At Head-Smashed-In buffalo jump

100km south of Calgary is the Head-Smashed-In World heritage site. This ancient communal hunting ground was used by the Plains People for nearly 6000 years. A buffalo jump typically has four areas:

  • The gathering basin: a feeding and gathering area from where herds where gradually lured toward the cliff
  • The drive lanes: marked by two rows of stone, they extended up to 8km from the jump and directed buffalo toward a specific part of the cliff
  • The kill site: the actual jump. Here the cliff was originally 20 meters high, but after thousands of years the bones deposits reached 10 meters high, halving the cliff height.
  • Camp site and processing area: butchering was performed next to the campsite on the rolling prairie below the jump

As for the name of the jump, the Blackfoot oral traditions says a young boy once wanted to witness the plunge and stood under the shelter of a ledge. He watched the beasts fall past and as the bodies mounted he got trapped between them and the cliff. His people found him with his skull crushed by the weight of the Buffalo carcasses, and they named the jump Head-Smashed-In.