Exploring Grassland Ecology
Learning About Early Settlement
Rather than hiking, today we will take a driving tour in order to explore both the Park and the grassland ecology.
We get onto Highway 41 and head south past the ski hill. At the top of the hill, we turn to the left (east). This fescue grassland, although
park of the Park, is managed by the Medicine Lodge Stock Association which controls the number of cattle and how long the cattle
can graze on the pasture. You can see cattle grazing on this grassland between June and October.
The fescue grassland in the Cypress Hills is surrounded by mixed dry grassland at lower elevations. In fact, fescue grasslands are
usually found in the foothills, near the Rocky Mountains. Why is there a fescue grassland in the Cypress Hills? What types of
grasses are found here? Were their bison on these plains at one time?
Go To Grassland Ecology
Photography by Cypress Hills Interprovincial Park, Alberta
As we are driving along, there is a point of interest to one side. We pull over to read the sign
and discover that there is a very old wagon trail carved into the grassland. Known as the "Bull Trail", we can see two distinct
lines fading into the grass which were formed when the early settlers moved westward, bringing all of their possessions with them.
Why did people come to the Canadian Prairies? How did they establish their homesteads? What did the settlers find when
they got here?
Go to Human History, Early Settlement
The history of some local ranchers goes
back to homesteads in the early 1900s.
Still heading eastward, we come to a view point that over looks Reesor Lake. Reesor Lake is a popular fishing area which
is stocked annually with about 80,000 Rainbow Trout. No gas powered motors are allowed on Reesor Lake, only electric
motors or arm power. When fishing in Alberta, be sure to have a current Alberta fishing license. There is also a campground at
Reesor Lake which can facilitate both tents and RV-units.
Postcard. Photograph by O. Tarnasky.
At the east end of Reesor Lake, we have the option of continuing eastward to the Saskatchewan
border and into Cypress Hills Provincial Park, Saskatchewan or we can turn to the south and proceed with our exploration of the Alberta
side of the Park. We turn south and have the choice of visiting one of two points of interest.
Interpretive Sign at the Survival Tree
"Living things do their best to stay alive. This lodgepole pine has bent with the wind, been frozen under heavy snows, and has
been parched in the summer drought. It has also endured mauling by cattle. In 1900, it was even cut down! But today it is
still growing, its three branches reaching upward toward light and life."
Police Point Slump
Police Point Slump occurred in 1967 but it continues to settle. Some estimates are that it will take 500 years for the slump to
stablize. At Police Point Slump, we can see evidence that the geological layers lie horizontally and there are some excellent samples
of the conglomerate that caps the Cypress Hills (See Geomorphology and Geology).
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