For as long as we have been in Alberta we have been searching for various activities, places and events to experience in Alberta, whether it be through online searches or shamelessly soliciting our friends and colleagues for their recommendations. Knowing that we had family visiting from Ontario complete with a young 7 month old “buckaroo” we also needed to find an appropriate children’s activity. A colleague came up with a brilliant idea to tour the Canadian Rocky Mountain Ranch and on a beautifully sunny Saturday we loaded up the “wagon” and headed west towards the ranch. The Canadian Rocky Mountain Ranch is a 1000+ acre operation located on the outskirts of Calgary at the edge of the foothills. A long gravel driveway led us off the township road and towards a series of buildings including a store/commercial kitchen, garage and barns. We were warmly greeted by Jania who was working in the store and then introduced to Lance who would be our tour guide for the morning. Lance immediately took a liking to Luca who was invited to sit in the front seat (with his mom of course) while the rest of us piled into the back of an off road utility vehicle and off we went down the dusty trail. Our first stop… to see the buffalo! Lance was a wealth of information about the ranch and his love for the animals in his care was obvious in all that he did and said. We learned from Lance that the animals are raised on the ranch free of hormones and antibiotics and are allowed to range the pastures year round in low density herds. The animals are fed with hay, oats and green feed grown on their adjacent lands. Noticing a pile of potatoes and onions in the pasture, Lance also explained that they had been successful at diverting this important feed considered “not fit for the table” which was destined for landfill. This seemed like a perfect use of produce as well as a reduction in landfill waste.
If you have never stood close to a buffalo (which is probably best if there is no fence between you) you won’t be able to fully appreciate the sheer size and power of these animals. We certainly kept a respectable distance after hearing some stories as to what buffalo can do. Even a calf buffalo is a sight to see. We all got caught up in the thought of what the prairies would have looked like with herds of buffalo more than a million strong.
We loaded ourselves ‘gracefully’ back into the utility vehicle and we were off again … this time to see elk up close and personal. We drove past a number of pastures with elk including a few recently born calves laying flat in the grass and trying not to attract attention. After passing through a number of gates we entered a pasture, drove too the top of a hill and then slowed down as we approached a small herd of elk. Lance eventually brought the vehicle to a stop and instructed us to wait while he “checked” to make sure his “favorite” elk was up for a visit. As he walked towards the group of elk that seemed to be walking away from his advance in a number of directions, we talked amongst ourselves that Lance was just “puling our legs”. To our complete surprise one elk out of the bunch walked directly towards him instead of away like the rest. After a brief “discussion” Lance turned and started walking back towards us and wouldn’t you know it … “Genevieve” (we later learned) was plodding along right on his heels. Genevieve was gracious enough to let us pet her, feed her and pose for pictures with her before she turned away and headed back to join the rest of the group.
With or tour nearing the end we headed towards the barns and store where Lance said we could buy some of the various cuts of meat as well as other delicious products. We were pleased to learn that when the times comes for the animals to be processed they are herded and ultimately killed with the least amount of stress and as much respect as possible. This humane approach to the slaughter also ensures the best quality of meat.
We explored the store and bought a number of items which we couldn’t wait to try! It was decided that buffalo burgers were on the menu for dinner and we were not disappointed. We strongly recommend the apple smoked buffalo burgers!