Tourism Camrose.

Make Your Own Fortune Teller

So this got us thinking. Why not create a fortune teller with your kids. If you don’t remember how to, here’s a link to a 10-step set of instructions. For content may we suggest “A number of things to do at Riverbend Campground.”

  1. Play a round of Mini golf
  2. Rent a Paddle boats
  3. Rent a Peddle cart
  4. Walk a nature trail
  5. Have a campfire
  6. Make s’mores
  7. Buy a treat at the Riverbend store
  8. Bird watching

Plan to “Do Some Things”

When you book you camping get away/vacation here at Riverbend Campground be sure plan some of the things that you can see and do. We are located right on the eastern edge of town so the many things to see and do are easily accessed.

Camping in Calgary

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:

  • Affordable
  • 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.

Brief History

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. Over the years camping has evolved and today families are less likely to arrive with a tent. In fact, at present health authority protocols only allow campers that have a self contained RV. When restrictions are lifted, we expect purists and young families will return with their tents

Calgary Campgrounds

Over the years several campgrounds that were within the Calgary city limits have disappeared. This is a natural evolution and not unique to our city. A campground can have a large footprint and as a community evolves the land is acquired by developers. Another factor locally is a City of Calgary bylaw which restricts open fires. Most campers feel sitting around the campfire is a highlight of the experience.

Still Many Options for Campers

Today there is only one campground remaining within the city limits. Fortunately there are still many campsite options, including Riverbend Campground, just a short drive from the city. Options range from privately owned campgrounds like ours to properties operated by municipalities or service clubs. Municipal campgrounds tend to be smaller. As an example, the Turner Valley Municipal Campground 28 kilometres to the west of us has just 22 sites.

Close to Calgary Attractions

If you are traveling to the Calgary area and plan to experience the area attractions, Riverbend Campground is an excellent choice. From your home base here you can just relax or discover a different adventure every day. The city is famous for the Calgary Stampede which happens for ten days in early July, Due to the pandemic the Stampede has been cancelled this year. This is a major happening as the event has an attendance of over a million visitors. Beyond the Stampede, there are things to see and do all summer long. For a taste of attractions visit our “Things to do in Calgary Area” page.

Fly fishing on the Bow River with the Calgary skyline in the background. Photo by Philippe Clairo

More Reasons to Stay

Beyond the city there is so much to see and do from the wonders of nature which we have in abundance to historic sites and attractions. As locals we realized we are blessed to live here and are happy to share our knowledge of popular attractions as well as some lesser known spots you might enjoy.

6 Tips to Improve RV Security

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.

Get a Safe

Anyone who brings money or valuables with them when camping will need a way to keep items safe inside the RV. Installing a safe somewhere inside the camper makes this possible. The most secure type of safe will be built in to the RV, but there are portable safes available that can also help secure belongings.

Keep Valuables Out of Sight

Thieves often act on impulse, taking what they happen to see. Keeping valuables out of sight in an RV campground can prevent this from happening. Drawing the curtains and putting things away before leaving for a hike is one of the best ways to prevent thieves from trying the “smash and grab” approach.

Camp Near Others

Camping near others is a good way to deter thieves and vandals. With witnesses around, thieves are unlikely to break into and enter the trailer.

There are also other reasons that camping near others is safe. Camping in isolated areas means that there’s less help available if an emergency should occur. Camping near others is a good way to ensure that there is safety in numbers.

Get a King Pin Lock and Dead Bolt

Specialized locks help prevent thieves and vandals from stealing a trailer or objects from inside the trailer. There are a variety of different locks that can help secure an RV. Choose a trailer coupler lock for a bumper hitch or king pin lock which wraps around  the 5th wheel king pin. These devices prevents someone from hooking their truck up to the RV for the purposes of stealing the trailer.

Deadbolts also help secure the trailer door. A dead bolt is a much sturdier lock than the standard lock that comes with the RV trailer, and can help prevent people from breaking in to the trailer.

Install a Motion Detector Light

Motion detector lights are useful for a variety of purposes. On dark nights, a good motion detector light will help prevent accidents in the area around the RV, by making the area around the RV easier to see. A good motion detector light is also an excellent way to keep undesirable people and wild animals away from the RV entrance. This makes the RV safer to walk into and out of at night.

