Things To Do In Canada — Fort Steele, BC

Things To Do In BCYou know that ‘someday’ list we all seem to make? The one that just keeps getting longer? Yeah, that’s the one…underneath your coffee cup. Well, I’ve got one too, and I plan on knocking off a few items this summer.

One of the items on my list, aside from stopping in at the Royall Tyrel Museum in Drumheller, is a stop at wonderful Fort Steele, a restored and reconstructed pioneer town situated at the foot of the Great Canadian Rocky Mountains. Not far from Cranbrook, this delightful little town began as a small collection of homes and was driven by gold rush and mineral discoveries until it died out in the early 1900s. One step on the dusty street and you’ll easily lose 150 years or so.

The cars disappear. There’s no loud music, and all signs of modern life seem to melt away. I haven’t been there since I was a young kid, but even then you could feel the stress dissipate. It seemed almost pushed out by a simpler life that somehow envelops you like a favourite childhood blanket.

Read the rest of this post on Travel The Prairies at http://www.traveltheprairies.com/canada/things-to-do-canada-fort-steele-bc/

Qu’appelle River Valley — Where The Land Tells You Its Own Story

Fort Qu'appelle 1910

Fort Qu’appelle 1910

Dividing the province of Saskatchewan from Lake Diefenbaker to the mouth of the great Assiniboine River in Manitoba, the stunning Qu’appelle River (link has a great video of the area!) and its beautiful valley has been the center of many Saskatchewan lives for centuries.

One look and you’ll be in awe of the lay of the land while the kids will be screeching ‘go faster, go faster’ from the back seat. It is definitely the highlight of many road trips.

Qu’appelle Valley — Its History

Historically, both the Hudson’s Bay Company (known as ‘The Bay’ today) as well as the North West Company, which had a post at Fort Esperance, used the river as early as 1781 and 1819 respectively. As a main trading route, many of the goods throughout Canada and Europe during those years came down this river.

The Qu’appelle River Valley was also an important location for the area’s Cree people. The legend says, as a warrior was crossing Echo Lake, he heard a voice call his name. He answered the call by yelling back ‘Qu’appelle’ or ‘who calls’ or ‘who is calling’. The sound he heard was that of his princess who called his name with her dying breath. Many still say they can hear the calls of the two lovers today. (Lebret, Saskatchewan is said to be the best spot for echoes.)

Qu’appelle Valley — The Land

The Qu'appelle Valley near Cutarm, Saskatchewan, circa 1910

The Qu’appelle Valley near Cutarm, Saskatchewan, circa 1910

The valley was created just after the last ice age. The result of runoff from the glaciers, the fertile land is brimming with native vegetation. Some of the species here are unique to Saskatchewan and the world in some cases. In fact, the area is one of Saskatchewan’s most ecologically sensitive regions.

The water system links Katepwa, Echo, Mission, Pasqua, Round, and Crooked Lakes that come to life from May long weekend until September long weekend. There are tons of places to camp and different events to attend throughout the season. Hiking in the area is fantastic and there are some amazing fishing opportunities all year around.

For me, however, it isn’t the destination that intrigues me as much as the drive. Tons of little back roads and main highways will take you across the river, but they all seem to have one thing in common:

As you approach the valley, you can almost tell something is coming. The roads take you up and down soft river hills and past farmyards that give you a glimpse of life on the farm. My personal favorites are the abandoned farmhouses long since forgotten, but still standing triumphantly against the horizon telling their stories to anyone who will listen.

All of a sudden, you find yourself at the top of a hill and the road all but disappears. You are looking at the hills in the distance (a couple of miles in many spots) with the Qu’appelle River twisting its way through the rugged terrain below. You can see how the water has cut into the land revealing earth than hasn’t been seen for thousands of years. It is like standing on the edge of a cliff and going over knowing you’ll land safely at the bottom.

I will tell you that my favorite ones are the little gravel roads. They have a certain rustic feel that plays my romantic heartstrings and temporarily appeases my hunger for history and culture. Some even wind along the side of the river valley and take you on a quiet scenic tour not many see.

However, I recommend that you not take any of the less traveled roads without knowing for certain which ones to take. Not that you’ll suddenly find yourself without a road at the top of a cliff, but many of them do not take you across the river. You can get lost easily, and with little to no traffic and few farms along the way, it could be a bit tricky finding help. Also, the deep valley also means that cell phone service is patchy at best.

For more information about the area, check out Virtual Saskatchewan’s entry on the Qu’appelle Valley.

(Dedicated to the 4 most loyal readers ever. You guys are the best!)

(This post can also be found here: http://www.traveltheprairies.com/manitoba/quappelle-river-valley-land-story/)

80 Million Year Old Fierce Sea Creature Found By Canadian Fossil Discovery Centre

Fiece Ancient Sea Creature Discovered by the Canadian Fossil Discovery Centre

Fierce Ancient Sea Creature Discovered by the Canadian Fossil Discovery Centre

©2008Angie Haggstrom

In the town of Morden, Manitoba sits the very exited staff of the Canadian Fossil Discovery Centre. The source of the excitement is the discovery of an 80 million year old mosasaur no far from Miami, Manitoba. The eerie prehistoric creature is said to be the biggest find in the province in more than 25 years.

