When I heard of an attraction in Alberta called “Buffalo Jump Head Smashed-In” I just knew we had to go there. The nearest town to this crazy named UNESCO World Heritage Site was Fort MacLeod, Alberta which had an attraction of its own – a mounted police barracks – perfect, two attractions that could keep us busy for a two-night stopover.
|The museum is built into the hillside and is architecturally impressive.|
Buffalo jumps date back 6,000 years and were an effective technique at killing bison during this time that predates horses and guns. Other mass killing methods included driving them into corrals and water crossings, but none were as effective. At the Buffalo Jump Head Smashed-In site alone over 100,000 bison were killed throughout its use. Today the buffalo jump is commemorated in a five-story interpretive center and trail on the grounds.
The museum also tells the story of the demise of these once prevalent animals that iconically represent the North American west. When white man arrived, they slaughtered the bison with their guns as they shot them for sport from horses and trains, often leaving the carcasses where they lay. Naturalist John J. Audubon commented in 1843 that "before many years the Buffalo, like the Great Auk, will have disappeared..." While the native people used all parts of the bison, the white man exploited them.
|View from atop the cliff|
|This view from below the cliff shows the drop-off which was estimated at 60 feet.|
Remember, do not stand under the cliff when the buffalo drive is taking place or you'll
get your head-smashed-in!
|Wolf skin with picture of young hunter.|
Our next day in Ft. Macleod was not filled with so much death. Although we have been having fun with the "head smashed-in" phrase. Such as the other day when we got home from the grocery and our "bread was smashed-in," or the women who cut me off in the parking lot and I threatened "to smash her head-in," or when I made a turkey sandwich with "cranberry sauce smashed-in" the bread. Enough said - I think you get the picture!
Just down the street from the RV park (or dump as we called it) was the Fort Museum of the North West Mounted Police (which adopted the name Royal Canadian Mounted Police in 1920). The “Mounties” as they are affectionately called established an outpost in 1874 in an attempt to institute law and order to the unsettled western Canadian frontier. The fort today is a replica of that fort and features a museum, dioramas, riding arena, and Indian exhibits that tell the story of the Mounties and the Indians that lived in the area.
One of the real draws to this museum for us was the "Musical Ride." One of the first Musical Rides took place in Fort Macleod in 1876. For 40 years, the museum has featured a Musical Ride that features riders dressed in colorful replica uniforms and executing intricate patterns that exhibit the horsemanship of the Mounties. The 40-minute performance was entertaining and gave Betsy the chance to get horse smell on her hands (which she likes by the way).
We had read that historic downtown was a great place for a stroll so we ventured over after our Mountie experience. The historic downtown has restored buildings dating back to the turn of the century but is extremely dead on a Sunday afternoon. In fact, I am not sure that it ever gets hoppin’ so our sightseeing was over and off to the grocery we went. But we did like the town's Mountie humor that was displayed around town.