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Rocky Mountain House National Historic Site

Interpretive Programs

Family in York Boat © Marg French

With nearly a century of fur trade history, Rocky Mountain House National Historic Site of Canada has plenty of stories to share! Enjoy a self-guided riverside walk to the archaeological remains of four fur trade forts or partake in our heritage presentations.

Visit Natural Wonders & Cultural Treasures to learn about the History of Rocky Mountain House, Interpreting the Canadian Fur Trade and Other Learning Resources


Heritage Camping Programs

First Nation drum and song

Enjoy a visit from a local First Nation drummer, dancer and/or storyteller. Gather around the fire for an hour long journey into aboriginal culture. Have an open dialogue and tweak your curiosity with this informal educational opportunity. (The availability of this program depends on the availability of the contractor).

Traditional games workshop

Have you ever wondered what people did for fun before television and videogames? There is hours of entertainment to be found with what you find in nature, your friends, and a little imagination. The games that were played hundreds of years ago by aboriginal people were not only used to pass the time but also to teach essential survival skills like observation, intuition, estimation, and hand-eye coordination. In this workshop, you and your group will have an opportunity to learn and play a selection of traditional games. This workshop is best for groups of youth, or as a teambuilding exercise for those groups who are hands on.

Bannock making workshop

Create your custom Bannock in Highwater house then cook it over the open fire. On a stick, in a pan, or deep fried, mmmmmm Bannock! Ingredients and cookware provided. For a truly unique bannock experience, bring your own chocolate, cheese, or any ingredient you desire to mix in.

Dream catcher making Workshop

In this hands-on workshop you will learn the traditions around this First Nations custom and create your own beautiful dream catcher to take home.

Reservations: 403-845-2412
Email: rocky.info@pc.gc.ca


On-Site Demonstrations

Metis partners
Metis partners
© Marg French

Métis Partners

Visit our partners from Métis Local 845 at the Trapper’s Tent. Relax by the fire as interpreters narrate stories of their ancestors, the true children of the fur trade. Try your hand at traditional skills and fun games. Métis Local 845 also operate the nine walk-in tenting sites and a tipi camping experience by the North Saskatchewan River. Inquire at the Visitor Centre for more information.

The Trade Room of Tales

Ever wonder how a trade room operated? Visit the company clerk in the Exhibit Trade Room as they describe the hard yet rewarding life at Rocky Mountain House.


David Thompson Puppet Show

Did you know David Thompson mapped 3.9 million square kilometres of this great nation!

You too can laugh and sing along with French and English as they celebrate the life and times of this amazing man. This light-hearted all-ages Puppet Show highlights Thompson’s accomplishments as a fur trader, mapmaker, surveyor and explorer.
Presented by the Confluence Heritage Society.

Mid-May and June - weekends at 2 pm
July and August - 2 pm daily

Please contact the Confluence Heritage Society at 403.845.6680 for more details



School Programs

Every school program at Rocky Mountain House presents our commemorative integrity themes with direct links to the Alberta Education Social Studies Curriculum. Programs are offered in French or as outreach programs. Please contact us at 403.845.2412 or to book a program or for a detailed list of curriculum links.

David Thompson Explorers Challenge

[Grades: 7 & 8 / Length: 3 hours / 1 interpreter per 20 students max.]
This program brings history into a present day explorer challenge, similar to that of a survivor game. Lead by a “coach” the students become a team on the first day of training. The team’s goal is to successfully complete eight training events. All events are based on challenges David Thompson himself faced 200 years ago. Cooperation, teamwork and team spirit are essential to the successful completion of all events!

Rivalry

[Grades: 4 & 5 / Length: 2.5 hours / 2 to 5 interpreters; 25 students per interpreter max.]
Students re-create history as members of the Hudson’s Bay Company, North West Company or an Aboriginal trading party. They explore the cultural heritage, language and perspectives of these groups through role-play, historic objects and archaeological sites. Interactions between groups on the trail build up the rivalry and students acquire the skills and knowledge to take ownership of the program for the final trade ceremony. A surprise awaits everyone at the end! Due to a drastic change for all trading parties each group must decide its own course of action – To trade or not to trade?

Partners in Peril

[Grades: 4 & up / Length: 2 hours / 1 interpreter per 25 students max.]
A ghostly Métis guide is convinced the students are the Columbia Brigade voyageurs and leads them on a wild goose chase. Based on the historic journal writings of Alexander Henry the Younger during the 1810 Piikani blockade at Rocky Mountain House, students attempt to solve a missing person mystery. Students use compasses to take bearings and create maps of the landscape and trails that they encounter during their search for David Thompson.