The skeleton is estimated to be between 10-12 metres long and was thought to be the king of the ocean back in the day. The creature is believed to have breathed air. In its skeletal jaw, the creature sported teeth just over 5″(13cm). Even with massive teeth like that, the mosasaur could dislocate its jaw willingly to devour larger meals. The centre’s curator believes it may be an earlier relative of the snakes, a crocodile with fins, or a Komodo dragon that inhabits the earth today.

The mosasaur, named Angus, won’t be lonely at the centre. The centre has another mosasaur named Bruce who was discovered in 1974 at Thornhill, Manitoba. Other fossils have also been discovered in the same area Angus has been sleeping for millions of years making the area a priceless find.

Perhaps most interesting about this story is the fact that the ancient monster was discovered by visitors and summer students to the center during a public dig. The Discovery Centre holds all sorts of different programs and workshops not only for children and intern paleontologists, but also for the general public. They hold digs where members of the public can accompany professionals into the field to look for real dinosaur bones and not fake ones buried in the sand like with many programs. The centre also offers trained volunteer positions to those staying in the area.

The Canadian Fossil Discovery Centre holds approximately 600 different objects from the late Cretaceous period. The centre focuses purely on marine reptile fossils although it does house many different fossil plants, minerals, rocks, and invertebrates. The centre is open from 1-5 every afternoon all year around. At the time of this post, they only charge $6 per adult, $3 per student, and $12 per family. What an inexpensive afternoon!

For more information, please visit the Canadian Fossil Discovery Centre or you can learn more about Mosasaurs on Wikipedia.

(This post can also be found here: http://www.traveltheprairies.com/manitoba/80-million-sea-creature-canadian-fossil-discovery-centre/)

Crocodiles and Antique Aircraft: An Insider’s Guide to Brandon, Manitoba, Canada

Commonwealth Air Training Plan Museum

Commonwealth Air Training Plan Museum

©2008AngieHaggstrom

Brandon, Manitoba is one of my favorite places to travel. This city gives you a sense of freedom and just seems to have the perfect thing for everyone. It’s small, picturesque university is truly one of the best. The people here are supportive and friendly. The shopping is absolutely fantastic – city prices with small town service. Besides, where else can you see crocodiles and amazing aircraft in the same vacation.

If you are traveling through on the number 1 (Trans-Canada), you will notice a large yellow airplane on the north side of the highway. Turn north here. If you are going to stop anywhere, this is a great place. The Commonwealth Air Training Plan Museum is a massive building is filled with real, genuine airplane and vehicles used by the British Commonwealth from 1939 to 1945. Even though I’m not much of an airplane fanatic or war history buff. This museum was really something to see and we will definitely be going again.

The airplanes and vehicles are fantastic. Each one of them was fixed and rebuilt by volunteers who really are the stars of this place. When we arrived, a friendly and knowledgeable staff greeted us and we were could walk through at our leisure. This was great considering we had my son with who had more interest in some things and less in others. We ran into a volunteer who was putting together another airplane and he provided us with a lot of first hand information about the planes and vehicles throughout the building as well as how these planes are recovered and pieced together. He really made the tour fantastic. They do have an online tour available.

If you happen to drive down 18th street in Brandon, make a stop at the Daly House Museum. The house once belonged to Brandon’s first lawyer and mayor, and a children’s shelter. Where this museum truly shines is that it was built in 1882. This house is absolutely filled with pictures, furniture, and artifacts from the city’s past. We spent a lot of time hearing about the many different stories are held in the house. You can see the time and passion that was put into the research and preservation of each piece.

A short drive east of Brandon is the Canada’s National Artillery Museum. Found at CFB Shilo, it is a great way to see and learn about the armed forces and peacekeepers that have served all over the world. You can get a taste of what there is to see and do by visiting the Virtual Artillery Museum of Canada.

Westman Reptile Gardens

Westman Reptile Gardens

On the way back, stop at the Westman Reptile Gardens. The center is a wealth of crawling creatures including spiders, snakes, crocodiles, turtles, and lizards. The people at the center are extremely knowledgeable in the field and are really friendly.

For outdoor enjoyment, the Elenor Kidd Gardens are really well done and have a different look and feel each time you visit. Ducks Unlimited and Brandon Tourism run the Riverbank Discovery Center. It is a great place to learn about the Assiniboine River system. You can walk through the ponds on the trails, grab souvenirs, enjoy an afternoon relaxing and even have a picnic. It also connects to Dinsdale Park along the bank of the river. There is a train car for the kids to explore and plenty of other fun things to do in the area while enjoying the fresh Manitoba air.

If you think these places are great, just wait till you see the shopping, dining and accommodations in Brandon. We’ll explore those tomorrow. In the meantime, if you would like to see what else the city has to offer and visit Brandon Manitoba online they have a great website that includes a list of what’s going on in the city each day.