Choose a Smart Parking Spot

Parking an RV in a well-lit area is another good way to keep unwanted people away. When parking an RV in a parking lot, it’s a good idea to park the RV in a part of the parking lot that is well-lit. In this situation, it’s also smart to park an RV in such a way that the door to the RV is facing the storefront, so that anyone who enters or exits the door can be seen by the people in the store.

If you’re an RV owner who would like more information about how to keep your RV secure, talk to an RV salesperson. He or she should be able to talk to you about the many options available for keeping an RV safe.

Dylan Snyder is a team leader and real estate consultant at The Snyder Group – Keller Williams Realty Luxury Homes. His business is augmented by his high-caliber team of seasoned buyer specialists and a dedicated marketing department.

Choosing a Family Campground in Southern Alberta

Mini Golf

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. There 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.

Location

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.

Being close to an urban communities like Okotoks, and Calgary, which are on our door step, means you have access to attractions, shopping and dining. Tourism Calgary’s website which you will find here is a great place to start. For information on our region just south of Calgary access the Foothill Tourism Association website found here. If you were not planning on venturing anywhere but you end up with a rainy day read our blog post about some of the things to see and do in Okotoks. Riverbend Campground is on the eastern edge of town which means getting there doesn’t take much planning.

This is the Alberta prairies, and in this region, it makes good sense to choose a campground on a river. As a rule, campgrounds in the mountains are heavily treed. On the prairies, river valleys are the only habitat with enough groundwater to sustain tree growth. A mature trees canopy, provides shade, is generally cooler on hot dry summer days and is more aesthetically pleasing.

Choosing a campground on decent roads and near major transportation corridors means travel to and from the campground is convenient. It does help to be a little distance from main roads for less traffic noise.

Types of Sites

Some family campgrounds in Southern Alberta are designed with every site pretty much the same as every other, laid out like lots in an urban community. The natural setting of the Riverbend property means irregular sites so a wide variety of sites are available. Tenting sites tend to be in well treed areas within a short walk of the washrooms. RV sites are mostly back-in with some pull through sites. Most RV sites are power/water/sewer, with some power/water only. Electrical service is either 30 or 50 amps. Information on rates for the various types of sites can be found here.

Amenities

It makes good sense to choose a campground that has well maintained amenities. Clean modern washrooms are high on most people’s list. If you have been on the road for a while or you are travelling with kids, laundry can pile up. Riverbend has laundry facilities in two locations in the campground. Speaking of children, keeping them occupied can sometimes be a challenge. Riverbend has playgrounds throughout the property. Kids also love the 18-hole miniature golf course located across from our general store. Mom and Dad can take the kids for a tour around the pond on a paddle boat. This can be a work out and the family might want to relax over ice cream afterwards.

If you run out of the basics, like bread, milk and ice, or need propane or fire wood, staff at the office/general store are happy to help. Here you can also get information on walking the campground. There is a well established nature trail system at throughout Riverbend Campground.   The main camping areas around Riverbend are flat and very walkable. For the safety of all, especially children, the speed in the campground is 15 km/hr which is strictly enforced. It’s not uncommon for one of our seasonal campers to offer a reminder to a driver going a bit too fast.

Summary

When choosing a family campground in Southern Alberta, there may be times when you will choose a wilderness campground and there will be times when a campground close to a small community or urban center is a great choice. When choosing the latter, we hope you book your trip with Riverbend Campground.

Planning a Campground Wedding

Fall colors present the perfect backdrop. Photo credit Mike Yukon.

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. I ran through the ceremony with the couple the night before; they were busy with final preparations and decoration, and they had plenty of help from their family, many of whom were staying at the campground. The wedding venue at the campground has a rustic charm, and when they pulled a custom Harley in as a backdrop for the ceremony, it couldn’t have fit more perfectly.

The lake shore is steps from the Hall. Photo Credit Mike Yukon

Cameron continues: “The wedding went great and the pictures turned out excellent as well! The highlight of the wedding was after the kiss, when the couple walked out, they got on his bike, and as they rode off together, the rest of the guests revved their bike engines! It was a unique wedding at a venue that couldn’t have been more suited for the couple! I look forward to being involved in many more weddings at Riverbend!” You can contact Cameron through his website here.

