Exploring One of Alberta’s Oldest Ranches
One of the things I enjoy most is traveling and gaining inspiration from unique cultures and ways of life, particularly those that are very different from my own. So much so, I often overlook the heritage of my own hometown and find myself taking it for granted. I mean I would definitely say that for the most part, I have embraced my Calgary roots with my unapologetic country style, but traveling to other countries has slowly made me realize just how little I really know about my own culture and how it came to be. As a result, I am making an effort to explore Calgary and Alberta more, searching for hidden gems and being a tourist in my own culture.
One of my favorite places in Alberta, which started it all is the Bar U Ranch National Historic Site. My family and I just recently took a trip down memory lane and visited the ranch for my dad’s birthday. Here is a little snippet of our adventure!
First and foremost, story time!
Located, deep within a pocket of the rolling foothills, lies one of Alberta’s best-kept secrets, the Bar U Ranch National Historic Site. It was established in 1882, and home to many notable figures in Alberta and Canada’s history, such as George Lane who was one of the big four that established the Calgary Stampede, John Ware a freed American slave who settled in Alberta as a working cowboy, Fred Stimson and the famous Canadian rancher Patrick Burns. The ranch was also visited by some iconic figures in history including Edward, Prince of Wales, the famous oil painter Charlie Russell who created a series of paintings around the Bar U and Guy Weadick who we can thank for persuading the owners of the ranch at the time to fund the first ever Calgary Stampede – Wooohoo!
The ranch was one of the first corporate ranches and predominately known for its large-scale cattle operations, which were at the time extremely modernized. As a result, they proudly fed the workers on the transcontinental railway, immigrants new to the land, `Canadian soldiers during two wars and it sustained our nation throughout the Great Depression. They were also known for their prize stock of 1,000 purebred Percherons, which helped to build our cities and transport goods across the continent. The Bar U was a keystone to the advancement of both Alberta and Canada as a whole, without it who knows where the heck we’d be today!
Learn to be a cowboy, or not!
If you are looking to take a mini road trip somewhere to escape the hustle and bustle of the city and enjoy a relaxing afternoon, the Bar U is a fantastic option.
This place is very near and dear to my heart and it holds some of my fondest childhood memories, as my Dad and I spent copious amounts of time horseback riding throughout the land and exploring the crevices of all the famous old red heritage buildings. If the whole western charade isn’t your thing, there is more fun to be had than just learning the cowboy way. First of all, the views are spectacular; as it is located in the valley with a magnificent backdrop of the rocky mountains- so you can’t forget your camera!
The property itself consists of 366 acres of picturesque landscape poised as a working ranch, with 35 historical structures that give you a hands on experience, transporting you back to a time in history.
One of my favorite places to explore, that never gets old (see what I did there!) is the old post office and RCMP headquarters. This houses the media and newspaper department, along with original Woodward’s and Eaton magazines dating back to the 1800’s – aka fashion magazines, surprise! A little further down the road is another favorite of mine, the old cookhouse. They have a beautiful garden in the back and a Parks Canada employee is usually in the kitchen, dressed the part of course, serving up old-fashioned delicacies, such as apple cake or molasses cookies!
If you do decide to venture down to the Bar U one sunny Fall afternoon, which I highly suggest you do, be sure to check out their café + coffee shop. I often do not find coffee here in North America that my picky taste buds enjoy, but their cowboy-roasted coffee is comparable to a café au lait in Paris – ohhh ya!