(This post can also be found here: http://www.traveltheprairies.com/manitoba/crocodiles-antique-aircraft-insiders-guide-brandon-manitoba-canada/)

UFO’s and Extraterrestrials Welcomed By Alberta Towns

UFOs and Star Trek Friends Welcomed with Open Arms in Alberta

UFOs and Star Trek Friends Welcomed with Open Arms in Alberta

©2008AngieHaggstrom

While most Alberta towns cater to those who travel through on the highways or arrive on hiking trails, some Alberta communities welcome guests from the air, and I don’t mean airplanes. St. Paul, AB has the world’s first Flying Saucer Landing Pad. The landing pad is complimented by a full UFO Interpretive Display and tourist information centre to learn about everything from cattle mutilations, UFO’s, crop circles, and even records creative of hoaxes that have been created.

The town of St. Paul, Alberta is located just a short drive to the Northeast of Edmonton, AB. You really can’t miss it. It’s the big, odd looking structure right on the edge of town. The Landing Pad is constructed out of 130 tons of cement and six 30 inch columns. At the back of the UFO Landing Pad is a map of Canada that is made from stones from each of the Canadian Provinces.

It was built specifically for Canada’s Centennial in 1967 and was opened by the Minister of National Defence. The tourist information center was opened to visitors in the 1990s. The Flying Saucer Landing Pad has yet to welcome an intergalactic visitor, but it enjoys seeing thousands of tourists every year. In 2000, the center even hosted a UFO conference.

Another Alberta travel destination that welcomes intergalactic visitors is the town of Vulcan, AB located not far from Calgary, AB. This is a must stop for Space Trek fans and UFO-goers alike. Almost the entire town carries a Star Trek theme including the Enterprise-A from Star Trek V and murals. The Tourism and Trek Station has all of the information you ever wanted to know about the area and the famed movie. The also have a virtual reality game to enjoy.

When it comes to events, the town has become famous for its Star Trek convention also known as VulCon and Galaxyfest/Spock Days. Their website features a great video made by the town that gives you great insight into the creativeness and friendly nature of the town and shows how involved the area is in the world of Star Trek. It definitely makes for an interesting Canadian vacation!

I would like to say thanks to Rob for the heads up! He hosts a great blog called ‘Tome of the Unknown Blogger’. Please check it out!

(This post can be found on Travel the Prairie’s new home at http://www.traveltheprairies.com/alberta/ufos-extraterrestrials-alberta-towns/)

Great Saskatchewan Oddities and Roadside Attractions

Anyone who travels through Saskatchewan will notice the many oddities and interesting things Saskatchewan residents like to honor. You all know what these are. These are the “World’s Biggest…” that everyone likes to get a picture of or at least you gawk at it as you go by. Some of these look so strange, you just have to stop to find out what it is.

Churchbridge decided to show the world how crazy we really could be and built the ‘World’s Biggest Loonie.’ In reality, it was constructed in order to honor Artist Rita Swanson who designed the 125th birthday coin.

They weren’t the only ones to honor a Canadian symbol. Moose Jaw has the ‘World’s Biggest Moose.’ Mac the Moose is 32′ long, 24′ wide, and 30′ high and is constructed of metal piping and metal mesh. He weighs approximately 10 tons. The town of Eston constructed an 8′ high statue of their favorite prairie resident from Tyndalstone. The World’s Biggest Gopher weighs approximately 3 000lbs and was made in honor of their annual Gopher Derby. The village of Sceptre has the tallest wheat plant in North America while Cabri has a goose with a 12′ wingspan, an 8′ high antelope, and 13′ wheat stocks.

The World’s Biggest Grasshopper can be found at Wilkie and measures 18’x6′ as a tribute to the people of the town. While Govan has the Whooping Crane and Kyle (not far from Cabri) has a big Wooly Mammoth, Porcupine Plain has, well, a porcupine. Quilly Willy (at the bottom of the page) is the town’s 13′ town mascot. Parkside has a Giant Red Lily that stands 26′ high and honors the man who developed the flower.

These might all seem quite normal, but just wait. Rocanville has the world’s largest Oil Can, diamond, and ball cap. Vonda, a small town of only 300 people has the world’s biggest still. That’s right. Moonshine. Cut Knife built the world’s largest Tomahawk in a teepee as a symbol of peace and unity with the aboriginals who live in the area. (It was built in the ’70s that should explain it.)

Now Davidson really got it right in1996 when they build the 24′ Coffee pot with a Cup. That’s my kinda town! The original idea was to portray the town’s friendliness and hospitality. Lancer has bunches of Chokecherries in honor of their annual Chokecherry Festival (Chokecherry jam is fantastic!) and Saint Isadore du Bellvue has a pea plant. Let’s not forget the world’s largest paper clip thanks to the guy who traded his paperclip on Ebay and eventually wound up with a house in Saskatchewan. (You can read the story at http://oneredpaperclip.blogspot.com/)

What made me pull over was Macklin’s World’s Largest Bunnock. When you see it, you’ll get it.

To see the world’s largest Kielbassa (that’s a good one!) and other oddities in the Canadian Prairies, Visit CBC’s Blue Sky post or Tourism Saskatchewan.

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(This post can now be found here: http://www.traveltheprairies.com/saskatchewan/saskatchewan-oddities-roadside-attractions/)