Canada Trip - June/July 2018 Images

Updated: Wednesday August 01, 2018

In June and early July 2018 my wife and I took a six week old fashioned "driving vacation" north from the Rio Grande Valley in far southern Texas to Canada...and back again, of course!.

We drove north through Texas to Kansas and then to Wisconsin, where we met up with friends for the trip through Canada. We continued up through Minnesota, into Canada and across Ontario, Manitoba, Saskatchewan, and Alberta. We returned south through North Dakota to South Dakota, where our friends said goodbye and headed back to Wisconsin. We continued south through Wyoming, Nebraska, Kansas, and back through Texas.

Along the 7,540+ mile trip we visited a number of National, Provincial, and State Parks, Historical Sites and Museums, Paleontology Sites and Museums, Wildlife Refuges, and towns and places with "frontier" names like:

  • Apache
  • Belle Fourche
  • Blue Mounds
  • Broadwater
  • Buffalo
  • Castle Danger
  • Chimney Rock
  • Custer
  • Deadwood
  • Duck Lake
  • Geronimo
  • Grand Portage
  • Grassy Butte
  • Great Bend
  • Gull Lake
  • Medicine Hat
  • Medicine Lodge
  • Moose Jaw
  • Ogallala
  • Paddockwood
  • Redcliff
  • Saskatoon
  • Scotts Bluff
  • Spearfish
  • Sundance
  • Swift Current
  • Thunder Bay
  • Warman
  • Waxahachie
  • Winnipeg
  • Yellow Grass

  • Did you know that the geographic center of the United States is approximately 20 miles north of Belle Fourche, South Dakota?
  • Did you know that Castle Rock's name came from a rock formation along Lake Superior in northeastern Minnesota that looked like the battlements of a castle?
  • Did you know that Chimney Rock and Scotts Bluff were landmarks on the Oregon Trail?
  • Did you know that a "Saskatoon" is a berry much like a blueberry or blackberry? Delicious, too!
  • Did you know that a "wigwam" is a permanent shelter covered with tree bark and stuffed with grass for insulation, while a "tipi" (or "teepee", or "tepee") is a portable shelter covered with animal skins?

The map below shows the route we took and the major locations we visited:

Gas prices during the trip averaged $2.83 (USD) per gallon in the U.S. and, after converting liters to gallons and Canadian Dollars to US Dollars, $3.80 (USD) per gallon in Canada. So, in Canada gas costs about 1.3 times what it does in the U.S.

Our focus was on having a fun vacation with lots of relaxation and sightseeing, and some birding. We often visited habitats for shorebirds (plovers, sandpipers, etc.) and "water" birds (loons, grebes, geese, ducks, herons, etc.), so "forest" birds (vireos, warblers. etc.) are not so well represented on our list. We also had several "target" species which we made a special effort to see and photograph.

Here's the COMPLETE LIST of birds seen.

Enjoy the birds and photos below...we certainly did while we were taking them!

Erik and Mary Breden
Weslaco, Texas
Birding Top 1000 Counter

FIRST STOP: Great Bend, Kansas

Quivira NWR and Cheyenne Bottoms Preserve

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Great Bend, Kansas is famous for migrant shorebirds at Quivira National Wildlife Refuge and The Nature Conservancy's Cheyenne Bottoms Preserve. This area in central Kansas is the largest wetland in the interior of the United States and is a major staging area for northbound shorebirds. Sadly, for the shorebirds which rely on the wetlands to re-fuel during migration, much of the former wetlands have been lost. Over the last 200 years about half of the wetlands in central Kansas have been lost by "reclaiming" the land for farming and by lowered ground water levels drawn down by irrigation.

Although it was late for the major migration period, which occurs in May, we found a few stragglers and many local breeding species.

  • American Avocet
  • American Golden-Plover
  • Snowy Plover
  • White-rumped Sandpiper
  • Black-necked Stilt
  • Least Tern
  • Pied-billed Grebe
  • Red-eared Slider
  • Diamondback Water Snake
  • Red Saddlebags?
  • Bear Grass?
  • Showy Milkweed
  • Yarrow

SECOND STOP: Duluth, Minnesota

Sax-Zim Bog

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Sax-Zim Bog is famous among birders for the northern owls which can be seen here during the winter months. It is also a nice place to visit in late spring or early summer. It has many breeding boreal species there, but they are sometimes hard to see. Fortunately there are also many insects, and not all of them bite!

  • Red-winged Blackbird
  • Bobolink
  • Savannah Sparrow
  • Le Conte's Sparrow
  • White Admiral Butterfly
  • Eastern Tiger Swallowtail
  • Chalk-fronted Corporal
  • Blue Lupine
Gooseberry Falls State Park and Two Harbors

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Gooseberry Falls State Park is a popular tourist destination. It has hiking trails and three spectacular waterfalls. It also offers a wide variety of plants and flowers if one is patient and observant.

