Standing at edge of the paddock I lock eyes with a wooly-looking plains bison.
The huge animal is casually munching the grass in his new home, a 380-acre wildlife park set in the low rolling grasslands about 80 kilometres northwest of Edmonton, Alberta. He and the rest of the 15-member herd seem oblivious to the fact they have made history; their September arrival marked 160 years since the last plains bison freely roamed these hills. The species was hunted to near extinction in the 1880s.
Roam CreativeBuilt on the original river lots of Métis settlers in the late 1800s, Métis Crossing has gradually grown from a small, summertime attraction with camping, canoeing, archery and workshops teaching Métis skills, into a year-round destination. The recent release of bison, as well as elk and heritage Percheron horses onto the Visions, Hope and Dreams at Métis Crossing Wildlife Park is just one part of an expansion that also includes the January 2022 opening of a new 40-room boutique lodge.
The centre, which is set on the banks of the North Saskatchewan River, offers visitors insight into who Métis people are and how their culture arose. One of the three recognized groups of Indigenous peoples in Canada, Métis people have a combined Indigenous and European ancestry that evolved during the fur trade and lead to a distinct culture and a language called Michif.
Cultural Gathering Centre | Métis CrossingCultural Gathering Centre | Métis Crossing
Métis Crossing teaches travellers about culture through fun, hands-on activities that promote understanding and appreciation. The goal of the river-side cultural centre is to offer an immersive experience that tells the unique Métis story.
When you go
In addition to summertime stays at the campsite or in trapper’s cabins, the new boutique lodge will offer visitors the chance to experience farm life in winter. Designed by Métis architect Tiffany Shaw-Collinge, the lodge will feature guest rooms with traditional art, including hand-sewn quilts made by the New Dawn Métis Women’s Society. The lodge has a bistro and a lounge where guests can sip cocktails while taking in daytime views of the North Saskatchewan River and an expansive starry sky after dark. While the exact date of opening has not yet been announced, the property is expected to debut in January 2022.
Trap demo | Jeremy Derksen
Winter offers a whole new set of seasonal activities at Métis crossing with more planned for the coming months. Olympian Beckie Scott, a cross-country skiing gold and silver medalist, developed three Nordic ski trails for visitors to use. “Tales from the Trapline” teaches Métis winter skills, including snowshoeing, setting a snare and building a survival shelter, while “Whispers from the Stars” uses Indigenous storytelling to give visitors a new appreciation of the night sky. Sleigh rides and tobogganing are planned for the future.
Tour the game park with a guide to learn about woods bison, plains bison, white bison, elk, white elk and Percheron horses. It's an interpretive experience that teaches guests about bison (bufloo in Michif) and the species' role in the development of the Métis culture.
Learn traditional Métis art from teachers and knowledge holders who host classes using traditional materials. Try your hand at finger weaving (this is way the traditional red Métis sashes were made). Guests can also learn beading and jewelry-making techniques.
Savour Métis cuisine cooked up by Executive Chef Brad Lazarenko. Farm-to-table meals are made with ingredients grown and harvested at Métis Crossing. The menu changes seasonally and includes bison and trout, as well as Saskatoon berries and raspberries.