Massive Mountain Rock Travels More Than 200 Miles from the Rocky Mountains

Fascinating Alberta Travel Destinations

Fascinating Alberta Travel Destinations

©2008AngieHaggstrom

Imagine, a massive 17 ton rock falls more than 200 miles from the mountains and lands in the middle of the prairie landscape. That is exactly what happened in Okotoks, Alberta, Canada. How about that for a fascinating stop in your Alberta travel plans?

Of course the idea that this massive rock rolled just shy of 250 miles isn’t possible. This large chunk of quartzite, known simply as ‘The Big Rock’ or ‘Okotoks Erratic Rock,’ was actually carried away by glacier ice more than 10 000 years ago. Quartzite is one of the hardest substances on earth, but this trait also makes it very fragile.

Experts believe that an ancient rockslide caused this piece of mountain to land on a glacier that was flowing down the Athabasca River that once flowed wildly past Jasper. Eventually, the glaciers began to melt and deposited into the middle of the grassland. As one traveler wrote about in his post, the local Aboriginals have their own unique story about the rock’s origins. For more information see this great page from Alberta Heritage.

The true magnitude of the stone is understood when you stand beside it. It has a way of humbling you and giving you a true perception of size and the realities of this world. It isn’t the only one. In fact the region from Jasper into the northern half of Montana is known as the Foothills Erratics Train and is the largest in North America.

If you do decide to travel to Okotoks, there are many other interesting things to do in and around the region. Several different tours are available that will take you through Okotoks and throughout Kananaskis and the Foothills. The town is only a 15 minute drive from Calgary.

The beautiful outdoors attracts people here from all over the world. In the winter, the region has some of the best skiing, snowboarding, snowshoeing, and cross country skiing in the country. Snowmobiling is a popular activity with the local residents and tourists alike.

For summer travel plans, there are tons of beautiful trails that you can hike, ride, and drive. The Cowboy Trail is a great opportunity to experience real modern life on a ranch with a taste of the area’s history. Water sports such as water skiing, whitewater rafting, kayaking, and canoeing are also popular sumer activities in the region.

How about a visit to the Chinook Honey Company? You get to tour a real bee keeping operation in action. You get to see how the honey gets from the bee to the table as well as other delicious treats and interesting items such as beeswax candles, beauty products, honey mead, and honey chocolate! They offer tours and tastings all year around.

Head Smashed in Buffalo Jump

Head Smashed in Buffalo Jump

One site embedded deep in the local Aboriginal culture is the World Historic Site known as Head Smashed in Buffalo Jump. (Virtual tour anyone? It takes a few extra seconds to load, but it is the next best thing to being there.) For almost 6 000 years, the local tribes would chase the buffalo up this massive cliff and run them off the edge. The buffalo would fall approximately 10 meters and either die or be hurt badly enough that the people could kill them The meat, bones, hides, and every aspect of the animal was used for many necessities such as food, clothing, shelter, and tools.

Many more sites and scenes are hidden throughout the region. The natural history of the land and the deep culture of the people here are displayed for all the world to explore. Whether you arrive by plane, car, bike or two feet, there is something for everyone in Okotoks.

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Include Pyramids, Unique Festivals, and Pure Canadian Culture in Your Edmonton Travel Plans

Tons of other Edmonton attractions and activities exist outside of the West Edmonton Mall in this lively capitol city. Edmonton, Alberta, Canada is an important cultural hub for the prairies. The Edmonton Symphony Orchestra and more than 30 festival held here each year perfectly compliment the excellent shopping restaurants, and hotels. Edmonton travel plans are easily customized to suit everyone’s tastes.

The popularity of the Edmonton Gay Pride is quickly growing, but so are the other festivals held in the city every year. For music lovers, the Edmonton International Jazz Festival, Capital EX, Yardbird Jazz Festival, the Folk Music Festival, Edmonton Labatt’s Blues Festival, and the Symphony Under the Sky are just a few of the events sure to thrill.

Read the rest here on the new site: http://www.traveltheprairies.com/alberta/pyramids-festivals-canadian-culture-edmonton-travel-plans/)

Family Travel Plans? Visit North America’s Largest Mall

West Edmonton Mall

Top Alberta Travel Destinations: West Edmonton Mall

©2008Angie Haggstrom

For any of you planning a family trip to Edmonton, Alberta, Canada, a visit to West Edmonton Mall is a definite must. The mall has a huge selection of various stores, but there is so much more to see and do. There is a large water park, ice skating, movie theatres, amusement park, golfing, marine mammals and so much more. Anything you and your family would want to do is all in one place. Just one thing: you might want to reserve one or two entire days in your travel itinerary for this Edmonton Attraction.