Two Harbors is home to the "Big Train" (a "Yellowstone" train engine and coal car) which hauled iron ore from the Iron Range hills to Duluth.

  • Gooseberry Falls State Park
  • Middle Gooseberry Falls
  • Gooseberry
  • Bluebell
  • Bunchberry
  • Buttercup
  • Wild Dogwood
  • Wild Rose
  • Wild Strawberry
  • Interrupted Fern
  • Lady Fern
  • "Yellowstone" Train Engine

THIRD STOP: Thunder Bay, Ontario

Fort William Historical Park

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Just over the northeastern border of Minnesota is Thunder Bay, Ontario. It was once the fur trading and shipping center of the North West Company (similar to the Hudson's Bay Company). Fort William was the headquarters. Although it had a stockade fence to keep animals out, it was not a real fort. The original fort is long gone and paved over, but a detailed reproduction was built near the original site. It was opened in 1973 and declared a National Historic Site.

Wikipedia has a very good write-up about Fort William Historical Park.

  • Ostrich Fern Forest
  • Fort William Docent
  • Beaver Pelt
  • Black Bear Pelt
  • Wigwam
  • Hairy Woodpecker
  • Yellow Ladyslipper Orchid
  • Moose Danger Sign

FOURTH STOP: Winnipeg, Manitoba

FortWhyte Nature Park

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FortWhyte Nature Park contains woodland, pond, and prairie habitats, with trails through and around all of them. We spent a pleasant afternoon there looking at the birds, animals, and flowers.

  • Canada Goose
  • Mallard
  • American Bison
  • Red Squirrel
  • Western Painted Turtle
  • Dot-tailed Whiteface
  • Purple Martin Houses
  • Blue-eyed Grass
  • Yellow Ladyslipper Orchid
  • Birdsfoot Trefoil
Oak Hammock Marsh WMA

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Oak Hammock Marsh WMA sits on the open prairie just north of Winnipeg. It is a great place to spend a few hours or, maybe, a few days. Oak Hammock is included in "Manitoba's Pine to Prairie Birding Trail".

  • Yellow-headed Blackbird
  • Marbled Godwit
  • Purple Martin
  • Clay-colored Sparrow
  • Le Conte's Sparrow!
  • Tree Swallow
  • Black Tern
  • Pussytoes

FIFTH STOP: Anglin Lake, Saskatchewan

Anglin Lake

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I have always wanted to get good close up photos of Common Loons in breeding plumage. Photography books and courses always say to go where it is easiest to photograph your subject. This meant a trip to the "north woods", probably somewhere in Canada. After a little research on the InterNet, I discovered that Anglin Lake, Saskatchewan supports the largest concentration of breeding Common Loons in the world! So...we spent 5 days at Land of the Loon Resort (where else?) on Anglin Lake and were rewarded with great photographic opportunities.

  • Common Loon!
  • Bonaparte's Gull
  • Common Goldeneye
  • Canada Goose
  • Ring-necked Duck
  • Horned Grebe
  • Four-spotted Skimmer
  • Forget-Me-Not
Prince Albert National Park

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A bonus for choosing Anglin Lake is that Prince Albert National Park is right next door and offers a wide variety of habitats and trails. It turned out to be a botanist's dream with many varieties of plants along with the birds and other animals.

  • Cottonwood Snow?
  • Palm Warbler
  • Black-billed Magpie
  • Western Tailed Blue Butterfly
  • Northern Cloudywing Butterfly
  • Bluet Damselfly sp.
  • Chalk-fronted Corporal
  • Leaf Borer sp.
  • Bluebell
  • Bunchberry
  • Painted Cup
  • Cotton Grass
  • Canada Anemone
  • Horsetail sp.
  • Lichen sp.
  • Pitcher Plant
  • Pyrola sp.
  • Bog Rosemary
  • Labrador Tea
  • Twinflower

SIXTH STOP: Dinosaur Country, Southern Alberta

Drumheller and the Royal Tyrrell Museum

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Drumheller is famous for the Dinosaur fossils prepared by the staff at the Royal Tyrrell Museum. The town has embraced the Dinos, and almost every street corner in the downtown area has a Dino statue or two. They even have the world's largest Dinosaur statue. Quite impressive, too. The exhibits at the Royal Tyrrell Museum are among the best I have seen. Enjoy the visit...but keep a watch over your shoulder...

