Historic Cochrane Ranche
Dipping and diving along the quiet, spring-fed creek, the Cochrane Ranche Trail is just my speed. Indeed, the under-the-radar multi-use trail – just like the Historic Cochrane Ranche Site itself – is a gem that more people need to discover.
Unquestionably, the beautiful creek-side trail is just one of the items on the “to do list” during a visit to the Historic Cochrane Ranche Site. Located in the heart of Cochrane, just a ten minute walk from the historic downtown area, the Historic Cochrane Ranche Site is a beautiful place to relax, explore, and immerse yourself in the western themes and natural beauty of this character-filled town.
You can also think of the Cochrane Ranche Site as a large community park (in a gorgeous natural setting) that’s steeped in western culture, Indigenous history, and numerous recreational opportunities, including family-friendly mountain biking trails. A few of the additional attractions in the park include: a quaint museum located in a historic 109-year-old building, a popular Farmer’s Market (every Saturday from June September), a reconstructed corral, an interpretive trail that highlights the natural and human history of the site, picnic sites with fire pits, an outdoor stage for concerts and community events, the famous “Men of Vision” statue, archaeological remains, and of course, panoramic vistas of the aspen-coated foothills and soaring Rocky Mountains. Regardless of your interests, you’ll find something that is truly “your speed” in the 136-acre park.
Rich Ranching History
Not surprisingly, the central theme of the entire site – the area’s rich ranching history – is an integral component of the experience at the Historic Cochrane Ranche Site. In 1881 Senator Mathew Cochrane was granted the first of the huge western grazing leases doled out by the Canadian Federal Government. This idyllic site became the first large-scale ranching operation in Alberta.
Situated at the base of The Big Hill with a spring-fed creek, easy access to the Bow River, regular warm Chinook winds to melt the snow pack, and plenty of grassland ideal for grazing, the site was about as good as it gets for ranching. And, yet, it didn’t take long before the ranch fell on hard times. An extremely harsh winter and some questionable management decisions led to major stock losses and, after a couple of years, the ranch was actually moved to the Fort McLeod area. However, even though that early ranch struggled, history was made and the door was opened to a vibrant ranching and agricultural community that’s still the heartbeat of the town today.
Biking down the trails
Speaking of “heartbeats,” on my recent spring visit it didn’t take long before my little ticker was going a mile a minute on the Cochrane Ranche Trail. And just ten minutes into my mountain bike ride I was totally convinced this trail is a keeper. Crossing bridges, spinning through meadows, descending rocky ridges, and curling along the creek bed, it was one of the most enjoyable rides I’ve ever done. After winding my way back to the parking lot after the invigorating ride I couldn’t resist climbing up the hill for one last look at the scene and the “Men of Vision” statue. And, just like the beautiful bronze cowboy on the hill (perhaps the most recognizable landmark in Cochrane), I too looked west, over the cattle-flecked foothills, to the rising Rockies not far in the distance, and realized this place celebrates something truly special. And I left knowing I would return many more times in the future.
Andrew Penner – Guest Journalist
Tim Hall – Featured Image
Bike Bros – Biking Images