June 4, 2011
Today was a great day. After four days of rain, rain, rain, we woke up to yet another dreary overcast day. Our plans were to go see the High Level Bridge then to Fort Whoop – Up. Well the best vantage for the bridge was Fort Whoop – Up so we got to see two attractions from the same place. We first walked up a hill and got some great pictures of the bridge.
Condensed story of the High Level Bridge.
The Lethbridge Viaduct, commonly known as the High Level Bridge, was constructed between 1907–1909 at Lethbridge, Alberta, Canada at a cost of $1,334,525. This bridge is the largest railway structure in Canada] It was built as part of a major diversion of the Crows nest Pass route between Lethbridge and Fort Macleod. The river crossing was previously over a wooden trestle measuring 894 m (2,933 ft) long and 20 m (66 ft) high; an impressive structure in its own right. Although the original route accomplished its purpose in allowing the CPR to rapidly complete the railway, it turned out to be expensive to operate. The original bridges were designed to last only about 10 years. The CPR decided, in 1905 to construct a completely new route on a better gradient to bypass the original line. The new line was built to the north of the Oldman River. It required two bridges, one just west of Lethbridge—the High Level Bridge—over the Oldman River and another large bridge over the Oldman River again west of Monarch. This route eliminated many curves and reduced the grade from 1.2 percent to only 0.4 percent. It also saved 8.5 km (5.28 mi) of track. It was a very impressive site indeed.
Next we went into Fort Whoop – UP.
Condensed story of Fort Whoop - UP
Now Fort Whoop – UP was built by the Americans as a liquor trading post. The original name was Fort Hamilton but nicknamed Fort Whoop – Up due to the illegal activities that were going on. The sale of whisky was outlawed but, due to the lack of a police force in the region at the time, many whiskey traders had settled in the area and taken to charging unusually high prices for it is commonly thought that the only purpose for Fort Whoop-Up was to trade whiskey. Although it was one of the most infamous of the whiskey trading posts, there was much more legal trading that occurred here (e.g. trading of furs for blankets, food, fire arms) than there was trading of whiskey. The outlaws of Fort Whoop-Up and surrounding areas—combined with the supposed flying of an American flag over Canadian territory—contributed to the formation of the North-West Mounted Police. Fort Whoop-Up was a destination on their march west in 1874.
The NWMP arrived at Fort Whoop-Up in October 1874, with the task of establishing Canadian sovereignty in the territory and controlling the alcohol trade. They found no whiskey on the premises and the flag that had been reported as an American flag was inspected and found to be a trade flag for the fort (later adopted by the City of Lethbridge as the municipal flag). Finding no reason to close the fort, they continued further west and the fort continued in the trade of legal goods.
Their first strike on the alcohol traders came after a Native complained at Fort Macleod about a group of whiskey traders who had sold him overpriced Whiskey. Shortly after, the North-West Mounted Police caught and fined the perpetrators, although they were not at Fort Whoop-Up at the time. Although the presence of the NWMP decreased the abundance of whiskey trading, it still occurred.
In 1875, the NWMP rented a room from the owners of the fort, Healy and Hamilton, and established a post there. This arrangement lasted for at least twelve years, the fort acting as both a trading post and a NWMP post. The following year, Healy and Hamilton sold the fort to Dave Akers, who was in control of the fort almost until its demise. The fort was again burned in 1888, the fire having started in the NWMP barracks. This fire was not as severe as only the NWMP barracks were destroyed. The fort remained in operation until it was deserted somewhere between 1890 and 1892. It was then destroyed piece by piece until the last of it was washed away in a flood in 1915.
While we were inside the Fort the sun came out and the day was now beautiful and had warmed up. Since it was still early in the day we decided to go on to our 3rd destination that we had planned for Lethbridge.
Our next destination was “Head Smashed in Buffalo Jump”
The Buffalo jump is a cliff where for the last 6000 years Indians would drive the buffalo over the cliff killing them for meat and hides to tide them over the winter. We saw a movie depicting a hunt that would have taken place 1000 years ago. This was before the Europeans introduced horses and firearms to the Indians. The method they used was to first build a “drive lane” for the buffalo by building cairns with branches to frighten the buffalo. The buffalo viewed these two lines of cairns as a solid wall that they could not go through. Next two braves would dress up in wolf skins to start the herd moving through the drive lane. Another brave would dress up in buffalo skin and pretend to be a stray calf. All the buffalo would chase after the stray calf to protect him for the wolves. At the last minute the “calf” would duck behind the other braves waving skins to frighten the buffalo and the buffalo would continue over the cliff. The braves would finish off any who survived the fall then they would all set about preserving the meat and curing the hides for the long winter.
Legend has it that the way the jump got the name of Head smashed in was that a brave wanted to see the buffalo falling past him so he took cover under a ledge. There were so many buffalo on that hunt that he became trapped behind all the fallen and dead buffalo. When the others finely got the animals out to slaughter they found the brave with his skull crushed. Hence the name “Head Smashed In Buffalo Jump”
All in all we had a truly marvelous day. We finished it off by stopping at a restaurant in Fort Macleod for French onion soup and a Monte Cristo sandwich. Now back at the motel Lee is relaxing with a martini and I have a cup of coffee. Till next Tales from the Trailes!