This post isn’t meant to be an academic study of the American Bison or anything in that area, I am posting this purely because seeing them has been such an impressive experience for me. Having read about them and the sad story of their near-demise in the 19th Century quite a bit recently I have become increasingly fascinated by them and when the time came to plan my recent holiday in the Canadian province of Alberta I was more than delighted to learn that they can be found in a couple of places throughout the province. First and one of the best addresses (as far as I am aware) being Elk Island National Park, located less than an hour east of the provincial capital of Edmonton (which was my first stop). So I didn’t hesitate (I even joked with my friends that I wouldn’t return from my trip before I managed to have seen at least one), to drive over to this delightful, 184 km² big National Park with its captivating mix of aspen parkland and boreal forests after my arrival. Fortunately I didn’t have to search too long to spot some, although I didn’t encounter large herds of them (apparently there are over 300 living in Elk Island National Park) so here are some photos I took, being thoroughly impressed, as well as a bit intimidated by their size and statue, although they apparently are rather peaceful fellows from all I heard. Wandering around one of the park’s biggest lakes, Astotin Lake, I felt a bit uncomfortable to be honest, as there was faeces lying around in a number of places, which given its size could only have come from them and I didn’t exactly know what other types of wildlife are living in the park (I am a bit of a coward) It being March, I had the park pretty much to myself and it was snow-covered and the lake iced-over – which apart from me being a bit worried, was a wonderful experience and probably my closest encounter was wilderness so far (and I love snow).
So here are a few photos from the bison I saw at Elk Island National Park
Another encounter with them took place at Rocky Mountain House National Historic Site where they were fenced in somewhat but that site otherwise being equally fascinating and rather eerily quiet and forlorn at this time of year. I imagine there are a lot more people there in summer, but there were none apart from myself on my visit.
Keokuk, Iowa is a city of about 10000 people in Southeastern Iowa. It is named after the Sauk chief Keokuk, who is commemorated with a statue and thought to be buried in the Rand Park on the edge of the Mississippi River.
There is a fine display of historic architecture in Keokuk’s downtown area, although quite a lot of buildings have seen better days and were seemingly no longer occupied especially the shops on the ground floor.
Mark Twain’s brother Orion was a long-time resident of Keokuk and Twain wrote about Keokuk in his Life On The Mississippi book, which is one of my favorite books of his.
Stanton is a small town in Montgomery County, about 65 miles east of Omaha/Council Bluffs with a population of around 700 people. It was known as the ‘Little White City’ when all houses were painted white. That apparently isn’t the case nowadays, but most of the houses I saw on my brief visit to Stanton were. It was settled mainly by Swedish immigrants in the 19th century. It’s also ‘famous’ for being the one-time home of a family that was killed onboard the Titanic, and one of them, whose body was recovered, is buried in Stanton.
Quite possible the best, but certainly the most unexpected, find on last March’s Illinois/Missouri/Iowa trip, I completely stumbled upon this by (lucky) accident. Staunton, about 40 miles north of St. Louis wasn’t on my schedule at all, but I decided to check the town out on my way from Lincoln, IL to Belleville, IL. After driving and walking around the town for a bit, I saw that Route 66 led through here once and of course I had to check it out and drive on it for a short way.
Then I found this. Clearly a labor of love and a decidedly low-key affair, which is all the more reason for me to love it, plus the weather was nice, cold and sunny after a harsh blizzard the day before , so I was very happy to have found it. Unfortunately it wasn’t open the morning I went, as a handwritten note informed me the owner was at the local library on a computer course. Otherwise I probably would have kissed him (well, most probably not that, but I would have loved to congratulate him on the good work he’s doing, and would have bought a few souvenirs). He (or she perhaps?) made my day.
Patagonia is a small town of under 1000 people in southern Arizona, about 20 miles from Nogales (and Mexico). I read about it in my trusted Rough Guide and didn’t regret going there. Unfortunately, I went on Thanksgiving Day, as a European I wasn’t aware of how much of a big thing it is in the US, I knew it was a holiday, but there was absolutely nothing open in Patagonia I could get a bite to eat (but I have learned from that experience and am always taking something other than just mineral water with me now). I wanted to take the road all through the mountains back to Tucson originally, but had to abandon that idea as I was absolutely starving, so I had to get back onto the Interstate at Nogales. But the extremely beautiful setting in the mountains and the frontier town feel of Patagonia made me like it a lot and wishing I could have stayed longer.