In a valley along the Milk River in Alberta is a collection of hoodoos and petroglyphs preserved as Aisinai’pi National Historic Site (Writing-On-Stone Provincial Park). The area was settled by First Nations, mainly the Blackfoot, 9,000 years ago. The region is sacred to the Blackfoot who believed the hoodoos were home to powerful spirits. There are hundreds of pictographs and other art on the rocks which tell many stories and First Nations’ experiences. The park was formed in 1957 and is protected as an archeological preserve and a historical resource. Early this July it was designated as an UNESCO World Heritage Site. The park has the highest concentration of rock art on the plains of North America.
The park is relatively small and a large area is accessible only by tour or to archeologists. The main activities are hiking, swimming, tubing, and fishing. There are interpretive programs and tours to engage in too. Other amenities include showers and a store. The beach area is lovely but lacks shade. Some campsites are exposed to the sun; the sites on the interior loop received more shade. The day use area is cool thanks to cottonwood trees. The visitor centre has several interactive displays on the history of the area and a gift shop.
There are three main hiking trails in the park. We explored the Visitor Centre Trail our first afternoon. This path leads from the campground to the centre at the top of the hill.
On the advice of a couple we met in Waterton we took the Rock Art Tour that evening. We happened to be only two on the tour and had a Blackfoot Elder, Saa’kokoto, as our guide! He took us on a hike in the Archeological Preserve. Stopping at several panels he asked us questions about what we saw, before interpreting the petrogylphs. He was very informative and passionate about the history as his grandfather had lived in this region.
The next morning we headed out early to beat the summer heat and hike the Hoodoo Trail. The path parallels the river and winds through the hoodoos west of the campsites. Further on, there are look outs to the Davis and Police Coulees, the Sweet Pine Mountains, and the famous Battle Scene Petroglyph. The views were amazing! We observed deer and birds, but did not see any rattlesnakes.