Fort Walsh: Horses, Whiskey, and Murder

James Morrow Walsh

James Morrow Walsh

©2008AngieHaggstrom

South West of Maple Creek, Saskatchewan Canada is a national historic site that not many know exists. Part of the Cypress Hills Interprovincial Park, Fort Walsh National Historic Site is a recreation of the Trading Post, town site, cemeteries, and North West Mounted Police (NWMP) Fort that once flourished here. The Trading Post was a major trading point in the west and was an important part of daily life for the Aboriginals, traders, and settlers who lived here. In fact, the events that occurred in this area changed life on the Canadian Prairies forever.

The area had been a hub of activity before the construction of the Fort and even before Farwell’s Trading Post. The local tribes often used this area for winter camps because of the trees and abundant wildlife in the park. The Metis people (those who had Aboriginal and French lineage) also settled into the area. In fact, you can still see the tipi rings and the cellars of the Metis shanties to this day.

Then, in the 1870 a man named Abe Farwell moved out west and built a trading post here to trade furs and supplies for the Hudson Bay Company. The tribes and fur traders (often called wolfers) camped not far from the post and would bring in their pelts and collect their much-needed supplies. This was a huge benefit to the area at the start. European settlers received furs, beads, and other supplies from the west and the people here could get pots, tobacco, lanterns, and other items that were simply not available this far west.

Unfortunately, it wasn’t all innocent. Farwell also brought in whiskey, which the natives and wolfers traded for freely. One night in 1873, the wolfers were drinking heavily and chatting away when they noticed their horse missing. Immediately the local Nakota tribe was blamed for stealing it. The drunken wolfers gathered up their buddies, grabbed their guns, and headed towards the village. It is not known who fired the first shot, but what is known is the devastation left behind. By the end of the fight, men, women, children, and even the elderly were murdered where they stood; almost the entire tribe was eradicated.

The worst part was yet to come. After the massacre was over, the horse was found a short time later not far from the wolfers camp. The horse’s owner hadn’t tied him off properly and the horse had simply wandered off. The traders were taken to trial, and even with Farewell ‘s testimony, they were found to be innocent of their charges. Today, this event is known as the Cypress Hills Massacre.

Chief Sitting Bull

Chief Sitting Bull

This event did cause two positive changes in the Canadian prairies. First, because the wolfers went to court, the Aboriginals eventually respected and trusted the NWMP. This became vital three years later in 1876 when General Custer was defeated in the ‘Battle of Little Big Horn.’ Chief Sitting Bull and the Sioux would arrive and stay until they signed treaties and return to the United States in 1881. Secondly, the Massacre led to the arrival of the Canadian Mounties (NWMP) and the building of Fort Walsh in 1875. James Morrow Walsh initially ran the Fort. He would become a great friend of Chief Sitting Bull and would eventually arrange talks between the American Government and the Sioux.

After a long and trying fight, the Mounties would eventually bring peace to the area. After there was no more buffalo for the wolfers to trade and the Aboriginals had been settled onto reserves, (the Nikaneet still live on a reserve in the Cypress Hills not too far from the Fort), the need for the Mounties was gone and they left in 1883.

Royal Canadian Mounted Police Musical Ride

Royal Canadian Mounted Police Musical Ride

The Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) returned to the Fort in 1942 and used it to train and breed their horses until 1968. This would lead to the creation of the famous RCMP Musical Ride and their signature black horses.

There is so much to see at the Fort Walsh site and the quiet countryside makes it a peaceful and interesting afternoon. You can get a tour of the Fort including the Trading Post, the museum and theatre, the cemeteries, the town site, and even enjoy the picnic or cafeteria. They even have cannon demonstrations, the Musical Ride, and other events throughout the year.

If you would like to take more information about the area or history, here are some sites that might interest you:

A virtual tour of Fort Walsh

Comprehensive information about Abe Farewell and the Fort

Pictures from the Fort

Thank you for taking the tour of the Cypress Hills!