  • Alberta Scenery
  • Dinosaurs on the Loose!
  • The World's Largest Dinosaur!
  • Badland Canyons
  • Bleriot Cable Ferry!
  • Richardson's Ground Squirrel
  • Royal Tyrrell Museum
  • Tyrannosaurus Rex
Brooks and Dinosaur Provincial Park

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Brooks is very near to Dinosaur Provincial Park, where many of the Dinosaurs shown at the Royal Terryll Museum have been found. The Park has yielded the greatest number of Dinosaur species fossils for an area of its size, and is world renowned for the intact and complete fossils that it has produced over the years. It has even been declared a "World Heritage Site" because of the amazing fossils that have been found there. And the local folks here have also gotten into the spirit, with small Dinosaur statues found here and there.

We ended the Canadian portion of the trip in Moose Jaw, and then headed south into North Dakota.

  • Dinosaur Provincial Park
  • Raptor in a Cage!
  • Chipping Sparrow
  • Northern "Red-shafted" Flicker
  • Ring-billed Gull
  • Swainson's Hawk
  • Horned Lark
  • Wilson's Phalarope
  • Northern Rough-winged Swallow
  • Sunflower
  • Rodent Sand Tunnels?
  • Prairie Thunderstorm
  • Rainbow After a Thunderstorm
  • Moose Jaw's Moose
  • Moose Jaw's Trolley
  • Rape Seed Fields

SEVENTH STOP: Watford City, North Dakota

Theodore Roosevelt National Park

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The badlands we left in Alberta extend southeast down into the United States through northeastern Montana, western North Dakota, and into northern South Dakota. The famous Missouri Breaks area in Montana, and Badlands National Park in South Dakota, are well-known examples of this.

The exposed rock strata typical of "badlands" topography are not all the same age, however. The upper rock layers (i.e., most recent) in Dinosaur Provincial Park in Alberta average approximately 75 million years old, while those in Badlands National Park, South Dakota average approximately 30 million years old. But they were all formed ("carved") by erosion "events" as glaciers advanced ("scoured") and retreated ("melted") during the most recent Ice Ages.

A lesser known portion of this badlands corridor is at Theodore (aka "Teddy") Roosevelt National Park (TRNP) in western North Dakota. Our traveling companions, Fred and Deb, suggested it as a good "next stop" when we finally returned to the U.S. after traveling across Canada.

So we left Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan and headed south to Watford City, North Dakota. This is a good base for exploring the more remote northern section of TRNP. The southern section is filled with tourists since it lies right along the Interstate 94 highway.

  • Theodore Roosevelt National Park
  • Geology Lessons
  • Prairie Grasslands Education
  • Buffalo! (American Bison)
  • Buffalo "Chips"
  • Spotted Towhee
  • Bee Balm
  • Pale Purple Coneflower
  • Smooth Sumac

EIGHTH STOP: The Black Hills of South Dakota

Crazy Horse Memorial

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We had two targets in the Black Hills area: the famous "Wall Drug Store", and the Crazy Horse Memorial "Mountain" Sculpture.

We have both been to Wall Drug Store before (Erik in 1959, 1992, and 2015, and Mary in 1992 and 2015). It started in 1931 as a real Drug Store and advertised free ice water to motorists driving through the town of Wall, South Dakota. It has grown from these humble beginnings into a huge souvenir and food court venue over the years. It was packed with people, however, so we grabbed some gift items for friends and relatives, and didn't stay very long.

The Crazy Horse Memorial is a "mountain" sculpture project much like Mount Rushmore. It started in 1948 and has moved slowly over the years. We drove by the site in 1992 on a vacation, and there was very little detail yet. But what a change has occurred in the last 26 years! There has obviously been an influx of money to build buildings and other infrastructure, and the site is now a popular tourist destination. More of the sculpture has been blocked out, but the only detail is Crazy Horse's face. When it is completed it will be the largest sculpture in the world, but who knows when that will be?

  • Belle Fourche - Geographic Center of the U.S.
  • Crazy Horse Memorial
  • The Nature Gates at Crazy Horse Memorial
  • Model of the Memorial Statue (1/34th scale)
  • Dedication by Sculptor Korczak Ziolkowski
  • The "Mountain" Sculpture

NINTH STOP: Lusk and Van Tassell, Wyoming

Grassland Birding and History

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Never heard of Lusk or Van Tassell? Neither had I until I started doing research for the next "target" bird for the trip, a grassland bird called a Chestnut-collared Longspur. I have seen them before and even photographed them, but not well.

The grasslands and pastures east of Lusk at Van Tassell come highly recommended for seeing this bird. And there would certainly be other birds, animals, plants, historic "things", etc. to see.

