We departed Brooks, Alberta in thick, heavy smoke and made our way south to Milk River along the border of Alberta and Montana. The wildfires in British Columbia were still burning out of control and the smoke from the fire continued to blow east into Alberta and beyond. We continued our drive south hoping for clearer skies and cleaner air.
Our destination for a few nights was Writing-On-The-Stone Provincial Park which sits about 30 km east of Milk River and offers hiking trails, hoodoos, pictographs, and rattlesnakes! What more could you want. The rattlesnakes are prairie rattlesnakes and venomous but their bites are seldom fatal to humans and supposedly very timid.
Campground: Writing-On-The-Stone Provincial Park
Location: Milk River, Alberta
Site: 57 (back-in)
Cost: $33 (CAD) – includes reservation fee
Services: E (30AMP)
Comments: A beautiful treed campground in a lovely setting with nice trails through the hoodoos along the river.
With all the smoke we were anxious for some rain and we got it. The next day after arriving it rained the entire day which was refreshing and provided for a beautiful blue, clear sky the day after. It only lasted for a day but thank you.
The park has one campground with 64 campsites (all back-ins) of which most are long and spacious and level and offer 15/30 AMP. There are mainly dirt/gravel so you may encounter some mud during a rain. There is a dump station with potable water on site.
There is a swimming beach along Milk River right by the campground which campers were using and enjoying the river.
There is a trail through the hoodoos which leads up the hill to the Visitors Center. It is a fun trail to hike and feels like a maze as your wander through the rocks and look down to the campground and the Milk River.
The Visitor Centre sits high on the hill as you enter the park. As your pass the visitor centre you descend down to a treed area along the river where the campground is located.
The park offers a self-guided Hoodoo Interpretive Trail which is about 4.4 km round trip (just under 3 miles) and offers signposts along the way describing the area. The trail offers a few areas of pictographs on the rocks along with a full battle scene petroglyph. The park also offers guided tours of their archaeological preserve which is a restricted area.
The park is known as a sacred area where the First Nations camped over 3,500 years ago. They found shelter, water, game, and berries AND supernatural powers due to the cliffs and hoodoos being home to the spirits. It was a place to come and pray. This area has the highest density of rock art anywhere in the plains of North America and is believe to have come mainly from the Blackfoot but other groups may have been involved too.
The North West Mounted Police (NWMP) established an outpost in the area in 1887 to ensure a lawful region and to stop the liquor trade. Their outpost was along a coulee, appropriately named Police Coulee, where the smugglers would make their way into Canada and quickly be stopped by the mounties. You can still see the original outpost from up on hill at Police Point along Ridge Road or go on a guided tour of the post which are conducted periodically.