Portraits of Wildflowers

Perspectives on Nature Photography

Horse Thief Canyon

with 30 comments

Don’t confuse Horse Thief Canyon with Horseshoe Canyon. Both are a bit west of Drumheller, and both are part of the Alberta Badlands. I photographed Horse Thief Canyon from its rim on August 26th, as shown above.

On September 12th we went back with the intention of walking into the canyon. We got about a third of the way down when the trail abruptly ended and we couldn’t find a safe way to go any further. Below, from part-way into the canyon, is a view that includes a few hoodoos.

Not everything down there was so dry and badlands-y. Take these aspen trees, for example:

© 2017 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

November 6, 2017 at 4:47 AM

30 Responses

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  1. A good place NOT to get lost. Get to the bottom, walk a ways and confusion may reign.


    November 6, 2017 at 6:04 AM

    • Maybe that’s why authorities decided to reign us in by not continuing the trail. Actually, I’m wondering if there’s a trail starting in a different place that does go all the way down.

      Steve Schwartzman

      November 6, 2017 at 7:59 AM

  2. Fancy that! Just been reading about this area on Anabel’s blog. They had a similar experience hiking in the Horseshoe Canyon. https://anabelsblog.wordpress.com/2017/10/23/horseshoe-canyon/


    November 6, 2017 at 8:15 AM

    • Thanks for letting me know about the coincidence. Many of the places she showed are still fresh in my mind, and I left a couple of comments on her blog.

      At Horseshoe Canyon, the first Badlands site we visited, we were able to walk down to the bottom. The trails there are steep but manageable. At Horse Thief Canyon, as you’ve read here, we never managed to find a path all the way down. I suspect there is one, but our time was limited, and we’d already spent a couple of hours in the other canyon and still wanted to see new sites that day.

      Two people have now given you an incentive to visit Alberta, if you haven’t already been there.

      Steve Schwartzman

      November 6, 2017 at 9:42 AM

      • True. Alberta has never featured on my list. It does look interesting.


        November 6, 2017 at 9:49 AM

        • Yes yes yes. We found the Canadian Rockies more scenic than the American Rockies, which we’d briefly visited a few months before and in earlier years as well. If you can manage to get there, I suspect you won’t regret anything except not having had even more time to go around seeing the sights.

          Steve Schwartzman

          November 6, 2017 at 10:04 AM

  3. As much as I love a good hike, I’m quite sure that place would not be an area I would want to get off track or go exploring much. It’s gorgeous though… and who doesn’t love the hoodoos? That’s always a bonus.


    November 6, 2017 at 9:15 AM

    • If there’d been a continuous trail I don’t think we’d have run much risk of getting lost in the depths of the canyon’s branches. I was disappointed at not getting a closer look at many of the nether features. Oh well, at least we walked through some of the lower parts of Horseshoe Canyon; in fact that was the very first thing we explored in the Alberta Badlands, even before we reached the town of Drumheller on our initial visit.

      Steve Schwartzman

      November 6, 2017 at 9:39 AM

  4. I love those fantastic colours in the Badlands.


    November 6, 2017 at 9:56 AM

    • You’ve had your own brief and distant contact with the Badlands of North Dakota, and you’ve seen my encounters in South Dakota and Alberta. What incentives to go back and spend more time.

      Steve Schwartzman

      November 6, 2017 at 10:13 AM

      • Going back is definitely on our agenda!


        November 6, 2017 at 10:13 AM

        • Maybe we’ll cross paths up there one of these days.

          Steve Schwartzman

          November 6, 2017 at 10:15 AM

          • Who knows? It would be a lovely surprise! Just now I’m daydreaming about more road trips. There are so many destinations/routes!


            November 6, 2017 at 10:28 AM

            • Strange things like that do happen. In 1984 I took a summer-school class at the University of Texas in Austin. I spent a good part of the next summer in Catalonia, unrelated to the class of the previous year. One day I emerged from the subway in Barcelona and waited for the light to change so I could cross the street. Standing next to me was someone from the previous summer’s course in Austin, whom I’d had no contact with in the intervening year.

