Activities and experiences
New activities for 2017
Experience the flame and smoke as you brand a lasting memory of Canada’s 150th birthday! Branding 101 takes you on a livestock identification journey from the flowing scripts of the Spanish vaqueros to the block lettering of the North American cowboys. Discover how to “read” a brand and where today's “brand marketing” comes from. It culminates in handling an “iron” and applying a brand that you can take home.
Discover the unsung story of Bar U operations. The tradition of raising superior horses goes right back to the beginnings of this historic ranch and you’ll experience getting one ready to ride - from catching and grooming to swinging up a saddle. Find out how ranch horses developed on the Bar U and learn how a Canadian breed started it all. The highlight of the program is a special Canada 150 memory, a take-home photo of you on the horse.
Canada’s crafty cow ears
Traditional skills turn out a trendy craft! The historic Harness Repair Shop kept equine tack in good shape for day-to-day ranch chores. Learn how to use leather-working skills to make your own unique Canada 150 souvenir - crafty cow ears!
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.
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.
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 step-by-step instruction, then challenge your friends. Caution - it's addictive (you’ll want to take a lariat home with you!).
The Bar U has the largest collection of historical ranch buildings in Canada and many of them are 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.
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. Don’t forget to check out the cookhouse storehouses and the root cellar!
Hear about the characters that made this ranch famous including 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.
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 from 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!