Several weeks ago, I made a day trip to Writing-On-Stone Provincial Park. The park is located near the Alberta-Montana border, 42 km southeast of the town of Milk River. I grew up less than an hour and a half drive from the park but had never visited it until now.
Writing-On-Stone was designated a Provincial Park in 1957 and has been an Archeological Preserve since 1977. In 2019, it became a UNESCO World Heritage Site. This place holds special significance to First Nations people, specifically the Blackfoot, who hunted and camped here for generations.
The park is best known for its amazing sandstone rock formations (hoodoos), and rock art – petroglyphs and pictographs. There are over 50 petroglyph sites and thousands of works at Writing-On-Stone.
In 1887, the North-West Mounted Police opened an outpost at Writing-On-Stone. The outpost remained open until 1918. Sometime after this, it was burned down by arsonists. Between 1972-1973, a replica of the NWMP outpost was constructed on the original site.
As you approach the park, you are provided with scenic views of the Sweetgrass Hills, rising above the prairies, across the border in Montana. If you are fortunate, you will also see pronghorn antelope along the way. I saw about a dozen. They were much too wary and bolted as soon as I stopped the car along the side of the road to take pictures. Blurred photos are better than no photos.
Unfortunately, the visitor center was closed the day I visited. The campground was open and provided a good view of some of the hoodoos. The Battle Scene and Hoodo hiking trails were closed for maintenance, so I was not able to see any rock art. Still, I managed to find some interesting things to photograph.
While growing up in Coaldale, I had a friend who used to go camping at Writing-On-Stone with his family during the summer months. I remember some of his stories of swimming in the Milk River and exploring around the hoodoos while watching out for rattlesnakes.
It was about a six-hour round trip to Writing-On-Stone Park from Crowsnest Pass, which made for a long day. I would like to return sometime to take more pictures. This time, I’ll bring my tent and spend a few days.
Pine Coulee Pictographs
A few years ago, I had the opportunity to photograph pictographs at Pine Coulee, near Stavely, Alberta. It was an interesting experience and I enjoyed it very much. At one time, the coulee may have been used by the Blackfoot people as a place to find water and shelter and to hunt.
There is a possibility bison were killed by these people by driving them off the cliffs at the top of the coulee. While taking photos, I tried to imagine what it would have been like to see teepees erected at the site, while listening to the beating of drums and the sound of the hooves of bison running across the prairie, toward the edge of the coulee.