              Steve Schwartzman

              November 6, 2017 at 11:30 AM

  5. Ah, this is where Jude connected us! We hiked all the way down, almost to the river but the vegetation was too thick to get to the water easily, although it’s probable there was a way through elsewhere as we could hear voices. It was a very steep climb back up!

    Thanks, I’ve enjoyed reliving our tour of Alberta through your amazing photos.

    Anabel Marsh

    November 7, 2017 at 6:04 AM

    • Yes, thanks to Jude for making a connection here. I envy you that you managed to make it all the way down. Either you were more intrepid than we were or you found a better path. The way we started down was promising and we never expected that the trail would suddenly hit a dead end. I appreciate how steep the climb back up must have been.

      It’s fun to share pictures with someone who has been to the places depicted.

      Steve Schwartzman

      November 7, 2017 at 6:54 AM

      • We must have found a better path I think, quite a few people went down it. It was just frustrating not to get to the river. I expected maybe a trail map at the top.

        Anabel Marsh

        November 7, 2017 at 7:33 AM

        • We went down the way we’d seen other people start down. Perhaps we missed a turn-off somewhere. You’re right that a trail map would be helpful.

          Steve Schwartzman

          November 7, 2017 at 7:39 AM

  6. The scale of a place like that is remarkable, both in space and time. I keep thinking about how long it’s taken for such fantastic forms to emerge, and wondering about what it looked like before erosion and other forces took their toll.

    As a bonus, those hoodoos in the bottom right look to me like three school children climbing up the sides of the ravine: a pair with their arms around each other, and a little girl wearing a sunbonnet who’s been reduced to crawling on all fours.


    November 7, 2017 at 6:41 AM

    • My mind is up to its misreadings again this morning. Your “forces took their toll” immediately had me thinking about people and bots that troll the Internet and make it a less savory place. I read an article about those bots last night, so that must have primed me for this morning’s misreading. Better to think along the lines you did, of forces shaping the last in wonderful ways over aeons.

      As for your imagining based on the hoodoos, no sooner did I get to “three school children” than I thought of this: [https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mXWkIZUPmDY]

      Steve Schwartzman

      November 7, 2017 at 7:02 AM

      • And those three little girls unexpectedly revealed something about my own school years.

        The melody line that accompanies the lyrics, “Three little maids who all unwary / Come from a ladies’ seminary / Freed from its genius tutelary” had to be the basis of a song we often sang, especially in junior high. The tune is the same. Our version began, “We are the girls from Brighton Follies / we dance around like rubber dollies / We don’t smoke, and we don’t chew, and we don’t go with boys who do…”

        We weren’t dressed as beautifully as the girls in The Mikado, but we were just as giggly.


        November 7, 2017 at 9:51 PM

        • I spent some time searching for “we don’t smoke and we don’t chew.” I got plenty of hits from the years when we were growing up, but very little before. The oldest reference I found was at


          where the following line was “and we make after-dinner speeches, too.”

          Steve Schwartzman

          November 8, 2017 at 6:53 AM

  7. The scenery looks sensational, Steve. 🙂


    November 7, 2017 at 12:13 PM

    • Tens razão. I’ve been fortunate to visit the American Badlands and the Canadian Badlands this year, both for the first time.

      Steve Schwartzman

      November 7, 2017 at 1:27 PM

  8. I can feel the dryness – and I like it. This kind of landscape really appeals to me for some reason – and beautiful photographs don’t hurt!


    November 7, 2017 at 1:37 PM

    • I’m fond of dry landscapes, too. In the past year we’ve been able to spend time in the deserts of the American Southwest, the Badlands of South Dakota, and now the Badlands of Alberta. All those places have been fertile ground (pun intended) for photographs.

      Steve Schwartzman

      November 7, 2017 at 1:48 PM

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