Portraits of Wildflowers

Perspectives on Nature Photography

Horseshoe Canyon

with 26 comments

On the afternoon of August 24th last year we flew from Houston to Calgary, arriving shortly before twilight. By late the next morning we’d already driven two hours northeast out onto the prairie for our first encounter with the badlands of Alberta, which took place in Horseshoe Canyon.

On parts of the ground nothing grew.

Yet even on seemingly barren ground some badlands plants did thrive. Take the scattered bushes in the second photograph and the asters below.

Here’s a closer look at those asters:

© 2018 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

August 25, 2018 at 5:05 AM

26 Responses

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  1. The tenacity of life is most apparent under extreme conditions as these.

    Steve Gingold

    August 25, 2018 at 5:23 AM

    • Tenacity, a good word. I once quoted from Charlotte Brontë’s Jane Eyre:

      Rochester: “You have been resident in my house three months?”
      Jane: “Yes, sir.”
      Rochester: “And you came from–?”
      Jane: “From Lowood school, in —shire.”
      Rochester: “Ah! a charitable concern. How long were you there?”
      Jane: “Eight years.”
      Rochester: “Eight years! you must be tenacious of life.”

      Steve Schwartzman

      August 25, 2018 at 7:48 AM

  2. What a star, to grow in such harsh conditions.


    August 25, 2018 at 7:16 AM

  3. The aster reminds me of the chicory that grows here in the most inhospitable places such as alongside country roads at the edge of the gravel.

    Jim R

    August 25, 2018 at 7:21 AM

  4. It is a very pretty aster, growing out of very stark ground. The ground reminds me of elephant hide.


    August 25, 2018 at 8:19 AM

    • I was surprised to find asters in such seemingly barren ground. I guess I shouldn’t have been, given that I’ve seen plants growing in some unlikely places here in central Texas.

      Your second sentence had me asking a question: How does an elephant hide elephant hide?

      Steve Schwartzman

      August 25, 2018 at 9:05 AM

      • In plain sight! 😀 I’m with you on the surprise over the asters in that ground. I know they are tough, but still there are other families, such as euphorbias, I would be less surprised to see pioneering such barren ground.


        August 30, 2018 at 9:32 AM

  5. It’s been a long, long time since I’ve been to Alberta. Horseshoe Canyon looks beautiful.

    Lavinia Ross

    August 25, 2018 at 11:20 AM

    • If it’s been that long, a return visit is in order. You’ve got the double whammy of the Rocky Mountains and the Badlands. While Horseshoe Canyon was our first encounter with the Canadian Badlands, we also visited other similar sites in the area, including Horse Thief Canyon, Midland Provincial Park, Dinosaur Provincial Park, and the hoodoos east of Drumheller.

      Steve Schwartzman

      August 25, 2018 at 12:05 PM

      • Last trip to Canada was 1981. Yes, long overdue!

        Lavinia Ross

        August 28, 2018 at 10:55 AM

        • And I haven’t been back to Washington State, where I entered this world, since 1978. I’m also long overdue for a return visit.

          Steve Schwartzman

          August 28, 2018 at 11:46 AM

  6. We visited the Canadian Badlands last year and loved the whole area. So interesting and such a contrast to the Rockies where we had just been. Great pictures.

    • I remember your posts from last autumn. Hard to believe a year has already passed since I was in Alberta; it seems like a few weeks or at most a few months ago. What’s so good about Alberta, as you mentioned, is that the Rockies and the Badlands coexist.

      Steve Schwartzman

      August 25, 2018 at 1:34 PM

  7. ‘That’ is not scenery I expected to see in Alberta. I have heard of it, but sort of expected it to look a bit more weathered than baked like parts of the Sonoran Desert.


    August 25, 2018 at 10:10 PM

    • It came as a surprise to me, too, when I learned about it not long after visiting Badlands National Park in South Dakota. The Canadian counterpart may not be well known down here, but we ran into swarms of tourists in Drumheller, Alberta, the nexus for the badlands in that area.

      Steve Schwartzman

      August 26, 2018 at 7:44 AM

  8. Gorgeous! That first shot is wonderful and reminds me of the Badlands in the US. Hard to believe anything grows. Hopefully, I’ll see it next time…

    Jane Lurie

    August 26, 2018 at 12:09 AM

    • Life will find a way. Alberta has so much to see that more than one trip is in order. Next time.

      Steve Schwartzman

      August 26, 2018 at 7:46 AM

  9. When I see these asters, I always remember the large, healthy clump I found growing through a bulkhead at a marina. There, the environment was nearly opposite to this one. Those flowers are not only tough, they’re adaptable. These surely are a different species, but still, as a group, they add little grace notes to difficult terrain.


    August 26, 2018 at 8:14 AM

  10. Hey Steve .. Amazing that they can survive in those conditions and still look pretty 🙂


    August 30, 2018 at 1:04 AM

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