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Welcome To Corner Gas And The Imaginary Town Of Dog River…AKA Rouleau, Saskatchewan, Canada

Saskatchewan - The Home Of 'Corner Gas' and Dog River

Saskatchewan - The Home Of 'Corner Gas' and Dog River

©2008AngieHaggstrom

For anyone who has seen the television show, a visit to the set of ‘Corner Gas’ is a must see attraction when traveling through Saskatchewan, Canada. Located in the town of Rouleau, the entire set as well as their production studio Canada Saskatchewan Production Studios where the comedy team films its indoor scenes.

For anyone who doesn’t know what Corner Gas is, it is a hilarious comedy series that airs on CTV and the Comedy Network about life in the small town of ‘Dog River’. Former topics included the tearing down of a barn and the burning down of a profitable corn stand. Doesn’t sound funny? Normally you wouldn’t think so, however, the cast of Corner Gas can definitely pull it off.

The stories surround Corner Gas owner ‘Brent’ played by Brent Butt, and the ‘Ruby’ café owned by ‘Lacey’ played by Gabrielle Miller. Other places and characters include his best bud ‘Hank’ played by Fred Ewanuick, gas station employee ‘Wanda’ played by Nancy Robertson, miss-matched police officers ‘Davis’ and ‘Karen’ played by Lorne Cardinal and Tara Spencer-Nairn. Special guests to the show have included Prime Minister Steven Harper and CTV’s Canada AM anchors Beverly Thompson and Seamus O’Regan.

During the tour, you have access to the entire set unless the cast is filming. In that case, you miss seeing that particular part of the set, but maybe you’ll get to meet the stars! You are almost guaranteed to meet Josh Strait who plays ‘Josh the Cook’ on Corner Gas and helps with the tours.

Tours of the set and production studio offered by CNT Tours are a bit pricey, but worth every penny. The entire tour lasts for approximately four and a half hours. They also pick you up, drop you off at one of two pickup points in Regina, and also have a choice of hotel packages to save you some cash.

There are many other things to do in Regina as well. The same company that offers the Corner Gas Tours also offers a Ghost Tour of Regina where you get to see Regina’s best sites in the dark and hear the local folklore. The RCMP Heritage Center is located on the original RCMP Training Academy Grounds and tells the story of law enforcement from the start of the Mounties to the present day. There is also a casino, a concert theater featuring the Regina Symphony Orchestra, hayrides, and many more attractions.

For more information, visit the Tourism Regina site or keep your eye out here for future travel tips about this fun-filled area of Saskatchewan! Additional information on Corner Gas can be found on a blog by darylwaynejosephlorette.

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Three Top Spots For A Honeymoon Or Romantic Getaway In The Canadian Prairies

The Best Honeymoons And Romantic Getaways In Western Canada

The Best Honeymoons And Romantic Getaways In Western Canada

©2008Angie Haggstrom

When it comes to planning a honeymoon in Western Canada, it is all about where to stay, since that is where you will be spending most of your time. The variety of great places to stay in Saskatchewan, Manitoba, and Alberta let you truly enjoy any honeymoon you can dream up. Here are three unforgettable favorite that easily fit into your wedding budget.

3. The Romantic Getaway Retreat In Manitoba

Not far from Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada and the town of Beausejour, is a small couples-only spot called ‘Romantic Getaway Retreat.’ They offer lovebirds a quiet luxury cabin with a Jacuzzi and steam shower as well as a kitchen, sunroom, fireplace, and many other lavish features. The lodgings are nestled along the water front on more than 100 acres of private forest.

What really sets this little place apart from others is the high attention to fine details. The chocolates, rose petals, and candles are just the start. There are heart stickers on the paper towel and even the toilet paper. If you are looking to include some memorable activities on your romantic retreat, there are great skiing and snowshoeing tours available. With the retreat only a short distance from the city, you can spend the afternoon shopping and sightseeing or you can sample a taste of the local nightlife. The cabins start at $199 a night during the off-season and there are only two of them available, so you’ll want to be sure to book early.

2. Temple Gardens Mineral Spa Resort

At the Temple Gardens Mineral Spa Resort, it is all about relaxation. Found in the city of Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan, Canada, the resort offers guests full spa treatments and a rooftop geo-thermal mineral water pool. They have a beautiful honeymoon suite, which runs around $400 per night, as well as an anniversary suite and many other luxury rooms to choose from.

