Head-Smashed-In Buffalo Jump
After Calgary, I had one last stop to make before I turned my rental car west towards home.
Located west of Fort MacLeod (which is south of Calgary), Head-Smashed-In Buffalo Jump is one of the world’s largest and best preserved buffalo jumps. It was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1981. That’s kind of a big deal ― being on the list puts Head-Smashed-In Buffalo Jump on par with the Egyptian pyramids and the Galapagos Islands. There are only 17 World Heritage Sites in all of Canada.
Essentially, Head-Smashed-In Buffalo Jump is a vast archeological site. The research that has been done on the site gives us modern-day folks evidence of how the Plains People hunted the buffalo in centuries past. We now know that Head-Smashed-In Buffalo Jump was in use for about 6000 years up until the mid-1800s.
What’s a buffalo jump, you ask? It’s a cliff over which the buffalo were, well, let’s say, encouraged to jump off. The hunters would disguise themselves with wolf skins and start a stampede of the buffalo herd, driving them towards the cliff.
After the buffalo ran over the cliff, the hunters were then able to go below and butcher the dead buffalo.
Archaeologists think that at least ten metres of buffalo bones still lie buried below the surface of the prairie at Head-Smashed-In Buffalo Jump.
There is an impressive five-level interpretive centre built into the side of the cliff at Head-Smashed-In Buffalo Jump. The exhibits will answer your every question about buffalo jumps.
In addition to the interpretive centre and the well-fenced view point above the buffalo jump, there is a short trail below the jump that provides you with some magnificent views over the prairie.
The wind is keen ― I was impressed by its power and by how much noise it makes. If you look carefully at this next photo, you can see a row of wind turbines in the upper left corner ― these are ubiquitous in this part of the province.
I’m so in love with this flat horizon.
Oh ― and the name? It’s not about smashed buffalo heads. It was the name given to a small boy who wanted to see the buffalo jump over the cliff, but who got way too close. He was crushed by the falling animals.