In the beautiful Province of Alberta, Canada, near the southern border with the United States and East of the town of Milk River lies a fabulous natural treasure known as Writing-on-Stone Provincial Park.
The entrance to the park.
The rock formations called Hoodoos are everywhere in the park. They come in unique shapes and sizes. The Hoodoos are the results of thousands of years of erosion. Glaciers exposed the sandstone bedrock in this region during the last ice age. Rain and wind softened edges while frost split off large blocks forming cliffs.
Two different views hiking along the Hoodoo Trail.
My dad and I hiked the Hoodoo trail on a lovely Friday in October. I think this is the best time of year to hike this trail because there is less chance of running into a rattle snake. We did see lots of other animals: deer, a coyote, pheasants, woodpeckers and other birds we couldn’t identify. We also saw lots of animal tracks. The photo below is of bird tracks; but, I do not know what kind of bird made them. If you can tell by the tracks what bird it is, please let me know in the comment section of this blog post.
There is an abundance of plants that grow along the trail. Some of the most colourful and interesting patterned is the lichen that grows on the rocks.
Another section of the trail goes through an Aspen groove. The leaves had fallen from the trees. Their bright yellow colour carpeted the trail in some areas and lined it in others.
As some of you may have guessed from the title of this post, there are petroglyphs (images carved directly into the rock) and pictographs (images painted onto the rock) in this park. This area is considered sacred to the Blackfoot people. Rock art is described by them to be work of the spirit world. It is believed that the rock art may have been created as parts of rituals and vision quests.
Above is a photo of two petroglyphs. One is toward the center closer to top of the photo and kinda looks like a hand (it is considered to be a bear paw). The second one is on the right side towards the bottom of the photo and kinda looks like a long cigar shape with possible horns and feet (it is considered to be a bison). Both the bear and bison are sacred animals.
Very faintly, You should be able to see a pictograph of a bison from a hunting scene. He was painted on the rock using a red ocher pigment made from crushed iron ore mixed with water.
Below is an image of the entrance to Police Coulee and the Royal Canadian Mounted Police post established there. This coulee crosses the Montana (United States) and Alberta (Canada) border. This coulee is protected and has limited access because it is home to unique species of animals, rock art, archaeological sites, and historical sites, making it an important feature of the park. Friends who live along the border had told me stories about whiskey smuggling through Police Coulee.
“By the 1870s, European traders had established themselves throughout Blackfoot territory, and exchanged furs for knives, pots and other useful items. Some traders also sold them a deadly product – rotgut whiskey. Police Coulee became a favourite route across the border for whiskey smugglers. The Mounties marched west in 1874 to stop the whiskey trade, eventually establishing a post at Police Coulee in 1887.” -Hoodoo Interpretive Trail, Self-guided Trail Brochure
For readers from north central Montana and south central Alberta, you will recognize the Sweetgrass Hills in the background of the photo above. Standing at an elevation of 2,128 meters above the prairie, the Sweetgrass Hills are an iconic and navigational feature of the area. Also running through this photo is the Milk River, part of the Missouri river drainage system. The river has helped carve and shape the park that we see today. At times during the hike, we could hear the gentle flow of the river in the background.
4.4 kilometers round trip, the Hoodoo trail is fairly easy. There are lots of ups and downs and steps to climb. However, I think this adds to the uniqueness and fun of this trail. We were lucky to have the entire trail all to ourselves most of the day. It wasn’t until we were almost finished that we encountered other hikers.
Writing-on-Stone Provincial Park is an enchanting place. It is rich in history, myth, geology, wild life and Native American Spiritualism. I highly recommend visiting this amazing place if you are ever in the area.