Writing-on-Stone Provincial Park, located in Milk River, Alberta, Canada is a unique facility because the park is both a recreational and historical site. Because of the two features, the park has a steady stream of visitor traffic for day use areas as well as overnight camping during every season. Day visitors and campers have a variety of things to participate in, such as outdoor and interpretive activities.
Writing-on-Stone Provincial Park, named after the rock drawings of the Blackfoot First Nation, has the largest concentration of petroglyphs in the North American plains. The detailed battle scenes give historians insight into the living conditions, battles, and way of life of the people who inhabited the area as long as 5,000 years ago. People interested in history and the experiences of ancient cultures come to Writing-on-Stone Provincial Park to see the remnants of the First Nation’s ancestors carved into stone.
Aside from the archaeological sites, the Milk River is the hub of the park’s outdoor recreation. The campground and the picnic tables both have views of the water, so it’s possible to sit outside and enjoy the sights and sounds of the river from different locations in the park. If you’d rather play in the water than sit next to it, bring your canoe, kayak, tube, or swimming gear and explore the river from the water. Whatever you and your family enjoy doing, there is something for everyone when you RV camp at Writing-on-Stone Provincial Park.
Writing-on-Stone Provincial Park is located in south-central Alberta, Canada near the Canada and Montana border. The park is 210 miles (339 km) south of Calgary, Alberta, Canada and 59 miles (94 km) north of Shelby, Montana. If you are traveling from Montana, don’t forget your passport. You must cross international lines to get to the park from the United States.
When you get to the park, please stay on the designated roads and don’t disturb the park’s fragile habitat.
Please be aware that the park’s hours are between 7:00 am to 11:00 pm. If you are staying overnight and made your reservations online, you will pay for your permit and fees at the time of making your reservation. Campsites not reserved are issued on a first-come, first served basis, and permits and payments are accepted within the park or camping areas.
The Writing-on-Stone Campground is the ideal facility for all-season RV camping. Peak season campers should reserve their spaces during the reservation-only window, and offseason campers should arrive early for first-come, first-served sites. The campground offers primitive camping sites and 15 and 30-amp electricity sites. During the reservation window tap water, flush toilets, and pay showers operate to keep campers comfortable. Each natural surface site has a fire pit, picnic table, and varies in size with some spaces accommodating RVs and trailers over 60 feet in length. Near the campground, campers have access to a dump and fill station, a playground, waterfront views, a grocery store, and a picnic area. Guests are asked to keep generator noise to a minimum to protect the sounds of nature. All noise and other activities that may disrupt your neighbors must stop between the hours of 11:00 pm to 7:00 am.
The birdwatching at Writing-on-Stone Provincial Park is excellent because birds have three habitats to live, breed, and nest. The riverside, the hoodoo and cliffs, and the upland prairie habitats all contain different species of birds. Some of the birds living in these areas are rare, and because of the fragility of the species, these habitats are protected in the hopes to grow the bird population while simultaneously protecting the land. The park has an extensive bird checklist, so birders will know what bird are prevalent each season. If you plan on looking for birds, don’t forget your binoculars!
Overnight camping guests and day visitors who want more information on the history of the area should add the Visitor Center to their trip itinerary. The Visitor Center has a gift shop, flush toilets, wireless internet services, and park information. The Visitor Center operates on seasonal hours and during the peak operating season hours may vary on weekdays and weekends. For more information about the other services the Visitor Center provides or for hours of operation, check with the park or visit the website.
The Milk River is a favorite destination for swimming, kayaking, canoeing, and tubing. The swimming beach is located close to the campground, and on the warmer days of the year, swimmers can jump in the water to cool off or enjoy sitting on the soft sand beach. Lifeguards do not staff the swimming area, so kids who want to play in the water must have an adult with them. If you want a little more adventure, bring your kayak, canoe, or tubes and make a day of paddling or floating. Before heading downstream, check with a member of the park staff for water conditions. When the water level drops, the river becomes impassable.
The park has excellent wildlife viewing opportunities year-round, and because the park remains open during the winter, people who want to see a specific animal aren’t restricted by seasonal access. If you like reptiles and amphibians, watch where you walk because prairie rattlesnakes, bull snakes, frogs, toads, and salamanders live in the camping and recreational areas. The park also has bats, raccoons, skunks, mule deer, pronghorn, marmots, and gophers. For a detailed list of the park’s animals, download the wildlife viewing checklist before setting up camp.
Writing-on-Stone Provincial Park is an archaeological site with more than eighty archaeological findings. The Battle Scene, one of the park’s main attractions, is a rock carving depicting warriors on horses. The warriors look as if they have guns pointed at a group of individuals surrounded by tipis. Two of the figures in the tipi section of the drawing look as if they are involved in a face-to-face battle. One of the figures holds a hatchet attacking the second figure. Park guests visiting the day use area may visit the Battle Scene, but it is only accessible by foot. To get to the Battle Scene, take the Hoodoo Trail. The trail is a 3 mile (5 km) round-trip interpretive path that leads from the Visitor Centre to the Battle Scene.
Hiking is one of the ways guests can feel a connection to the natural and historical aspects of the park. The park offers a backcountry hiking zone and a front country hiking area. Backcountry hiking is for overnight backpackers who crave adventure and rugged trails. For shorter interpretive trails and nature walks, the three front country trails, the Hoodo, the Visitor Centre, and the Battle Scene trails all offer hikers options for exercise while hiking to the scenic vistas and archaeological points of interest. Before setting out on your hike, pick up a park map, dress accordingly for the season, and review the guidelines for hiking in rattlesnake territory. The trails are open year round, so no matter the weather, if you crave the outdoors, you will have something to see and do on one of the hiking trails.