School Program

Voices of the Fur Trade

[Grades: 1 & 2 / Length: 1.5-2 hours / 1 interpreter per 20 students max.]
Students explore characteristic of people and places 200 years ago at Rocky Mountain House through the voices of a Piikani community. This program offers insight on cultural diversity, human geography and physical geography during 76 years of trade at Rocky Mountain House. The program highlights historic communication methods, with an emphasis on oral traditions, and to finish off the program students trade for a “medicine wheel” bracelet beading kit.

Remember to book early to avoid disappointment!


Interpretive Trails

Explore our two interpretive trails:
  • The Chimney Trail circles through the archaeological remains of the two most recent Hudson's Bay Company forts. You'll see the famous chimneys from the 1868 -1875 fort and the 1835 - 1861 fort that was visited by Paul Kane and other notable historical figures. (Trail details: 0.9 km round trip, easy terrain, wheel chair accessible, audio stations)
  • The David Thompson Trail winds along the North Saskatchewan shore to the oldest fort sites. The North West Company fort called Rocky Mountain House) was the first one constructed in 1799. Within a short time, it was followed by the Hudson's Bay Company fort, Acton House – established only days later. These two companies amalgamated under the name of the Hudson's Bay Company in 1821, but kept the North West Company’s fort name of Rocky Mountain House. Bring your lunch and have a picnic in a tipi along the way. (Trail details: 3.2 km round trip, moderate terrain, partially accessible by wheel chair, audio stations, outhouse)
 Listening station along interpretive trail Listening station along interpretive trail
© Marg French

Indoor Exhibits

Start your visit at the Visitor Centre and let our friendly staff help you plan your day. Inside the Visitor Centre, our new Exhibit Gallery houses original artefacts excavated from the fort sites, a replica trade room where guests can pose in period costume, and interactive displays to portray the fur trade era at Rocky Mountain House.


On-Site Exhibits

York boat
Hop in the York boat and prepare to row across four provinces to Hudson's Bay. These boats were built right here at Rocky Mountain House to make the long journey down river loaded with furs and goods destined for England.

Red River Cart
The squeaks and squeals of the wheels of the Red River Cart became well recognized in this area. They became a major method of transportation especially for the Métis people.

1967 Canoe Race display
An amazing group of men from across Canada developed and participated in a 5000 km canoe race from Rocky Mountain House to Montreal. The pageant celebrated Canada's 1967 centennial and the lives of the voyageurs. See the exhibit and the actual Alberta race canoe at the historic site.


Videos

Various videos can be seen in our theatre upon request.

Spanning a Continent and Crossing Cultures: The Life of David Thompson

(CBC / Parks Canada, 2008, 35 min.)
This film examines the life of David Thompson from his youth at the Grey Coat School in London through his active years as a fur trader, mapmaker and surveyor to his last poverty-stricken days in Montréal. With new footage and segments taken from the acclaimed Canada: A People’s History, this engaging video brings Thompson’s story to life.

The Fur Trade and the Opening of Canada

(Epoch Multimedia, 2004, 21 min)
This video offers an overview of the role the fur trade played in Canada’s unfolding history from 1400 to 1867.

The Great Divide: the Journeys of David Thompson

(Great North Productions, 2003, 46 min.)
This film recounts the adventures of David Thompson, the famous mapmaker and explorer who mapped over three million square kilometres of northwestern North America. His ambitious, courageous, and monumental achievements geographically defined western Canada and a nation.

First Journey, Fort William

(National Film Board of Canada, 1987, 24 min.)
Set in 1815, this is the dramatic story of a child of the fur trade. The son of an Aboriginal mother and a Scottish-Canadian fur trader travels for the first time to Fort William, the North West Company's lavish winter headquarters by Lake Superior. In following his journey, the film reveals the complex network of people that made up the fur-trading society, including French, Scottish, and Aboriginal peoples.

Paul Kane goes West

(National Film Board of Canada, 1972, 14 min.)
Paul Kane's paintings and writings of his travels and encounters with Aboriginal peoples are the subject of this film. Kane travelled west to the Pacific Ocean in the mid-1800s, creating some of the earliest visual records of the area.

The Voyageurs

(National Film Board of Canada, 1964, 20 min.)
This film recreates the epic adventures of the “Voyageurs” in the early 1800s, when they travelled the 5000-km river trade route from Montreal to the Rocky Mountains. With the songs of a male chorus, this film presents a tuneful view of history.