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The Legend of the Big Rock

Walking towards the Okotoks Erratic

Ten kilometers west of Okotoks on Highway 7 is the Big Rock, the largest glacial erratic in the world. These boulders are believed to have travelled from Jasper during the Ice Age when a landslide deposited them on an advancing glacier.

It is the largest of the Foothills Erratics Train, a series of boulders stretching over 700 kilometers along the eastern Foothills of the Rocky Mountains from Jasper to Montana. This enormous quartzite block weighs about 16, 500 tonnes. Geologists attribute natural processes as to why the Big Rock has split, however, a Blackfoot legend tells a different story.

The Okotoks ErraticEthnographer George Bird Grinnell recorded a story in the 1800s of Napi, the supernatural Trickster of the Blackfoot who sat upon the rock to rest. Because it was so hot, Napi threw his robe over the rock, saying, "Here I give you my robe because you are poor and have let me rest on you. Keep it always." Napi walked on and it began to rain. Napi returned to the rock and asked it to lend him the robe but the rock refused. Napi got angry and took the robe, and as he walked away he heard a loud noise, the rock was chasing him. Napi was scared and ran away. His friends, the buffalo, deer and antelope tried to stop the rock but were crushed. Napi called upon some bats for help. The bats dove at the rock and one hit it in the middle and split it in two.

The Big Rock has served as a landmark for native people and early pioneers. More recently it has attracted tourists and picnickers. In an attempt to prevent further deterioration of the Big Rock, rock climbing is discouraged. In the 1970s, the Big Rock was the first "natural feature" to be designated as an official provincial historic site.

The Okotoks ErraticThe Big Rock was located on private land until 1987 when the province purchased the land on which the Big Rock now sits.

Parking and an interpretive sign are located on the site.

Reprinted with kind permission of the Okotoks Western Wheel Newspaper.

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