Planning Your Own

When planning a wedding at a campground, there are a few things that can become your guiding principles. First off, remember you are close to nature. Taking things outdoors means great lighting and natural backdrops for the photographers. If the weather doesn’t cooperate on your special day, Riverbend has you covered. The large hall, with its rustic look and warm natural wood tones is an excellent backdrop if you need to move things indoors. When you choose to have a campground wedding, you might be shying away from glitz, but your are embracing rustic. Rustic doesn’t need to mean shabby, rustic is warm, comfortable and inviting.

With themes like Rustic, Country and Vintage there are opportunities to create decor items yourself. Camping coffee pots make rustic vases for table centers, or choose some colorful camping lanterns. Mix the coarse and soft textures of burlap and lace by combining them for table runners. Search out some barnboard and use it for signage and/or decor. Hay bales practically scream country and rustic. They are readily available at places like the Okotoks Country Living store at the corner of Highway 7 and Southridge Drive. Use them for display or as seating but remember, they can only be used outdoors unless you get ones that are treated with fire retardant. These have a tag on them indicating they are safe for use indoors and they are not cheap.

Creativity for a Unique Wedding

If you want to have some fun and spark your creative juices, search Pinterest for the term “mason jar wedding.” It’s amazing to see what these simple glass jars are being used for. Another great idea, we’ve seen a wooden pallet, propped up with the slats used to itemize the wedding itinerary, simple and effective. There are endless ways to be creative and thrifty at the same time.

As part of your planning, check out our Family Reunion page here for some resources that might be helpful, such as catering companies in the area. And remember, he farther in advance you plan the better. We don’t have much space left for this summer, but 2019 could be your year.

Cool Little Towns

A New Beginning

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.

The Original Cool Little Towns

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.”

Events and Tours

A visit to the Foothills Tourism website is worthwhile as they provide highlights for each of the participating communities plus events and tours. First, check out events. You will discover that some of the events listed are ongoing such as exhibits at a museum while others such as.festivals, happen over a weekend or on a specific day. Each tour has a theme and takes you through several communities. This means you day can be focused on your interests. You can follow their tours or use one of their tours as a jumping off point for your own adventure. The area is rich in history which encompasses agriculture and energy development. If your interest is the arts find tours and events that explore local galleries or look at film and television production. Dining is a popular theme and you can discover everything from diners to fine dining.

Communities to the West

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. Here you are at 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. The discovery of natural resources was very important historical milestone for these communities. The discovery of coal deposits in the area was the inspiration for the name Black Diamond. 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.

Communities to the Southwest

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.  During that era, Longview was known as Little New York while a sister town to the north was known as Little Chicago. A roadside monument is all that remains of Little Chicago. Paying tribute to these heady days 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.

Communities to the South

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. Motorists could re-hydrate at a public water tap. Nanton water became 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. Sadly, 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.

Plan Your Day Trip

This is certainly not meant to be a comprehensive look at the Cool Little Towns. We do hope you are intrigued to discover more for yourself. Each town presents a plethora of shops, sights and adventures. We encourage you to visit and discover for yourself. Until next time, happy motoring.

Nearly every town in the west had one or more grain elevators. Most have bowed to progress. 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

We have recently been writing about exploring this area while staying at Riverbend. This post describes a day trip to High River, a town 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.

Rebuilding

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 he town. Nothing from the past compares to what the town faced four years ago. The town was under water which prompted officials to order the evacuation of the entire population of 13,000. 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

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.

Day Trip Highlights

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. The variety of scenery in the area has lead to quite a bit of motion picture and television production in the area. This began 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. Community volunteers lovingly care for this showcase. 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.

High River Murals

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, a movie set for the CBC Television series Heartland is a popular attraction in downtown High River.

High River Welcomes You

Unique shops, galleries, restaurants and a community full of friendly and industrious prairie folk, you’re sure to enjoy your day trip to High River and you can be sure the town 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 plan  spend a day in Okotoks. The family will find lots to keep them busy. 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 installed on the roofs of garages behind the homes. These 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.

Historic Past

Our area has a rich history and an enthusiast can spend time learning about the early days of life in the Foothills. In 1874 a trading post was established and settlers started 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. While walking around the downtown area, watch for informational signs found at historical buildings and locations.

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

Olde Town Okotoks

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.

Walking & Playing

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 recently expanded Water Spray Park and the Skateboard Park. These are 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.

Okotoks Golf

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.

Okotoks Dawgs

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.

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