Crowsnest Highway in the Canadian Rockies

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Written by Madison Valois posted on Tuesday, August 18th, 2009

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You may see a bullmoose in the wilds of the Canadian Rockies.

You may see a bullmoose in the wilds of the Canadian Rockies.

As the oldest highway in Alberta, Canada, this trip will take you through numerous historic sites and byways. From Medicine Hat you can easily get to Cypress Hills, which is home to 14 species of orchids and over 200 types of birds. You’ll see moose, deer and wild turkey in this amazing natural terrain that is one of the few regions in western Canada that was not affected by the last glacial period.

After a spell in Medicine Hat, take the 105 mile drive to Lethbridge heading west through several lovely towns such as Bow Island and Taber. Taber is known for its fresh produce and is home to the Taber Sugar Beet Factory as well as Empress Foods. Once in Lethbridge, a city that was created from the early coal industry in the 1870s (it was originally named Coalbanks), be sure to visit the Nikka Yuko Japanese Gardens. Created in 1967 as a meditation garden, the site is a beautiful tribute to the friendship between Japan and Canada.

Southeast of Lethbridge you will arrive at Writing-On-Stone Provincial Park, just outside of Milk River. There is a wonderful archaeological preserve here along with camping grounds at the base of sandstone hoodoos. Take a canoe like I did, and spend a lovely afternoon on the Milk River.

Another great place to visit is Fort Macleod. This is southern Alberta’s oldest settlement, and it has been declared Alberta’s first Provincial Historic Area. With many beautiful wood frame buildings from the 1890s and brick and sandstone buildings dating from the early 1900s, you can really get a sense of the period when the town was busy expanding and evolving.

From here you can jump over to Head-Smashed-In Buffalo Jump Interpretive Centre where 5,600 years ago, Native Americans drove buffalos to their deaths so that they could use their fur and meat for subsistence. Designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1981, this is one of the largest and best preserved buffalo jumps in the world. Here you will learn about ancient Native American culture as well as the period when European interlopers arrived on the scene. Take out your camera to shoot some dramatic scenery as you stand on top of the cliff. With the Rocky Mountains on one side and prairies below, you will be sure to astound the folks back home.

Stop in Pincher Creek to visit the Lebel Mansion and the Kootenai Brown Pioneer Village. You will be heading into the Canadian Rockies, where you can see the Crownset River dramatically rush down into Ludbreck Falls Canyon. You can also visit the Frank Slide where 92 million tons of rock rumbled down Turtle Mountain to cover the town of Frank, unfortunately killing 70 people. Here you will learn about the event as well as how coal was mined at the time.

Before you turn around, be sure to visit the volcanic rock outcroppings just seven and a half miles east of the British Columbia-Alberta border. Roughly 100 million years old, these amazing rocks are older than the Rockies and are a geological phenomenon that illustrates volcanic activity in the region.

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