Since the establishment of Antelope Hill Provincial Park was first announced way back in 2014, I have looked forward to the moment when I would be able to head out to Special Areas to see what I could see.
Following an eight year wait, Antelope Hill was finally opened to the public this Spring. So at the earliest opportunity I rounded up my beleaguered brood and we headed into the outback and checked out what province’s newest provincial park had to offer.
Along the way to Antelope Hill, we veered slightly out of the way to survey the site of Dowling siding, formerly home to a small settlement and Alberta Wheat Pool elevator, a topic I explored in the previous post.
After wrapping up here we continued onward, heading three miles down the road to the entrance of the new provincial park.
Comprised of over 900 acres of uncultivated land, Antelope Hill was formerly the home of Mr. Gottlob Schmidt, who had lived on the parcel in question since 1933.
As an Alberta Parks fact sheet details, the Schmidt family arrived in Hanna from Romania in 1927 and lived on a homestead to the northeast of the park for about seven years, before moving to what is Antelope Hill today.
Mr. Schmidt became sole proprietor in 1958, and in recent years has split his time between Hanna and his “Antelope Hill Ranch” after graciously donating the land to the government of Alberta in 2014.
We arrived on an unseasonably cool August day, a bitter wind whipping in from the west, reminding us that Fall is lurking just around the corner.
After bundling up and making a preliminary survey of the facilities, we ventured through a gate and headed eastward down a gravel approach towards the old homestead, shielded by an abundant windbreak to the north.
It is a short hike to the site of the homestead, which sits on a knoll to the east, and is surprisingly still littered with remnants of the former residence. The periodically cool and wet growing season sprouted an abundance of ground cover, and as a result the vegetation in all directions was long and lush.
The park is very much in a natural state, so anyone looking for established and marked trails will be disappointed. However, the abundant rolling grassland offers limitless opportunities for exploration, and I’m sure trails will emerge in time once the park becomes more popular.
Anyone looking to fire up the quads will also be disappointed, as the park has been dedicated for low-impact recreation uses such as hiking, and as such hunting, camping, and therefore the use of off-highway vehicles is verboten.
The most common remark I have read online is that if you decide to go, you’ll have the park to yourself, and that was certainly the case when we visited. To me the solitude is what is most attractive about places like Antelope Hill, and the opportunity to commune with nature and to quite literally step outside of the hustle-and-bustle of daily life.
Unfortunately, the hustle-and-bustle of my own life meant we weren’t able to stay long at Antelope Hill. However, we certainly saw enough to conclude that this is somewhere we (ok, I) wish to spend more time and have a greater look around, likely at the beginning of the growing season, when the native grasses have yet to grow long enough to conceal any surprises lurking below.
As a result of our quick visit, we managed to miss the site of Antelope Hill School along the northern boundary of the park. The school operated here during the latter years of its existence, having been moved from a nearby quarter section. With only four pupils in attendance, the school closed in 1938, having been in operation for over 20 years.
So be sure to take a trip to Antelope Hill when you get a chance, and blaze a trail of your own through this unspoiled landscape.