Tour - 'stones & bones' Red Willow
Start time: Flexible
Duration: 2+ hour
Location: Red Willow Creek (SE of Donalda, AB)
Highlights: Local history, geology, archeology, commanding views, pre-colonial history
Cost: $200 (Max. 4 participants, $75 per additional participant)
Tour #2 begins where Red Willow Creek flows into the Meeting Creek valley SE of Donalda. Hiking south, in the shadow of the "island hill" we enter the “pass”, to view the “hoodoos” on the East slope of Red Willow Creek valley. From there, we venture back through the “pass” and turn R following game and cattle trails through the valley bottom past numerous badlands buttes, then up a gentle slope leading to the bench land. Once on the bench land, a commanding view NW up the Meeting Creek valley awaits you. Here, near the escarpment are 2 stone rings, one 6 steps across, which is the typical dimension of a Blackfoot lodge, and a few meters closer to the escarpment is a second smaller ring approximately 2 ½ steps across. While resting and enjoying the spectacular view, several theories of the significance of the small ring will be discussed.
Next stop: Hiking north along the escarpment, we reach a point where we descend back into the valley following a game/cattle trail and almost immediately come across a dinosaur fossil. One element is almost completely exposed, but others nearby are still emerging as rains and spring runoff erode their bentonitic cover.
Next, there are two options. Option one entails climbing the island hill we passed on our way to the “hoodoos”. At the Northern most point on the table land which forms the top of the hill are two pits. The origin and theoretical function of these pits will be discussed. This is a very steep climb and cannot be attempted when wet conditions exist. Option two, we return to our vehicle and drive approximately 2 km to a site where a large native tipi encampment once stood. Of particular significance at this location is a tipi ring 8 steps across containing a fire pit at its centre. (Fidler in 1792 reported in his journal that Chiefs Tipi`s in the Buffalo Lake area were very large and often had 2 fires).
If option 1 is chosen, fitness and surefootedness is an absolute imperative, and the hike/climb and discussion will add 45 minutes to the total tour time. Bring sun protection, a water bottle, a light lunch, your binoculars and a camera/phone.