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 cowboys ate, slept and relaxed. It was a first stop for ranch visitors, where a meal and a cup of coffee was always waiting.

Discover the cookhouse as it was in the last decade of corporate operation. It was the first time a woman was in charge of the day-to-day in the cookhouse.

Visit the kitchen and sample the wood-fired baking, prepared by an interpreter. Head upstairs to explore the ranch employees sleeping quarters.

Don’t forget to visit the nearby garden, storehouses and the root cellar and explore how food was produced and preserved before modern-day refrigeration.

A group of visitors watch an interpreter take a hot pie out of a stove
The “belly of the Bar U” historic cookhouse was vital to the ranch’s daily operations.

Historic ranch buildings

Step back in time and into our historic buildings. There are 35 historic structures to explore when on site – and every one of them has a story to share about Bar U’s exciting history! Visit the newly restored Workhorse Barn and visit the Tractor Shed to see farming equipment of days gone by.

Visit with interpreters inside the Harness Repair shop and the Saddlehorse Barn. A trip to Bar U Ranch is not complete without a stop at the cookhouse to see how ranch hands ate meals, and head upstairs to see where they slept while the ranch was in operation throughout the 1940s.

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

Visit our livestock

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, connect with and learn about a variety of animals.

Visit the teams of Percheron horses that provide the daily wagon ride, or take a walk along the Pekisko Creek trail and to see cows, their calves, and maybe even a bison!

Drop by the dairy barn to experience the heart of the milk operation. Keep your eyes out for other animals like chickens, pigs and turkeys throughout the site.

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

Meet our interpreters

Hear about the people that helped to make this ranch famous: royalty, ranchers, poets, politicians and even outlaws!

Visit interpreters to discover essential ranching roles and tasks of ranching life. Cowboys, saddle-makers and cooks all have fantastic stories to tell and activities to take part in! Hear cowboy poetry, songs and legends around the campfire at Roundup Camp. Hop on the Percheron Wagon Ride to see and learn about the western area of the historic site’s core and the riparian zone of Pekisko Creek. At the Saddlehorse Barn, hone your roping skills and discover more about the life of ranching cowboys.

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

Percheron wagon ride

The Bar U Ranch was renowned as the world’s largest Percheron breeding in the early 1900s. The Bar U has seven Percheron horses: Licorice, Smudge, Daisy, Dolly, Poca, Terra and Hawkeye.

Meet us at Roundup Camp for an introduction to these magnificent creatures. Wagon rides travel two different routes, lasting 30 minutes each. Get a personal introduction to these magnificent creatures - the "gentle giants of ranching" - by taking a horse-drawn wagon ride and hearing the stories of George Lane and his amazing herd of Percheron draft horses.

An interpreter rides a horse on site at the Bar U Ranch
Percheron horses are the “gentle giants of ranching”
Wagon ride schedule
 
  • Wagon ride schedule

  • 11:00 a.m. – Riparian zone
  • 11:40 a.m. – West historic core
  • 1:00 p.m. – Riparian zone
  • 1:40 p.m. – West historic core
  • 2:40 p.m. – Riparian zone
  • 3:20 p.m. – West historic core
  • Rides operate daily and are free with admission.

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

Roland Gissing gallery

Explore the newest addition to the visitor centre, the Roland Gissing Gallery. Discover the undeniable beauty of southern Alberta’s landscapes captured in Gissing’s paintings. His work can be found in the collections of Queen Elizabeth II, Glenbow Museum and Alberta Foundation for the Arts.

After moving Canada from England in 1913, Gissing worked as a ranch hand in Alberta, Montana, Nebraska, and Arizona for 10 years, sketching the breathtaking landscapes all the while. Gissing later purchased land near the junction of the Ghost and Bow rivers near Cochrane, Alta.

View Gissing’s custom saddle, sketchbooks and other personal effects, also on display.

Numerous paintings and sketches are on display in the new Gissing Gallery.
Numerous paintings and sketches are on display in the new Gissing Gallery.

Roundup Camp

Take a walk over the Pekisko Creek bridge and into the shade of the cottonwood trees. Head back in time to the days before ranching operations built fences, a time when a chuckwagon was home on the range.

Explore how cowboys lived and worked away from the ranch headquarters for months at a time.

Sip on fresh-brewed cowboy coffee as the smoke from the campfire curls lazily into the air. Listen as hsitoric interpreters tell the tales of ranching in the Canadian west.

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

Stoney Nakoda Camp

Nestled along the banks of Pekisko Creek, explore the Stoney Nakoda encampment. Step inside the camp’s tipi and hear Indigenous interpreters share traditional stories. Discover the important contributions of Indigenous peoples to the area and the ranching industry in western Canada.

Bar U Ranch lies within traditional Indigenous territory. The lands and waters have been used since time immemorial by Indigenous communities for sustenance, ceremony, trade and travel.

Interpreters are in attendance at the Stoney Nakoda encampment on Saturdays and Sundays only.

Indigenous peoples were vital to ranch operations

Walking trails

The Pekisko Creek Trail is a 3km trail that is accessible both on foot and by bicycle. Discover the Bar U rangelands and less-visited areas of the site. Take a break and stop for a picnic under the trees near the cool waters of Pekisko Creek.

The Viewpoint Trail is a 371 metre stroll that begins at the Visitor Centre, and follows a ridge above Pekisko Creek. With views of the prairies to the east and Rocky Mountains to the west, the trail then merges with the Pekisko Creek trail.

The Riparian Trail loop starts near Roundup Camp and circles around the Stoney Nakoda Camp. This 687 metre walk 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