North Burmis Road | Alberta, Canada
Ruts of animal-drawn travois poles are still visible along the ancient migration route that humans used to spread through the Americas after crossing the now-submerged land bridge that connected present day Siberia and Alaska. The travois tracks are in fact from more recent native populations who continued to use the "Old North Trail" to migrate along the eastern front ranges of the Rockies.
Perhaps the most impressive and intact stretch of that great trail lies between the sheer wall of the Livingstone Range and the first folds of the foothills. You can follow the route today along a well-maintained gravel road that serves the few proudly kept ranches established by the first wave of European migrants in the late 1800s.
The North Burmis Road is a spellbinding scenic byway rarely used except by the few ranchers fortunate enough to live in this hideaway secreted between the foothills and the sudden rise of the Livingstone Range, the eastern wall of the Canadian Rockies.
From Highway 3, turn north onto Range Road 3-1 (GPS N49 33.875 W114 16.491) just west of the truck weigh scale at Burmis. Follow the winding road past the intersection with Chapel Rock Road (GPS N49 42.483 W114 17.669) to its end at a T-intersection with Willow Valley Road (GPS N49 46.203 W114 16.968). Turn east and continue along Willow Valley Road until it meets Highway 22 (GPS N49 43.494 W114 10.864).
Points of Interest and Highlights along the Drive
In all liklihood, you won't see another vehicle and will have plenty of opportunity to stop and soak up the extraordinary geomorpholical spectacle of the Pacific Plate riding up and over the North American Plate. The tectonic slippage is still active, causing the front ranges to continue their adolescent growth, while continuously relieving the deep stresses that might otherwise provoke earthquakes.
The great spring and fall migrations of Golden Eagles and lesser raptors occurs along the spine of the Livingstone Range. The birds ride the updraft created by prevailing westerly winds smacking against the opposite side of the range. The few resident Red-tailed Hawks are usually visible gliding above the valley floor in pursuit of ground squirrels--until mid-August when the rodents retreat to their hibernation burrows in advance of the migrating eagles hungry for road food.
The other beauties of this less-travelled road are the vast ranches that undulate across the foothills. Several log cabins remain in excellent condition, respectfully tended by the inheritors of the first settlers who raised them. The full length of Willow Valley Road runs through a single ranch property, centered on a monumental contemporary ranch house.
Another architectural curiousity of Willow Creek Ranch is the gas pipeline pumping station camouflaged to look like a collection of barns and outbuildings.
Starting Milemarker or Town
Intersection of Provincial Highway 3 and Secondary Highway 507.