The landscape of the prairies is as varied as it is beautiful. While much of the land has changed in the years since Riel’s time, some places have remained relatively preserved. These photos are meant to give a flavour of the land that was and the land that is.
14 August, Rosetown SK – Morning sun over the Canadian Pacific Railway. The railway united Canada, but it also caused division and played an important role in the suppression of the North-West Uprising.
14 August, Rosetown SK – A field of thistles in the morning light, in all likelihood the invasive species known as ‘Canada thistle’ despite being of Eurasian origin.
14 August, Grasslands National Park – Evening light in Grasslands National Park. Established in 1981, Grasslands is the only national park in Canada that protects the mixed-grass prairie ecosystem, which is now only 20% its original size. The park contains over 70 different wild grass species, and over 50 wildflower species, all of which would have once covered the prairies.
15 August, Grasslands National Park – The Frenchman River Valley (as seen here) was carved out over millions of years by a glacial meltwater channel that left behind the buttes, plateaux, and coulees that define the park’s natural landscape. Today, the Frenchman River flows through the valley on its way from its headwaters in the Cypress Hills all the way to the Missouri River and onwards to the Mississippi and eventually emptying into the Atlantic Ocean.
17 August, Pelican Point, Montana – A blood red sun setting over the foothills of western Montana. Wildfire smoke covered the sky and lent a strange look to the setting sun.
16 August, Grasslands National Park – The landscape of Grasslands is very dry: there is only 30-32cm of rainfall every year, and it is classified as a semi-arid climate. Summer temperatures have reached as high as 40ºC, and winters can be as cold as -49ºC. Despite being such a harsh, windswept landscape, many species survive and depend on the land and the plants and animals that flourish on it.
18 August, Pelican Point, Montana – The wide Missouri River. From here, the Missouri winds its way to St. Louis, where it joins the Mississippi and passes through much of America before emptying into the Atlantic in Louisiana. With the Jefferson River, the Missouri and Mississippi form the fourth longest river system in the world after the Amazon, Nile, and Yangtze (in that order).
18 August, Pelican Point, Montana – Sunset on the banks of the Missouri. Not far from here Riel spent two years teaching at a school.
19 August, Pelican Point, Montana – Sunset on the banks of the Missouri. For over 12,000 years people have depended on the Missouri River for life. It was believed by European settlers to be a part of the fabled Northwest Passage, until this was disproven by the Lewis and Clark expedition.
23 August, Devils Tower, Wyoming – According to Kiowa and Lakota legend, Devils Tower was formed when a group of young girls were attacked by a giant bear and prayed to the Great Spirit to save them. As the rock rose to the heavens, the bear clawed at the tower but could not get to the girls, leaving behind only its claw marks in the stone. They themselves were transformed into the Pleiades, or the Seven Sisters.
23 August, Devils Tower, Wyoming – To this day it is unknown just how Devils Tower formed. It was likely formed as the result of an igneous intrusion, where molten rock solidifies underground and is then exposed through millions of years of erosion. It has been theorised that it is the volcanic plug of an ancient volcano, or even the eroded remains of a laccolith, or the result of a process whereby molten rock is injected between to layers of sedimentary rock. What is known is that it was formed about 40.5 million years ago, and the distinctive marks on the side of it are the result of magma cooling in predominately hexagonal columns.
24 August, Badlands National Park, South Dakota – The Badlands were formed over millions of years through the deposition of material, and the eventual erosion by wind. The horizontal stripes seen on the geological formations here each represent a period in time during which material was deposited on what would have been an ocean floor. The layers at the top of the formations are the newest, with the oldest layers at the bottom, hidden beneath the earth.
24 August, Badlands National Park, South Dakota – Badlands National Park was established in 1979. It is the largest undisturbed mixed-grass prairie in the United States, and protects over 100 square miles of designated wilderness area. The river seen here is the White River, a tributary of the Missouri.
24 August, Badlands National Park, South Dakota – Eroded away over millennia, the Badlands today are home to many fossils, including the largest assemblage of known late Eocene and Oligocene mammal fossils, which include animals like camels, three-toed horses, and even rhinoceros.