Rhythm of the land

A horse-drawn wagon hauls sheaves of barley at the Bar U Ranch
Threshing season at the Bar U Ranch

Experience the pulse of the Bar U community, from spring’s rebirth to the gathering of the harvest.

The land along the eastern slopes of the Rocky Mountains establishes a rhythm for those who call it home, and you can experience it all season long at the Bar U Ranch National Historic Site.

Spring

In the spring, smell the fresh regrowth of the native grass and see the new calves frolicking under their mother's gaze. Try your hand at traditional skills by applying a hot iron livestock brand to a board you can take home; or twirling a rope to send a loop unerringly over a steer’s horns. Hear the footfalls of the teams of heavy horses and the gentle clink of machinery as this year’s cereal crop is planted.

Summer

In summertime, you can check on the progress of the calves as they bask with their mothers along Pekisko Creek in the welcome shade of the cottonwood trees. Listen to the whir of a horse-drawn knife as the hay crop is cut and look for your chance to “pitch in” with a fork to help put up this year’s feed. In the waning days of summer, the horses are back in the field cutting the cereal crop in anticipation of harvest. Bring your gloves, the grain needs to be stacked in stooks!

Fall

The crisp, clear days of autumn are a time of celebration. Shake the soil from a vegetable garden selection to experience the taste of fresh. Savour the aroma of fresh baking from a wood fired cook stove. Whet your appetite by strolling around the field and maybe even helping build a load on the horse-drawn bundle racks as they deliver the golden harvest to a belt-driven harvester.

Soon, the land will slip back into its winter slumber.

Seasonal farming events at Bar U Ranch

Don’t miss your chance to experience some "rhythm of the land" special events in 2020.

  • Spring seeding: May 16 to 18 (Victoria Day long weekend)
  • Haying demonstrations: July 4
  • Binding and stooking: September 5 to 7 (Labour Day long weekend)
  • Harvest: September 19

All field events subject to weather.

Roundup Camp

Take a walk over Pekisko Creek into the shade of the cottonwood trees. It’s a stroll back to the days before fences when a Chuckwagon was home on the range.

Sip on a cowboy coffee as the smoke from the campfire curls lazily into the air, and hear tales of how the Canadian west was won.

An interpreter pours some cowboy coffee for two visitors at Roundup Camp
Try some cowboy coffee at Roundup camp

Cookhouse

Situated in the heart of the historic ranch headquarters, the "belly" of the Bar U was at the centre of operations. This is where the cowboys ate, slept and relaxed. It was a first stop for ranch visitors, where a meal and a cup of cowboy coffee was always waiting.

Today, see the cookhouse as it was in the last decade of corporate operation - when for the first time a female was in charge of the meals and cowboys could enjoy modern amenities such as indoor plumbing.

You can explore the upstairs bunkhouse or savour the smells and flavours of wood-fired baking in the kitchen, and don’t forget to check out the cookhouse storehouses and the root cellar.

A group of visitors watch an interpreter take a hot pie out of a stove
Experience the historic Cookhouse - the "belly" of the Bar U

Historic ranch buildings

The Bar U has the largest collection of historical ranch buildings in Canada and many of them are still operational.

Watch the blacksmith prepare horseshoes or the saddle-maker repair a rein; pop into the stables, the post office and of course the cookhouse and smell fresh baking. As you visit, you'll hear the stories of the men and the women who made the Bar U famous.

The chop house, one of the historic buildings at Bar U Ranch
The Bar U Ranch has the largest collection of historical ranch buildings in Canada

Horse-drawn wagon shuttle

Did you know that the Bar U Ranch was renowned as the largest Percheron breeding operation in the world in the early 1900s?

Get a personal introduction to these magnificent creatures - the "gentle giants of ranching" - by taking a horse-drawn wagon ride through the historic site and hearing the stories of George Lane and his amazing herd of Percheron draft horses.

The Bar U currently has seven Percheron horses: Licorice, Smudge, Daisy, Dolly, Poca, Terra, Hawkeye.

A wagon pulled by two grey Percheron horses at the Bar U Ranch site
Our Percheron horses shuttle visitors by wagon from the visitor centre to the historic site

Roping

Pick up the basics of a cowboy’s number one skill - roping. Learn to cast a rope loop over a replica steer's horn with some simple instructions, then challenge your friends.

Caution - it's addictive! You’ll want to take a lariat home with you.

A young visitor tries her hand at roping while watched by an interpreter
Try your hand at roping a replica steer

Meet our interpreters

Hear about the characters that made this ranch famous: the ranchers, poets, politicians, royalty and even outlaws including the infamous Sundance Kid.

Meet the people of the west: cowboys, saddle-makers, blacksmiths and camp cooks. Hear cowboy poetry, songs and legends around the campfire.

An interpreter shows two girls how to make crafts in the leather shop
The Bar U Ranch interprets a time when the west was young

Livestock / animal program

When the great bison herds faded into memory, ranches like the Bar U were able to use the native rough fescue grass to sustain herds of cattle, and the horses needed to handle them. The Bar U Ranch became a self-sustaining community and the amount of livestock grew.

Today at the Bar U Ranch National Historic Site, visitors can connect with and learn about a variety of animals. The heavy teams of Percheron horses that pull the shuttle from the visitor centre to and the historic ranch headquarters.

See cowboys saddling up and leading a pack horse, just like their counterparts would have done years ago when heading off to one of the cow camps away from the main ranch headquarters.

Take a walk along the viewpoint trail and see cows and calves idling along Pekisko Creek. Drop by the dairy barn to experience the heart of the milk operation and don’t forget to drop by the adjacent poultry pens to visit the chickens!

An interpreter rides a horse on site at the Bar U Ranch
Ike, one of the Bar U Ranch saddlehorses

Walking trails

The Bar U Ranch has two marked walking trails for you to wander and explore.

The Viewpoint Trail starts in front of the Visitor Centre and follows a ridge past a picnic area and ends high above Pekisko Creek, with views of the prairies to the east and Rocky Mountains to the west.

The Riparian Trail starts near Roundup Camp and follows a loop through old cottonwood stands by Pekisko Creek. The trails makes its way back to Roundup Camp and ends overlooking the creek where you will find two of our Red Chairs.

Two red chairs next to one of the walking trails at Bar U Ranch
Red chairs along the Viewpoint Trail