Approach to the Canadian Rockies


Voyageurs hunted and trapped Canada's western grasslands

"It is necessary to leave home from time to time in order to discover where I live." edb

White circular area in Alberta is approximate location of Elk Island.

Traveling across the plains of Manitoba, Saskatchewan and eastern Alberta induces sleepiness. But fog and rain, and wind too, occasionally demands endurance and patience. Relatively small, isolated communities dispersed along the Yellowhead Highway offer some comfort and fuel. Steel pipe piled on small industrial oases, some scattered horsehead pumps (oil wells), and passing tanker trucks indicate oil and natural gas pools are underground.

Elk Island National Park

French voyageurs, and stray persons, penetrated the western plains of Canada in the 18th Century but little of note seems to have been recorded here until a wave of Ukrainians arrived in the late 19th Century. "Voyageur" is a French word for "traveler." But then the word was a label given contracted employees who worked as canoe paddlers, bundle carriers, and laborers for fur-trading companies from the 1690s until the 1850s. Voyageurs were also known as "engagés" (simply, "employees"). The voyageurs were contracted under a clerk (commis), and so were distinguishable from "freemen" who trapped and traded on their own account without being bound by a contract. Not all voyageurs were French-Canadian; some were English, German, and Iroquois.

Bison imprisoned necessarily at Elk Island National Park

Elk Island National Park is situated in south central Alberta in the Beaverhills area, amongst aspen thickets and useful waterways that also provided shelter for wintering herds of elk, plains and wood bison, and moose. Apparently there was never a permanent First Nations' native settlement in the area, although evidence of temporary passing of the Blackfoot, Sarcee, Cree and other peoples is part of various archeological collections. Today, Elk Island is a fenced parkland, especially dedicated to preserving what is left of the very rare wood buffalo species of bison.

There are two species of Bison, wood and plains

Anthony Henday, an explorer working for the Hudson's Bay Company is believed to have been the first European to enter the Edmonton area in 1754. Fort Edmonton, established in 1795 on the north bank of the Saskatchewan River, became a major trading post for the company and now Edmonton is the capital of Alberta province. The region can be a cold place. On January 19, 1886, Edmonton's coldest temperature is recorded as −49.4 °C (−56.9 °F). Commonly known as the "Gateway to the North," the city straddles productive farmlands of central Alberta and the vast, resource-rich northern hinterland and western mountains.

Elk Island's resident bison herd