The good news is we are now 1/2 way across Canada from Vancouver to Winnipeg, as from there we will drop down to the United States. However, while a great place to stop for an evening, Medicine Hat really isn’t a tourist destination, at least not for the things that interest us.
Medicine Hat has a couple of potential origins for the name, with the most likely being a translation into English from the Blackfoot word for the eagle tail feather headdress worn by the medicine man. The less likely option is a comment made by Rudyard Kipling in reference to the extensive gas fields below the city.
When researching tourist information we only found 3 points of interest:
- World’s largest teepee
- Historic downtown district
- Clay district museum
We noted the teepee right next to the highway coming in last night and to say the least it is completely unspectacular. It is literally about a dozen steel pipes in a conical shape, without any covering over the pipes. We noted it has a parking lot, but we drove past at least 6 times and only saw 1 car. So my guess is they don’t get many visitors.
Historic Downtown District
This area was about as impressive as the Teepee, with our description being more along the lines of run down rather than historical. We did drive by a couple of older buildings that had been restored, so we moved on and hopefully 3rd time lucky at the Clay District Museum.
Clay District Museum
Medicine Hat had a thriving pottery industry due to the abundance of the raw material, natural gas fields beneath the city and the National Railway.
We spent an excellent couple of hours walking around a restored factory, which is now the Medalta Historical Clay District Museum.The initial room contained a private collection of a local citizen, comprising about 25,000 piece, all displayed in glass display cabinets. They were from numerous years and manufacturers, a very impressive start to the tour. We then got to actually enter 2 of the restored kilns, one of which was lined with shelves containing various pieces of pottery.
From there we saw a couple of short films and then moved into the restored original factory. It is amazing how they produced so much with the old tools and equipment. This area also provided the best film in the museum, which showed the process from digging the clay to the finished product in a showroom. The final area was a modern working factory where you watched tradespersons actually making and shaping various pieces of pottery. We saw a chap making lids and a lady applying paint to bowls.
Definitely worth the admission price of $10.