The mall opened in 1981 with a total cost of more than $1.2 billion dollars. The mall takes up 570 000 square miles, which is equivalent to 48 city blocks! Currently, the mall sees an estimated 28.2 million visitors a year and is the largest mall in North America (5th largest in the world) Once you get inside you’ll see why! Don’t worry though…parking won’t be a problem with more than 20 000 spaces available.

Once you get inside, Galaxyland amusement park is a great place to start. The Mindbender roller coaster is three loops of pure adrenaline rush. From there, you have to try the tower! The rest of the park is filled with swinging rides like swings and ships, the fun house, and a special set of rids designed for the younger ones.

After the thrills and chills, how about some water fun? The World Waterpark located inside the mall is also the largest indoor waterpark and wave pool in North America. The waves are fun, but there are all sorts of thrilling waterslides and a special area for the little swimmers. If that isn’t enough, how about bungee jumping over the water?

Animal lovers have not been left out at West Edmonton Mall either. The salt-water exhibit called Sea Life Caverns comes complete with a sunken ship. Here, you can watch sea lions, penguins and other marine animals play and put on a show or play bumper boats. If you travel a little farther in the mall, you will find the fantastic petting zoo. If you would rather go ice skating than petting animals, you can do that here to at the Ice Palace!

Other attractions and activities in the mall include 2 mini-golf courses, movie theatres, casino, rec centre, shooting range, skate park, arcades and many, many more than there is room to list. Generally, anything you want to do or see can be found here. To make it even easier, you can even stay right in the mall in the Fantasyland Hotel and stay in a themed room. Be warned, however, that this one can get a bit pricey. The West Edmonton Mall Inn is great option for those on a little tighter budget.

When it comes to the shopping, it is just as diverse as the attractions will more than 800 stores and restaurants. You will find places like Zellers, London Drugs, and HMV as well as Abercrombie & Fitch, Swarovski, and Urban Behavior. The mall also has three themed shopping areas to help you find precisely what you are looking for – Bourbon Street, Europa Boulevard, and Chinatown.

The mall’s owners currently have plans to add on an additional 30 000 square meters of stores, an office building, trade show and convention center, apartment building and additional parking. Sound like fun? Just wait till you get there!

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Alberta Travel Plans Fit for the Stars: Hollywood’s Top Alberta Scenes

Visit Famous Hollywood Movie Sets In Alberta, Canada

Visit Famous Hollywood Movie Sets In Alberta, Canada

©2008Angie Haggstro

Have you ever seen a setting so beautiful you felt inspired and uplifted? If you have, you aren’t the only one. The same scenes that inspire you are the same ones that have attracted Hollywood’s producers and big name stars like Brad Pitt and Heath Ledger. Several areas in Alberta have been the backdrop for Hollywood movies and once you see them for yourself, you will easily see why.

The city of Lethbridge, Alberta, Canada has been a popular place for stars like Robin Williams and LL Cool J. Both stars stayed in the local Ramada Inn while filming their movies “RV” and “Rollerball.” In fact, Robin Williams enjoyed eating at one of the local Mexican restaurants known as “El Comal” and biked through Henderson Park.

If you drive just outside of Lethbridge to Monarch, you might recognize the area as the background for the chase between the ‘Big Rolling Turd’ and the Gornicke’s bus. While Writing-On-Stone Provincial Park, between Lethbridge and Milk River, was one of the main locations of the “RV” movie. You need a guide to see this area, but it is well worth it! The cast and crew as we as the ‘Munros’ enjoyed eating and staying right in Milk River.

Movies have gained a unique Canadian touch in the little town of Fort Macleod. “Brokeback Mountain” (See Below) and “Passchendaele” have used the historic main street of this sweet little town to its fullest advantage. The Red Coat Inn was the place of choice for the cast and crew. Southwest of Claresholm, a short drive away, is the Hart family land. You do need permission to enter, but once inside, you will quickly feel like you are in the ‘Brokeback Mountain’ movie. The land and cabin here were the centre of the storyline surrounding Alma and Ennis.

Brooks was also popular with movie stars and crew. Morgan Freeman and Clint Eastwood stayed in the Heritage Inn and Convention Center while on set for “Unforgiven” and Robin Williams stayed at the Heritage Inn and Suites and enjoyed eating at O’Sheas. “Texas Rangers” was filmed not far from the city of Brooks, Alberta.

