By Debbie Olsen

The Thinking TreeThe tangled boughs of the Thinking Tree lay sprawled along the banks of the Battle River in Ponoka for decades before local residents realized the tree existed. Vance Walker, a former church minister, discovered the massive Manitoba Maple when he purchased some property near the river about twelve years ago. “It’s a place of solitude,” he says of the tree whose limbs spread on the ground in an area as large as a small house. “I spent many hours sitting inside this tree pondering and praying when I served my small congregation. It’s like a giant terrarium where you can watch the river flow while you connect with God and nature”.

The tree became a spiritual retreat for Walker and it didn’t take long for him to realize that many others could benefit from such a refuge. Fortunately, the town was thinking along the same lines and in 2000 they built a walking trail along the river’s edge adjacent to the tree. The Thinking Tree has since become one of the most popular picnic and photo stops in the area.

No one knows why the Thinking Tree grew in the unusual way it did, but its sprawling knotted limbs have made it a landmark that continues to inspire residents and visitors alike. A recent proposal to build a bridge across the river to connect the Ponoka trail with other central Alberta trails in the Trans Canada Trail system will ensure that more people can enjoy the pleasure of getting to know the Thinking Tree.


 Excerpt from Heritage Trees of Alberta with permission from Heritage Tree Foundation of Canada.

 thinking tree

The Thinking Tree

Individual Tree

Species: Manitoba Maple

Location: Along the Diamond Willow Trail approx. 1 km
north of the 50 Ave parking area

Town: Ponoka

Height: 12.8m; 42'

Circum: multiple stems

Canopy Spread: 30.5m; 100'

Planted By: Naturalized

Age: Unknown

A&W Ponoka
6707 Highway 53
Pizza Doro
5103 - 48 Avenue
Boston Pizza
4800 Highway 2A
Pizza Hut
5008 50 Street
China Palace Pizza & Steakhouse
3825 - 46 Street
Raspberry Patch Custom Catering & Deli
5021 - 51 Avenue

Cosmic Pizza
5402 Hwy 2A

Ranchers Castle
4213 Hwy 2A
Dairy Queen
4800 Highway 2A
Seasoning Pot Restaurant
5021 - 51 Avenue
The Hitchin' Post
4405 Highway 2A
4800 Highway 2A
Golden Wheel Restaurant
5014 - 50 Street
Tim Hortons
4750 Highway 2A
John's Place
5120 - 50 Street
4700 Highway 2A
Hong Kong Cafe
5014 - 50 Avenue


4201 - 64 Street


McDonalds Restaurant
4419 Highway 2A

Bob Hepp & Co. Catering
3711 - 45 Street

Old Ironhorse
6000 - 48 Avenue
Bob Ronnie Catering
4110 - 64 Street
Perry's 2 For 1 Pizza
5020 - Chipmen Avenue
Raspberry Patch Custom Catering & Deli
5021 - 51 Avenue

Pho & Rice
#4, 5101 51 Ave









Stampede Park
Highway 53
Dino's Motor Inn
4405 Highway 2A
  Leland Hotel
5009 - 50 Avenue
  Riverside Motor Inn
Highway 53 East
  Royal Hotel
4916 - 50 Street
  Stampeder Inn
4215 Highway 2A
  Super 8 Hotel
6707 Highway 53

Western Budget Motels
4205 64 Street
403-783-8382 or 403-783-8350

Klaglahachie Fine Arts Society

Season: Year Round
Time: Twice a year live theatre shows and dinners
Location: Ponoka United Church
Contact: 403-783-4087 / 403-783-2202 for more information

Klaglahachie Fine Arts Society is a community volunteer association.

Ponoka Farmers Market

Season: May to October 
Time: Wednesdays from 9:00 am to 1:00 pm
Location: The Ponoka Arena
Contact: Donna at 403-783-6776 for more information

The weekly Farmers’ Market features over 85 tables of agricultural produce, home-baked and homemade goods, food and entertainment.

Ponoka Stampede

Season: June/July Canada Day Long Weekend
Location: Ponoka Stampede Grounds
Contact: Rodeo Office: 403-783-3120 or Ticket Office: 403-783-0100 or visit the website

‘Cowboy Up’ at the Annual Ponoka Stampede and experience some very entertaining raw rodeo action or the thrill of the amazing Chuckwagon Races. With seven wild days of professional cowboys and cowgirls at their best, the Ponoka Stampede has grown into a world-class event. From humble beginnings in 1936 to over 75 years strong; the Ponoka Stampede lays claim as Canada’s Largest 7 day Pro Rodeo!

Fort Ostell Museum

Season: Victoria Day long weekend in May until the Thanksgiving Day weekend in October (February to May - Tours may be scheduled from 1:00 - 4:00 p.m.)
Time: Open Tuesday to Friday from 10:00 am to 5:00 pm
         Open Sundays from 1:00 - 5:00 pm 
         Open Holiday Mondays from 1:00 - 5:00 pm 
Location: 5320 - 54 Street (north end of Centennial Park)
Contact: 403-783-5224 for more information or admission rates or visit the museum's website.

The museum’s name comes from the original Fort Ostell that was built near Ponoka in 1885 during the Riel rebellion. The Fort Ostell Museum displays many local area pioneers and native artifacts and photos. In 2004, as part of Ponoka’s Centennial, the museum brought back from storage the “Alberta Mental Hospital Museum” collection. This collection is unique as few collections of mental hospitals exist in Canada. The collection of artifacts and archival material from 1911 to the present is now on display and has become the “History of the Care of the Mentally Ill” in Alberta.

Other Museum Info:

  • The Meeting Room is available for Rent (accommodates up to 30 people). The cost is $25.00 for the meeting room or $50.00 total for the additional use of the kitchen and the dishes.
  • The Museum is a non-profit group that welcomes donations.  Tax receipts can be issued.
  • For more historical information on the original Fort Ostell or the Museum click here.

The Legacy- World’s Largest Bucking Saddle Bronc Horse & Rider

Season: Year Roundlegacy
Location: Centennial Park off Hwy 2A
Contact: Town Office for more info. 403-783-4431

Dedicated to the strength of the pioneer families, the vision of the founding fathers, and community residents. This monument was erected in 2004 to celebrate Ponoka’s 100th Anniversary.

The Canadian Vintage Motorcycle Group

Season: 3rd weekend in July
Location: Ponoka Stampede Grounds
Contact: 403-783-1887 for more information.

The Canadian Vintage Motorcycle Group (CVMG) is a non-profit organization aimed at promoting the use, restoration, and interest in older motorcycles and those of historic interest.