There is fine dining, a lounge, spa shop, casino, and fitness room directly on site, but because of its great location in the city, your options are certainly not limited. That is, if you can convince yourself to leave the resort. The city has all different kinds of things to do and see. Theater productions, trolley tours, museums, and galleries can easily fill an afternoon. There are interesting attractions like Al Capone’s Tunnels of Moose Jaw and tons of shopping opportunities.

1. The Fairmont Jasper Park Lodge

The Fairmont Jasper Park Lodge is truly the ultimate in luxury stays. You can choose from lavish suites to large 7 000+ square foot cabins complete with private garages, pools, and fireplaces. With prices ranging from around $100 to $700+ per night, everyone can enjoy the beauty of the Rocky Mountains on their honeymoon or romantic getaway.

There is The Edith Cavell for some of the best fine dining in Canada. The Emerald has fantastic food and a breathtaking view of the mountains. You can enjoy the scene from inside the beautifully decorated restaurant, or you can have your meal on the patio while you watch the fantastic sunsets and scenes. There is a health club, spa, and world famous golfing here as well. Because it is situated right in the Great Canadian Rockies, there are an unlimited number of things to do and see.

The Canadian Prairies have many great honeymoon destinations, but these three are definitely at the top of the list. Whether you prefer the ultimate in luxury, the quiet hideaway, or the urban retreat, you won’t be disappointed. The worst part of the entire thing? Having to go home!

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Dinosaur Eggs, Devils Coulee, And Log Cabins – It’s Gotta Be Alberta!

One of the Many Sights of Southern Alberta, Canada

Travel in Southern Alberta, Canada

©2008Angie Haggstrom

Sadly, the southeast corner of Alberta, Canada is a virtually unknown area to many world travelers. There are no major cities south of Medicine Hat or west of Lethbridge, but what it does have more than makes up for the lack of urban activity. When you travel to the area surrounding Warner, Cardston, and Etzikom, you have a chance to see rare sights such as nests of dinosaur eggs, historic log cabins, and a chance to see real carriages.©2008Angie Haggstrom

South of Medicine Hat, AB, the little town of Etzikom is a great place to start your day of travel and excitement. The Etzikom Museum and Canadian National Historic Windmill Center is different from any other museum you will ever visit and even the kids will love it.

The tour of the Canadian National Historic Windmill Center starts with the acreage surrounding the Etzikom Museum. Restored windmills and water pumps stand proudly retelling more than 200 years of wind power history. The tour continues inside the museum with several interactive displays that allow you to experience several different eras of Alberta’s history firsthand. The fossils, petroglyphs, and many other displays of period life including Indian artifacts and early pioneers are just a few of the things you can see and play with. From May to September, you can wander through the entire thing on your own or take a guided tour.

Once you are done there, drive over to Warner, Alberta and be sure to watch the beautiful scenery as you go! Old farmhouses dating back to the early 1900s, beautiful coulees, and delightful hills mark the entire trip. One coulee of particular interest is called Devil’s Coulee.

Originally discovered by a young local girl in 1987, the Devil’s Coulee Dinosaur Museum has rare Hadrosaur dinosaur nests, embryos, and a variety of other fossils. The tours take you through the excavation site and even teach you how to identify dinosaur fossils. The Heritage Gallery, found in the same location, has period history displays focusing on everything from the women in the early 1900s to the life of soldiers during WWII.

Last stop on the tour of southern Alberta is the quaint town of Cardston. This little town is literally filled with period buildings dating back to the start of the 1900s. One of these great buildings is the Cobblestone Manor, a beautiful Bed and Breakfast constructed from logs and river stones. Haven’t fallen in love with the place? Then ask about the heart-wrenching history behind the construction of the B&B.

The most interesting spot in this quiet little town is the Museum of Carriages. It was recognized by the government as one of the “Best Indoor Attractions in Canada” and with more than 250 examples of different non-motorized vehicles, it is certainly no surprise. On your way out of town, be sure to check out the Card Pioneer Home, which is almost the same as the day it was build more than 100 years ago.

The southeast corner of Alberta has something to offer everyone including the littlest of travelers. With so many different things to do and see, the memories gained from your vacation here are sure to stay with you for a lifetime.

For more information, visit Travel Alberta Canada or Alberta’s South Travel & Tourism.

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