Calgary’s Heritage Park and its operational steam engine were used as a set for “The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Redford.” Another area just west of the city also has a history with filmmakers. Highway 1 heading to Banff has been very popular with Hollywood. More than 40 movies have used this area including “Shanghai Noon,” “Legends of the Fall,” Open Range,” and “Lonesome Dove.”

The Badlands of Drumheller and Horseshoe Canyon were used for several scenes in “Unforgiven.” Many areas surrounding Drumheller were used in movies. Midland Provincial Park was used in the movie “Roughing It,” the local golf and country club was used in the movie “Where the Dinosaurs Roam,” and East Coulee was used for movies such as “You Know My Name,” “Dino Sapien TV,” and “Children of Fortune.”

There are many more locations and movie sets in Alberta. This beautiful province is what fairy tales are made from. Travel to Alberta to see for yourself!

*More information on locations used for the movie “Brokeback Mountain” visit http://www.findingbrokeback.com/

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Experience Real Life in the Canadian Prairies: Unique Alberta Vacations

Cabin Rentals, Ranch Vacations, and Pure Alberta Relaxation

Cabin Rentals, Ranch Vacations, and Pure Alberta Relaxation

©2008Angie Haggstrom

Vacations don’t have to include a visit to the same old hotel setting or the usual sightseeing tours. For something new and unusual, how about going on a true country vacation this year? Different styles of western vacations are available throughout the province. If you want to experience life in the Canadian Rockies, in Northern Alberta, or in the Southwest, go for it!

Alberta cottages in the southern portion of the province are a great way to experience a true country vacation no matter what time of year. Lyndon Creek Cottage, just outside of Claresholm is a wonderful place to spend your vacation. Here, you can stay in the rustic yet lavish guest house and enjoy waking up to the peaceful countryside of the Alberta Foothills. From here, you can explore the area including attractions such as the Birds of Prey Centre, Waterton National Park, Head Smashed in Buffalo Jump and many of the natural wonders in the area. Outdoor adventures like skiing, fishing, hiking, horseback riding and other activities are here as well. You get the enjoyment of living out in the country with the freedom of a hotel vacation!

Cabins in the wild Canadian Rocky Mountains are another great way to experience real life in the area. The Brewster Adventures allow you to live the history of the local area in a way that is not possible with a museum visit. Horseback riding on a 4-day pack trip takes you deep into the nearby Banff National Park where you can see the untamed wildness from a fresh perspective. Spend your days exploring the mountains and sleeping at night in an historic log cabin. They also offer day trail rides of Banff and genuine western barbeques in the Lake Louise area.

Guest ranches in Alberta give you the opportunity to witness life on the ranch first hand. You can watch the ranchers go about their daily lives of looking after their animals, and enjoy complete relaxation untainted by the rush of city life. The Lakeview Guest Ranch not far from Edmonton, Alberta is a prime example. Relax around the waterfront property and take part in your favorite activities. It is one of those vacations where doing nothing is truly a wonderful experience. Meals are made from scratch and offer the finest in Western Canadian cuisine. They even offer a selection of special programs and activities off and on throughout the year.

For those looking to truly experience life on a ranch in the Canadian Prairies, consider a real working ranch vacation. These vacations give you the opportunity to work and live on a real ranch. Red Lodge Guest Ranch lets you rent one of their comfortable Alberta cabins or stay in the ranch house. They bring you along and guide you through the various jobs done on the ranch including riding, moving and feeding cattle, and working with the horses. The vacation isn’t all work! There are trail rides and other fun activities to enjoy. If you choose to opt out of the ‘working vacation’ there are an unlimited number of activities and relaxation opportunities available. Volleyball, baseball, wagon rides, or just enjoying the fresh air. There is also a group lodge and camp sites available for visitors.

Take an entirely new vacation and experience real life in the Canadian Prairies! For more information, visit Alberta Western & Cowboy Vacations.

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Cypress Hills Alberta: A Wild Outdoor Adventure or a Relaxing Retreat

Reesor Lake - A Great Place For A Day in the Prairie Sunshine

Reesor Lake - A Great Place For A Day in the Prairie Sunshine

©2008 Angie Haggstro

The Alberta side of the Cypress Hills is a quiet haven that can be as civilized or as wilds as you want it to be. Downhill skiing, water skiing, and jet skiing are just a few of the activities you can enjoy here. If you prefer a more relaxed vacation, why not spend a romantic weekend at the Elkwater Lodge taking nature walks and fishing.