  • Welcome to Lusk
  • Redwood Railroad Water Tank
  • Texas [Longhorn Cattle] Trail
  • Welcome to Van Tassell
  • Cliff Swallow
  • Lark Bunting
  • Red-tailed Hawk
  • Horned Lark
  • Chestnut-collared Longspur!
  • McCown's Longspur
  • Western Meadowlark
  • Burrowing Owl
  • American Robin
  • Brewer's Sparrow
  • Grasshopper Sparrow
  • Yellow Sweet Clover
  • Purple Penstemons
  • Sunflower

TENTH STOP: "Oregon Trail" Country, Western Nebraska

"Oregon Trail" Landmarks

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The "Oregon Trail" was a wagon train route for the pioneers moving into the northwestern states in the mid 1800's. It began in Independence, Missouri and wound through Kansas, Nebraska, Wyoming, Idaho, and Oregon 2,130 miles to its end at Oregon City, just a few miles south of Portland (see the U.S. National Park Service map below).

NPS Oregon Trail Map

Two of the more famous Oregon Trail landmarks in western Nebraska are Chimney Rock and Scotts Bluff. They were used to navigate across the wide prairies and stay on the route as it approached more difficult terrain. Since we were already in far eastern Wyoming, we decided to change our route home to visit them.

  • Chimney Rock National Historic Site
  • Rattlesnake Country!
  • "I've Seen the Elephant!"
  • Scotts Bluff National Monument
  • "Old Oregon Trail" Road
  • Western Kingbird
  • Mule Deer
  • Goatsbeard
  • Prairie Coneflower

ELEVENTH STOP: Back to Great Bend, Kansas

("The circle is now complete." - DV (aka AS) to OK in "SW", 1977)

Quivira National Wildlife Refuge

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We started this adventure in the beginning of June at Great Bend, Kansas looking for northbound migrant shorebirds at Quivira National Wildlife Refuge and The Nature Conservancy's Cheyenne Bottoms Preserve. Now, six weeks later in mid-July, these same birds were already beginning to head south.

In many species of shorebirds the parents leave soon after the young have fledged and are able to hunt on their own. The young birds begin moving south several weeks later. The "juvenile" plumage is often markedly different from either the breeding or winter plumage of the adults. Since they will not acquire the "adult" winter plumage of their parents for several months or breeding plumage until the following year, there is often the appearance of two "waves" of different-looking birds.

On top of this, some of the returning adults may have already begun or finished molting into their drab winter plumage, so identifying a species with three possible different plumages can be challenging.

But these are my favorite birds, and I love it all!

And, just as I had suspected, there were many (at least 14) species of shorebird present when I visited Quivira NWR on July 12th and 13th, including several species not seen elsewhere during the trip.

  • Quivira National Wildlife Refuge
  • American Avocet
  • Short-billed Dowitcher *
  • Great and Snowy Egrets
  • White-faced Ibis
  • Killdeer with Young
  • Eastern Kingbird
  • American White Pelicans
  • Wilson's Phalarope

    * New for the trip
  • Snowy Plover
  • Least Sandpiper *
  • Semipalmated Sandpiper *
  • Stilt Sandpiper *
  • Western Sandpiper *
  • White-rumped Sandpiper
  • Lesser Yellowlegs *
  • Diamondback Water Snake
  • Showy Milkweed


Erik, Mary, Deb, and Fred

We had a great time on this trip and enjoyed traveling with our friends Fred and Deb. We visited many interesting places, and saw lots of birds, insects, other animals, flowers, plants, trees, and beautiful sunsets. We listened to the haunting calls of Common Loons at sunset. We drove on country roads with almost no other traffic. We saw blue skies and thunderstorms that seemed to stretch out forever across the land. We walked in the footsteps of dinosaurs. We stood on historic ground that had been traveled by countless others to expand and build our nation.

Erik took over 3,400 photos of all of these, including many photos of his "target" species (Common Loon, Le Conte's Sparrow, and Chestnut-collared Longspur). Mary also took a few hundred photos with her phone, some of which are included in this trip report.

While we were driving from western Wyoming through Nebraska to Kansas, we also were inspired for our next "driving" vacation. We noticed that we weren't driving on any Interstate Highways to get from Lusk, Wyoming to Great Bend, Kansas. No Interstate Highways! Just "normal" roads like our parents drove on when we were kids. It might take a little longer, and sometimes the quality of the road isn't the best, but it is very relaxing, and you get to see interesting places and towns. You can pull over and stop almost anywhere to take a break or look at something. In short, it puts the "vacation" back into your vacation. We tested this out as we drove from Kansas back to Texas, traveling on US Highway 281 all the way. Try'll like it!

We hope you enjoyed the narrative and photos in this trip report. Thanks for reading it.

Only question now is: "Where to next?"

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