Camping at Métis Crossing revives connections
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Métis Crossing, AB - A cooling prairie wind blows through the aspen forest at Métis Crossing as Cindy Lazarenko and her daughters step out from their trapper’s tent onto their private deck overlooking the North Saskatchewan River. Endless views hint at the potential adventures at hand for visitors camping here on the site of one of Canada’s newest Indigenous attractions.
Sun trickles through brilliant green foliage, wind plays with the girls’ hair as they run through the long grass into the main grounds, where several homestead lots are maintained in the fashion of the late 1800s. Time eddies here, taking the Lazarenkos on a journey from past to present and back, all in the course of a day.
In the short Alberta camping season, camping sites can often be at a premium. At just 1.5 hours’ drive from Edmonton, the family has discovered the simplicity of Métis Crossing’s comfort camping tents—a ready-made camping experience, with shelter, bedframes with mattresses and indoor heating for those cool nights. Bring some camping chairs, a Coleman and your bed coverings or sleeping bags (and any other camping essentials you might like), and you’re all set.
“We always knew it was here but we didn’t really know what was here,” says Cindy. When they found out, she says, “We instantly wanted to be part of it. There’s just so much potential and we love it out here. It’s beautiful.”
There is a make-your-own adventure feel to camping here. Campers can choose to delve into early frontier history and learn about the Métis people, take an archery course, paddle like a voyageur, gather round a fire to hear Métis folk tales, or retire to their own space for some relaxing time outside in nature.
While being outdoors is part of the package, it’s also about discovering a sense of place and connection to the land, and learning about Métis heritage in Alberta. Staying in the trapper’s tents, on the original river lots at the former settlement site, you can almost imagine yourself stepping briefly into the life of the settlement.
For the Lazarenkos, that discovery is made all the more poignant for them in light of their connections to the historic settlement. One of their ancestors, George Kennedy, was one of the last settlers to live on the site and the family has Métis ancestry.
“Like many families, we didn’t grow up with that Métis culture, it was very much not talked about, so we are embracing it and learning,” Cindy says.
Cultivating a deeper appreciation for the Métis experience in people of all backgrounds is one of the defining purposes of the site, and all the experiences are designed to provide a safe space for encouraging cultural understanding and connections.
As the late day sun sparkles on the river, the Lazarenkos and their canoe guide, Leon Hunter, slip a voyageur canoe into the water. For a moment, as they fight the current the same way as their ancestors did 200 years ago coming up river to trade, their modern brains cannot properly synchronize. They are individuals on individual paths.
And then something happens, and their paddles touch the water in time, together, and Hunter laughs from the bow and helms the vessel into position, remembering the people who spent lifetimes doing just this. We are in the current, and it is all around us, and it is in us and around us, moving and not moving.
But it’s when you stop that you truly feel the weight of history, human and natural, floating in the air, every charged particle vibrating through time and space and matter. Being on the land, hearing the songbirds, feeling the rustling wind as it blows the long grass, the stillness, the sun on your skin.
Smoke drifts lazy into the evening sky as the river appears to move without moving. From the storytelling circle we can see the surface rippling with untold stories beneath. We are not talking about history, we are relearning who we are and what the present moment can be.
WHEN YOU GO
- Métis Crossing offers a range of camping options for every style of camper, from unserviced tent lots to RV sites, to comfort camping tents.
- Be sure to bring the necessities - sleeping bags, cooking supplies and comforts. Note that the campground follows all AHS guidelines for COVID-19.
- General admission and signature experiences at Métis Crossing are booked separately; book ahead to try the "Walk in Our Mocs" archery experience, "Paddle into the Past" in a voyageur canoe or drop by for a scheduled "Tall Tales by the Fire" Métis storytelling experience.
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