Day 84 – August 29 – Assiniboia (Grasslands East), SK

On our way to the East Block of Grasslands National Park we stopped at Wood Mountain Post Provincial Park. There were many information boards about the beginnings of the fort and the closing and re-opening again. Very interesting information, but too many posters to put in a blog. The Boundary Trail Commission stopped there during their Canada/US border marking in 1874.

The post came into prominence and was most heavily manned when Chief Sitting Bull and several thousand of his warriors fled across the Medicine Line into Canada after the Battle of Little Big Horn.

Only two of the old buildings have been reconstructed. This was the soldiers barracks.

These are the few information boards I felt told the most pertinent parts of the Sitting Bull story.

By January of 1881, only 40 lodges – about 250 people – remained at Wood Mountain. A few more Lakota surrendered in April. Sitting Bull and a few followers trekked to Fort Qu’Appelle to see Superintendent Walsh who had been re-assigned there. By the time they arrived Walsh had already been sent back to Ontario so they returned to Wood Mountain where Sitting Bull finally agreed to go back to the US. The Canadian government would not authorize supplies for the journey but the fellow that ran the trading post at Willow Bunch provided generous amounts of food and equipment for the journey south.

Sitting Bull wanted to be given a reservation of his own for his people and have the right to go back and forth to Canada whenever he wished. These requests were not granted and he was sent to the Standing Rock Reservation, and from there to Fort Randall where he and his followers were held for nearly two years as prisoners of war, before returning to Standing Rock.

In 1885 he joined Buffalo Bill’s Wild West show, earning $50 a week for riding once around the area. He could also keep whatever money he charged for his autograph and picture. He only lasted 4 months because he could no longer tolerate white man society and returned to Standing Rock living in a cabin near where he was born.

In the fall of 1890, afraid of Sitting Bull’s influence if he joined an upcoming Ghost Dance ceremony (that promised to rid the land of white people and restore the traditional way if life), Indian agents sent 43 Lakota policemen to arrest him. In the ensuing gunfight between Sitting Bull’s followers and the police, Sitting Bull was shot in the head.

A model of Wood Mountain Post during its heyday.

We were at Wood Mountain for quite awhile having a great chat with the Parks lady. Today was the last day the buildings would be open so we timed our visit well.

It was another 30 kilometers from Wood Mountain to the entrance of the East Block of Grasslands National Park. Grasslands has two sections, divided by about 35 km, that have been set up to preserve the natural prairie. Over 50 varieties of grass and plants are protected here and bison roam. We did not see any though.

There is an 11 km scenic road with six viewpoints that overlook the Saskatchewan Badlands. The road is only one lane wide with small pullouts to allow vehicles to pass. Parks Canada built it to be as unintrusive as possible. There are defined trails to each of the viewpoints and it is illegal to drive other than on the roads. There are hiking trails and horse trails throughout the park, but only one small campground in the East Block.

The first viewpoint was “The Gateway to the Grasslands” and overlooked Rock Creek Campground and the beginning of the badlands. There was a nice large sign with information about various hazards you may encounter in the park and what to do about each: Getting lost, being charged by a bison, bitten by a rattlesnake, see a prairie fire approaching or stepping in quicksand. Good to know…

I took quite a few photos at each of the viewpoints but have done my best to pare them down.

Gateway to the Grasslands viewpoint:

Rock Creek Campground.

A National Park means a Red Chair picture.

Crackerjack viewpoint:

Zahursky Point viewpoint:

Before they dug the well they had to carry buckets to collect water from Rock Creek over a kilometer away and lug them back up the hill.

More red chairs, but I didn’t sit in these two for a photo.

Kapêsiwin viewpoint:

Kapêsiwin was a stopping place for the First Nations for over 3,000 years due to the proximity of water and game.

Rock Creek snakes its way through most of the park.

Typical grassland prairie.

Ta Sunka Watógla viewpoint:

I did sit in the third set of red chairs though.

By the time we drove the 11 km back to the main entrance road it was after 5 and we had an hour and a half drive back to Assiniboia.

Our room faces west and the sunset was gorgeous. There are too many wires in the way looking out the window for a good photo. I hate wires in photos. John went out and walked across the road and got this lovely shot while the sky was the reddest.

We leave Assiniboia tomorrow and will go to the West Block of Grasslands on our way to Shaunavon for the night. The hotel has given notice that their internet is poor so there may not be a blog tomorrow.

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