The Night-Shadowed Prairie


The Night Shadowed Prairie

“No ocean of water in the world can vie with its gorgeous sunsets; no solitude can equal the loneliness of a night-shadowed prairie.” – William Butler, 1873

In the 1870s, just before the coming of the railway and European settlement, English adventurer William Butler trekked the Canadian prairies, knowing what he called “The Great Lone Land” was soon to disappear as a remote and unsettled territory.

The quote from his book is on a plaque at the site where I took the lead image, Sunset Point at Writing-on-Stone Provincial Park.

The night was near perfect, with the Milky Way standing out down to the southern horizon and the Sweetgrass Hills of Montana. Below, the Milk River winds through the sandstone rock formations sacred to the Blackfoot First Nations.

The next night (last night, July 26, as I write this) I was at another unique site in southern Alberta, Red Rock Coulee Natural Area. The sky presented one of Butler’s unmatched prairie sunsets.

Big Sky Sunset at Red Rock Coulee

This is “big sky” country, and this week is putting on a great show with a succession of clear and mild nights under a heat wave.

Waxing Crescent Moon at Red Rock Coulee

The waxing crescent Moon adds to the western sky and the sunsets. But it sets early enough to leave the sky dark for the Milky Way to shine to the south.

The Milky Way at Red Rock Coulee

This was the Milky Way on Wednesday night, July 27, over Red Rock Coulee. Sagittarius and the centre of the Galaxy lie above the horizon. At right, Saturn shines amid the dark lanes of the Dark Horse in the Milky Way.

I’m just halfway through my week-long photo tour of several favourite sites in this Great Lone Land. Next, is Cypress Hills and the Reesor Ranch.

— Alan, July 27, 2017 / © 2017 Alan Dyer / amazingsky.com

 

Moon and Twilight Planets over the Bow River


Moon with Antares, Mars & Saturn over Bow River

The waxing Moon shines between Saturn and Mars over the waters of the Bow River.

It was a beautiful autumn evening for watching the twilight showing of the crescent Moon accompanied by Saturn (at right of centre) and the pairing of Mars (at left, above) with his rival red star, Antares in Scorpius (at left, below).

The river is the Bow, with its headwaters at Bow Glacier in Banff.

To shoot this scene I drove to the grounds of the Blackfoot Crossing Historical Park south of Cluny, Alberta to take advantage of its viewpoint overlooking the Bow River and the heart of the traditional Siksika First Nations tribal lands.

It was here, in the valley below, that Treaty Seven was signed between Chief Crowfoot and Colonel James Macleod in September 1877. Today, a beautiful interpretive centre sits on the hillside at the heart of Blackfoot country.

– Alan, September 28, 2014 / © 2014 Alan Dyer

 

Floodwaters at Bow River Crossing


SIksika Nation and Bow River Flood Panorama #3

This is not a picture of the amazing sky but a document of what the sky can do when it decides to be merciless.

No one has seen anything like this in living memory, with homes under water and the river swollen to a lake engulfing the Bow River Valley.

These panoramas depict the heart of the Siksika First Nation, part of the Blackfoot Confederacy. It was in this valley, where the Blackfoot had traditionally held their summer camps, that Treaty 7 was signed in 1877 between Chief Crowfoot and James Macleod of the NWMP. The history of the area is presented at the beautiful Blackfoot Crossing Historical Park interpretive centre, shown in the image below. We’ve held several popular public stargazing sessions there. It was closed today, ironically due to a lack of safe water.

SIksika Nation and Bow River Flood Panorama #1

It was here at this spot in the Bow River Valley that nomadic hunters could easily cross the river. Up to this weekend a bridge, seen in the distance in the image below, had allowed modern travellers to make the crossing. But no more. The bridge is closed and may never reopen, until it is rebuilt. Today, water was roaring just below the bridge deck. And waters have receded in the last 24 hours.

SIksika Nation and Bow River Flood Panorama #2

There is some fear that a ferry downstream, the Crowfoot Ferry, one of the last river ferries in Alberta, might break loose and crash into the Bassano Dam.

Dozens of homes are underwater and hundreds of people displaced to evacuation shelters. The water came up so fast many people had just minutes to get out.

SIksika Nation and Bow River Flood Panorama #4

Those I spoke to today, including one 68-year-old resident, said they have never seen the Bow flood as bad as this. The high waters, having breached the Carseland Dam upstream from here, are now heading downstream to fill the Bassano Dam and flood the lower Bow and South Saskatchewan River through Medicine Hat. As those upstream clean up, those downstream prepare for the onslaught of water.

– Alan, June 23, 2013 / © 2013 Alan Dyer