High Water Readiness

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: http://www.mdfoothills.com/emergency-management/emergency-alerts.html  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, 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 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

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.

RV Fire Safety

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.

In most cases of fire, the best decision is to get out quickly and stay out.  Do not go back in for anything.  Saving lives is the first priority, objects can be replaced, lives cannot.  Have an emergency exit plan and review it with all family members.  Are doorways clear and do latches work properly?  Next check your emergency exit windows.  Do window latches work and does the window easily open?  Some seasonal campers have structures beside their units.  Make certain these do not compromise the operation of these critical exit options.

It is important to become familiar with your site location.  Those of us familiar with Riverbend will know a site location by lot number.  Even at that there is occasionally confusion between East and West.  First responders, not familiar with the campground rely on site number and road name.  Take note of the road name leading to your site, in case of emergency.

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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