Fort Macleod is a vibrant community of 3,000, located within easy sight of the Canadian Rockies. This town is a magnet for those who are seeking a relaxed rural life style, proximity to the Rocky Mountains, a strong sense of community, access to high speed internet and a short drive to Western Canada's corporate capital, Calgary. And of course, it's only an hour's drive to the scenic wonders of the Rocky Mountains!.
The town boasts the best weather of the Prairie Provinces, including the highest number of sunlight hours in Canada. The Chinook conditions provide mild winters and cooling breezes in the summer.Few places can transport visitors back in time like Fort Macleod. It's not difficult to see why while strolling through downtown, with attractions like the Empress, Alberta's oldest operating theatre and the Fort Museum, a former outpost of the NWMP, forerunners of the modern day Royal Canadian Mounted Police. Fort Macleod provides access to the famous Head-Smashed-In Buffalo Jump.
Golfers can also play the oldest golf course in Western Canada, situated amidst a landscape of foothills and grasslands.From a distance, Fort Macleod looks like any other town. It is at a crossroads that once hosted Indian encampments, wagon trails and buffalo grazing grounds, in view of the Porcupine Hills that front the ancient and majestic Rocky Mountains. Its location, 102 miles south of Calgary and 32 miles west of Lethbridge, makes Fort Macleod an easily reached oasis from the urban bustle of the cities.The last frontier in the west is home to Alberta's only Provincial Historic Area.
As you get closer, there is a definite feeling of being in two very different eras. Here, past and present co-exist. The place, known 150 years ago as Blackfoot Crossing, became a North West Mounted Police barracks and trading post in 1874. The town gradually took shape alongside the Oldman River, named for the "Grandfather" of Blackfoot mythology and within easy view of the majestic Rocky Mountains.
Fort Macleod's historic area draws you into the past to a time when the North West Mounted Police, Blackfoot Indians and pioneer settlers were the only inhabitants. Main Street is dotted with gift shops, antique stores, motels and restaurants. Right in the middle of the Historic Block is the "Jewel of the West", the Empress theatre, which is the oldest continually-operating theatre in Western Canada.Continue your downtown stroll over to the Fort Museum of the North West Mounted Police (NWMP), a replica of the original fort where historical re-enactments are the order of the day. You'll also find intriguing exhibits showcasing North West Mounted Police and Blackfoot Indian history.
From July 1st to the Labour Day Weekend you can enjoy the Fort's own NWMP Musical Ride four times daily, 10:00 am, 11:30 am, 2:00 pm, 3:30 pm, weather permitting.From the Fort, you can wander down to the Oldman River, the river that is always changing. A Wilderness Park on the other side of the bridge is a nature preserve, filled with wildlife and native plants. Or take "A Walking Tour of Fort Macleod" and learn about the early life and history of the town.
Tour guides and locals can provide those extra tidbits that add flavour to history. You might ask about the bullet holes in the giant art nouveau mirror over the bar in the Silver Grill or about Eddy, the ghost of the Empress Theatre.Located 18 km north and west of Fort Macleod, at a place where the foothills of the Rocky Mountains meet the great plains, is one of the world's oldest, largest and best preserved buffalo jump's known to exist, Head-Smashed-In. The site has been used continuously by aboriginal peoples of the plains for more than 5,500 years.
Head-Smashed-In is known around the world as a remarkable testimony of prehistoric life. The Buffalo Jump bears witness to a custom practiced by native people of the North American plains for over 5,500 years. Thanks to their excellent understanding of topography and of bison behavior, the Blackfoot tribe killed bison by chasing them over a precipice and subsequently carving up the carcasses in the camp below.
In 1981, the United Nations Educational Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) designated the jump as a World Heritage Site placing it among other world attractions such as the Egyptian pyramids, Stonehenge and the Galapagos Islands.The Blackfoot, fiercely independent and very successful warriors, controlled a vast region stretching from the North Saskatchewan River in Alberta to Yellowstone River of Montana and from the Rocky Mountains to the Cypress Hills on the Alberta-Saskatchewan border. It was not until the coming of the North West Mounted Police in 1874, over 130 years ago, that Euro-Canadian settlement in the region began. Indeed, until the near extinction of the buffalo in 1881, the Blackfoot pursued their traditional lifeways. Only with the loss of their food supply were they obliged to adapt to the new era.
A short drive southwest of Fort Macleod is Waterton National Park, with a reputation as one of the most stunningly beautiful parks in North America. On the way is the town of Cardston with its monolithic Mormon Tabernacle, the largest outside of Salt Lake City, Utah. And straight west of Fort Macleod is the highway through the Crowsnest Pass that accesses the Kootenay Region of southeastern British Columbia..Michael Russell Your Independent guide to Canada Vacation.
By: Michael Russell