If you enter the park from the #1, Elkwater greets you with bang. As you crest the hill, the beautiful lake appears at the foot of the woods, and if you continue around the lake, the small little cabin community of Elkwater introduces itself with style. If you are looking for a place to stay, there is a multitude of options. The campground has a variety of different sites depending on your camping style. Tenting sites are nestled into the bush giving you privacy and the feel of seclusion. Other campsites available include a range of fully electric and non-electric spots that are private, shared, or design specifically for large groups.

Cabins for rent in the area supply you with quiet, quaint cabins to the ultimate in rustic luxury. A small Bed and Breakfast is also open in the area. The opulent Elkwater Lake Lodge can easily become your home away from home. There is a wide selection of rooms available including suites, cabins, and magnificent condominiums. The new facility features an award winning culinary staff in the Buglers Restaurant that serves everything from delicious pastas to rabbit. If a manicure, pedicure, or massage is in order, there is the Woodlands Massage and Spa located right there for your convenience.

Elkwater also has an additional restaurant and store run by some of the nicest people you will ever meet. There is a service station located on the main road into town as well as a visitor’s centre that is a wealth of information about the area and often holds various programs throughout the season. While you are here, be sure to take the time to enjoy the animals and scenery in the area with a hike on several of the established trails or make your own way. You will have the opportunity to see all sorts of wildlife including moose, squirrels, deer, and owls as well as a selection of rare flowers and plants. Some of the local favorites are wild raspberries, strawberries, and beautiful orchids.

The summer season is host to a variety of activities. Mini golfing, fishing, and swimming are great to start your holiday. There is also biking, boating, and a full sized golf course available. In the winter, you can enjoy downhill or cross-country skiing, snowshoeing, tobogganing, ice skating, or even an afternoon just playing in the snow and enjoying the fresh, peaceful outdoors.

If you do decide to go for a drive and the weather has been nice, drive to the east and head towards ReesorLake. It is not the smoothest backcountry road you will ever be on, but it is definitely worth the drive so long as it hasn’t been raining. Reesor Lake is a massive lake with enough space to enjoy their favorite activities from fishing and boating to wind surfing and jet skiing.

Come for a visit, enjoy the area, and feel free to explore! You may even fall in love with the area and decide to stay.

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Proof That Saskatchewan Is Not As Flat As First Thought – An Introduction

From the Top of the Cypress Hills

From the Top of the Cypress Hills

This is an introduction to the region in the Canadian Prairies known as the Cypress Hills. This is the first in a four part in-depth series of one of the most mystical places on Earth.

©2008Angie Haggstrom

Perhaps the most amazing place on the prairies, this special region is the highest point between the Laurentian Mountains in Quebec and the Great Canadian Rocky Mountains in British Columbia. The Cypress Hills Interprovincial Park, found in both Alberta and Saskatchewan, is Canada’s only Interprovincial Park.

The beautiful prairie oasis rises gracefully from the rustic prairie grasses and contains an amazing forest ecosystem. This magical place is home to a variety of unique species that draws visitors and experts from around the world.

Scientists believe that the park was formed during the last ice age. They believe that as the glaciers moved across the earth, the earth in this area pushed up between the icy plates and remained untouched. The result is approximately 220 bird species, more than 700 species of plants, and a mixture of animals including coyotes, wild turkeys, moose, elk, and cougars. Some of these species such as the Lodge Pole Pine and several orchids can’t be found anywhere else in the area,

In the early years of the park, the region was a center to the Aboriginal people and settlers in the area. As time went by, they were settled onto a reserve that remains there today. The park was then split into three distinct parts and ran by the Alberta, Saskatchewan, and Federal governments.

It soon became apparent that the secret to the park’s future would involve everyone working together to protect this vital area. In response, the park officially became an Interprovincial Park with the signing of the Cypress Hills Interprovincial Park Agreement on August 25, 1989. Today, the park is still referred to in three blocks – Cypress Hills Saskatchewan, Cypress Hills Alberta, and Fort Walsh– but everyone, including the local residents work together.

The Saskatchewan side of the park, just south of Maple Creek, Saskatchewan, has managed to find the perfect balance between tourist’s haven and a taste of the natural untamed world. Elkwater, Alberta, the Alberta portion of the park, contains a large, beautiful lake with a small taste of civilization hidden in its wild arms.

Combining the two of them is a quiet back country road that is completely impassible when it rains, but it offers you a look of the forest that cannot be seen any other way. Lastly, the northern region of the park can be found to the west of Maple Creek. Called Fort Walsh, this region holds a National Historic Site and tells of the hardships and the good times of days gone by for all of the area’s early residents.

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To be continued…

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