Mounted Police Museum, & Head-Smashed-In Buffalo Jump

The 31st day of the trip – Tuesday, May 24th – was so varied that I broke the journal up into 2 posts, the first about our coal-country stops, and this one about Prairie history – the Mounted Police, and buffalo.

We didn’t put on many miles this day – only 109 km (68 mi) in this second part of it. Clicking on the map will open an interactive version in a new window.

Map - Frank Slide Interpretive Centre to Fort MacLeod and Head-Smashed-In Buffalo Jump
We reached The Fort Museum (Museum of the North West Mounted Police) in Fort MacLeod just before 3:00 pm, later than I’d planned on, so I unfortunately felt a bit of pressure to “git ‘er done”. There’s a parking lot across the street, but it’s quite small and not big-rig friendly if it gets busy. Admission to the museum was $18 – $10 for Cathy and $8 for me. The NWMP Musical Ride is performed here (this is not the official RCMP Musical Ride), but performances don’t start until July 1st.

The Fort Museum (Museum of the North West Mounted Police) in Fort MacLeod, Alberta
The museum isn’t as large as I’d expected, as much of the focus is local, but it’s still very good. This model shows the original North West Mounted Police fort.

Museum of the North West Mounted Police, Fort MacLeod, Alberta
The life of a North West Mounted Police constable in a remote detachment in the early days, with the bedroom, office, and jail, all basically in one room.

Museum of the North West Mounted Police, Fort MacLeod, Alberta
When I first saw this display, I thought that visiting the Mounted Police cemetery would be a good addition to the museum visit, but during the research for this post, I discovered that the wooden grave markers were replaced with marble ones in 1962, and for me, that would have hugely lessened the impact of the cemetery visit.

Museum of the North West Mounted Police, Fort MacLeod, Alberta
“Signing of Treaty #7”, by M. Lindstrom. Treaty 7 was a peace agreement between the Queen of England and the Blackfoot, Peigan, Blood, Stoney, and Sarcee Indians that secured land for the government to build the transcontinental railway. Signed on September 22, 1877, it made provision for each Native family to receive one square mile of land, for each band to receive cattle and farming equipment, and education and medical services for Native children.

Painting 'Signing of Treaty #7', by M. Lindstrom
I found the fort to be a bit challenging photographically, but there are some excellent subjects and shooting locations, and having the site virtually to ourselves made it easier.

Museum of the North West Mounted Police, Fort MacLeod, Alberta
Churches always intrigue me, and the fort’s little chapel was no exception.

Chapel at the Museum of the North West Mounted Police, Fort MacLeod, Alberta
The chapel has two lovely stained glass windows.

Chapel at the Museum of the North West Mounted Police, Fort MacLeod, Alberta
The centre of the fort’s parade square, with symbols which would have been meant to impress upon visitors the power of The Queen’s justice.

Parade square at the Museum of the North West Mounted Police, Fort MacLeod, Alberta
We left the museum just before it closed at 5:00, and less than half an hour later were at the Head-Smashed-In Buffalo Jump World Heritage Site. This is a powerful place that I’d been to 3 times before, but this was Cathy’s first visit.

Head-Smashed-In Buffalo Jump World Heritage Site, Alberta
UNESCO designated Head-Smashed-In Buffalo Jump as a World Heritage Site in 1981 as one of the world’s oldest, largest, and best preserved buffalo jumps, a site where, starting some 6,000 years ago, Native people hunted bison by stampeding them over a cliff.

Head-Smashed-In Buffalo Jump World Heritage Site, Alberta
The interpretive centre was closed, of course, but we walked the loop trail below the cliffs, and signs along the trail told some of the story.

Head-Smashed-In Buffalo Jump World Heritage Site, Alberta
Below the cliffs, archaeologists have found layers of dirt, stone rubble and bones over 11 meters thick, accumulated over thousands of years.

Head-Smashed-In Buffalo Jump World Heritage Site, Alberta
After our walk, we moved the RV over to the overflow parking lot – there were signs in the main lot stating that overnight parking isn’t allowed, but we didn’t see any signs prohibiting it in the overflow lot, which has a superb view. Bella and Tucker were happy to be able to play there, even on-leash (dogs aren’t allowed on the trail), and the bawling of distant cattle intrigued them.

Head-Smashed-In Buffalo Jump World Heritage Site, Alberta
A huge number of wind turbines, many of which we passed on the drive to Fort MacLeod, can be seen in the distance, beyond the Old Man River.

Wind turbines and the Old Man River
Our very content little girl that evening 🙂

Our sheltie cross Bella
Cathy and I had seen 5 deer on our walk, and as darkness started to settle in, 3 of them showed up and were very curious.


Two of the deer cleared the fence beside us easily, but this one took a couple of minutes to decide that she could make it, after searching unsuccessfully for a way around it.


This was a beautiful spot to spend the night. On Wednesday, we had one stop to make before settling in at Cochrane for 5 nights.



Comments

Mounted Police Museum, & Head-Smashed-In Buffalo Jump — 5 Comments

  1. Interesting place. I’ve never heard of stampeding bison over a cliff.

    BTW, in Canada, if you don’t see a sign prohibiting overnight parking w/your RV, is it safe to assume that it’s allowed? Does it vary by province?

    • Parking rules vary by individual jurisdiction – a town can make any rules they want – but in general, if there’s no sign saying that you can’t park overnight, for more than 8 hours, or whatever, you can, except on private land.

  2. Beauty. I haven’t been to the jump since 2012 but would have killed to spend the there for the view alone (no RV when I went of course)!

  3. Loved the background in that shot of the RV and tracker at the Buffalo Jump parking lot…mtns are inviting you back from the flatlands.