Scene 4: McCutcheon
Named after one of the first white settlers of Medicine Hat, McCutcheon trail follows the hillside along McCutcheon Drive. Most of the trail showcases this area’s dry, native grasslands and, in season, a variety of wildflowers including cacti. In contrast, the eastern end of the trail crosses wetlands fed by springs along the hillside. Looking down you may see freight trains labouring up (or slowing down) along the Canadian Pacific mainline, which reached Medicine Hat in 1883.
McCutcheon Dr, and McCutcheon Place were named after early pioneer Robert McCutcheon*, known colloquially as “one of the first white settlers in Medicine Hat”. He was in the NWMP, and vice-president and founding member of the Agricultural Society in 1887. Born in Cornwall, ON he was first stationed as a Mountie in Fort Macleod, and then was transferred to and helped build Fort Walsh. He was also known as the first Canadian official to greet Indigenous leader Sitting Bull on Canadian soil. He lived a long life, and died in 1943 at the age of 90.
A. So Many Things to See!
From the deck view you can see nature and our city’s history unfold including Canadian Pacific Rail, St. Patrick’s Church, and Riverside.
B. Native Grasses and Flowers
There are “endless” varieties of plant species to discover growing on these south facing slopes. Here are a few examples:
- Needle and Thread Grass. With their papery whitish-grey flag leaves, these semi-arid grasses can drill their seed into the soil to help germinate and establish new seedlings.
- Annual Sunflowers add splashes of yellow sunshine into nature’s prairie wool.
- Yellow Umbrella-plant. Indigenous peoples mashed their roots for earplugs. Plains tribes mixed the flowers with buffalo brain, liver and spleen to bleach the colour from hides. A Checkered Skipper butterfly has found some nectar to feed upon.
- Pincushion Cactus. Sweet, edible berries will be produced in amongst the sharp cactus spines.
Needle and Thread Grass and Annual Sunflowers
Yellow Umbrella-plant and Checkered Skipper
Pin Cushion Cactus
Wetland (riparian) plants like Cattail are found in several hlllslde springs along the McCutcheon hillsides. The young female flowers can be boiled and eaten like corn on the cob.
D. Wildlife Habitat
Native grasslands and riparian areas (wetlands between the water’s edge and the drier upland plant communities) provide important food and cover for a variety of wildlife species, including the Western Meadow Lark singing to its “heart’s content”. Healthy nature provides biodiversity which is necessary to enjoy a variety of recreation uses.
Western Meadowlark – Photo by Dwayne Meyers
- All photos by Len Moser except where indicated otherwise under photo.
- McCutcheon name history information kindly provided by Jennifer Barrientos B.A., Assistant Archivist, Cultural Development, City of Medicine Hat.