A few weeks ago, on our way back home from our whirlwind long weekend on the Icefields Parkway, we made an overnight stop at Rocky Mountain House National Historic Site. It rained most of the time we were there, so sadly we didn’t get to experience a lot of what the park had to offer. However, I feel like this is one of Parks Canada’s more underrated sites, so I wanted to share what I could. Check out our other posts about that weekend below:
Rocky Mountain House is a town in West-Central Alberta that we accessed via Highway 11 from Jasper & Banff National Parks. The adventure opportunities along Highway 11 look phenomenal and we can’t wait to go back for some boondocking whenever we get the chance! I can’t say much about the community of Rocky Mountain House because everything was closed for the long weekend while we were there, but the downtown looks super quaint. The National Historic Site is located a few minutes outside of town along the banks of the North Saskatchewan River. They have walk-in tenting sites and an RV loop. The RV loop is pretty basic– no services, firepits & picnic tables on each site, and a large flat field that’s perfect for playing sports or yard games. There is no privacy between sites, but the sites are spacious and spaced out well.
This historic site was created to commemorate and educate about two colonizers, David Thompson and Charlotte Small, who created a trading post and home base for discovering a pass through the Rockies at this site. Parks Canada has made efforts to acknowledge the Indigenous groups who traditionally used these lands, appreciate their heritage, and respect their rights to the lands. Parks Canada has partnered with several local Indigenous/First Nations and Métis organizations to revitalize their heritage education and preservation efforts at the site.
During non-Covid times, the National Historic Site offers cool interpretive experiences about blacksmithing, bison-watching, traditional games, First Nations and Métis culture, and archaeological excavation sites. There are fascinating points of interest for history buffs in the park such as a bison lookout, a cairn and other memorials, the centennial canoe, and educational plaques. There are also activities for outdoor adventure enthusiasts: ten kilometres of nature trails for hiking and biking and the Brierley Rapids which are class 3+ rapids for canoers and kayakers.
Aside from tenting or trailer-camping, the National Historic Sites offers some pretty neat “heritage camping” accommodations that I didn’t even know about until we arrived at the park. They have Métis Trapper Tents which sleep up to 5 people and provides a “fur trade camp kit”, Trapline Cabins which sleep up to 6 people and provide many amenities including a BBQ, and Tipis which sleep up to 8 people and also come with the “fur trade camp kit”. The park also offers “equipped camping” which provides patrons with all the gear for camping– tent, sleeping pads, sleeping bags, cooking stove with fuel, a lantern, and a camping orientation session! How neat is that?
We spent our evening popping outside in-between rain showers to sit by the fire or play catch in the field. When we were stuck inside, we cooked up a feed of shrimp stir fry, played cards, and had a few glasses of wine. Despite the rain, we were able to enjoy a night at Rocky Mountain House National Historic Site and learn more about what this beautiful province has to offer. I find it very interesting seeing sites that once celebrated the accomplishments of colonizers switch gears toward celebrating the history and culture of our country’s Indigenous Peoples. The approach still is not perfect– and it may never be– but I’m proud that the effort is there and that I continue to gain opportunities to grow in knowledge and humility.