I’ve lived in Alberta since 2004. I know I haven’t seen everything here but I feel like I’ve visited a lot of places. I’ve been to Banff and Jasper and Medicine Hat and many places in between. When planning our trip to the US, I never really considered stopping in Alberta on our way South. A few weeks ago, Dewey suggested that we stop at Writing On Stone Provincial Park. I poo pooed the idea because I just wanted to get to the US and into Montana. He suggested it a few more times before I finally said “FINE!” and said we would do it.
This is the part where I say he was right and I was wrong.
Writing on Stone is an AWESOME place to visit and it is only about 3 hours from Calgary. We weren’t exactly sure what to expect. We drove up to the Visitor’s Centre while exclaiming over the landscape. You are looking down into a river valley with TONS off hoo doos betweeen you and the river. The Visitor’s Centre sits atop the valley.
Our first stop was the Visitor’s Centre. We wanted to book spots on the 2 pm petroglyph guided tour. The area of the park where the petroglyphs and pictographs are is closed to the public unless you go on a guided tour. Once you see the ridiculous amount of grafitti left on the cliffs over the years, you will understand why. The tour was an additional charge ($19 for adults and $11 for kids) but it is worth every penny.
The Visitor’s Centre isn’t huge but you can spend quite a bit of time there going through the interactive exhibits. They introduce the Blackfoot Culture and explain what some of the petroglyphs mean. They also have areas where you can explore artifacts from the Blackfoot people that show how the cave etchings came to be.
Next, we had an hour or so to kill before the tour started. To the hoo doos we went! Evan had a blast climbing the hoo doos. The entire area is open for exploration. The only rules are no graffiti and leave any animals alone. It looks a bit like a cross between the surface of the moon and a M ayan temple. I think Evan could have stayed and explored for a few more hours with enough hydration and cooler clothes.
At 2, we joined our group to head for the preserve. We boarded a bus with about 12 additional people. Once we arrived at the cliff near the rodeo grounds, we disembarked and headed up to the cliff face. Our guide was both personable and knowledgable. She was also great with Evan (boy, I wish I could remember her name). She told us all about the petroglyphs and how, even now, for some of the drawings they still have to make a best guess as to what they mean.
In addition to telling us all about the historical relevance of the drawings, she also showed us a rattlesnake soaking up the sun in a hole in the rock face. The tour lasted about 2 hours and we saw many rock drawings during that time. It was so cool to realize that some off the drawings were made 300 or 500 or even 1000 years old! She also explained how technology is helping archeaologists see the pictographs drawn with ochre that have faded from the view of the human eye.
All in all it was an amazing (and tiring) day. We left Writing On Stone glad that we had made the trek and ready to take on our next adventure….right after we got across the border and stopped in the first town for the night because TIRED.
Follow along on our travels by follwing the hashtag #DraggingMissDaisy on Twitter and Instagram! You can also check out Evan’s take on Writing On Stone over on his homeschooling blog.