The Big Rock 1976


Small (23.2" x 16.4")

Al Bourassa

Andalucia, Colombia

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Sizing Information

Small 23.2" x 16.4"
Medium 33.1" x 23.3"
Large 46.9" x 33.1"
Note: Includes a 3/16" white border


  • Hang your posters in dorms, bedrooms, offices, studios, or anywhere blank walls aren't welcome
  • Printed on 185 gsm semi gloss poster paper
  • Custom cut - refer to size chart for finished measurements
  • 0.19 inch / 0.5 cm white border to assist in framing

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Artist's Description

“The Big Rock” is the world’s largest known glacial erratic—rock transported far from its place of origin by glacial ice. The Big Rock, also known as the Okotoks Erratic, is the largest rock in the Foothills Erratics Train, a group of rocks that were carried by ice along the mountain front and dropped as the glacier melted some 10,000 years ago. The erratics lie in a narrow band extending from Jasper National Park to northern Montana. The Okotoks Erratic weighs 16,500 tons. It measures 9 metres high, 41 metres long and 18 metres wide. The rock has been eroded into pieces, but is still a large landmark on the flat prairie.

If you look closely at the rock, you can see hardened layers of sand, silt and small pebbles. It is a piece of the Gog formation, layers of sediment deposited some 570 to 540 million years ago in a shallow sea long before the uplift of the Rocky Mountains. As time passed, the sediment was buried as layer upon layer built up thousands of feet thick. The heat and pressure generated by the weight of the overlying sediments compacted the sand grains and cemented them into an extremely hard, durable rock called quartzite.

During a period of mountain building 150 to 50 million years ago, the Rocky Mountains were formed from beds of sediments that were thrust up and eastwards. Quartzite is common in the Main Ranges of the Rockies. The Big Rock was originally part of a mountain (likely Mount Edith Cavell) in what is now Jasper National Park. About 18,000 years ago, a rockslide crashed material to the surface of a glacier in the present day Athabasca River valley, and Big Rock was carried out of the mountains on the glacier’s back. The valley glacier slowly moved eastwards to the plains, where it collided with a continental glacier, the great Laurentide ice sheet. The valley glacier was redirected to the southeast, parallel to the mountain front. The erratics were deposited as the ice melted.

One interesting feature of The Big Rock is the large split down the middle. A Blackfoot story describes how this may have happened:
One hot summer day, Napi, the supernatural trickster of the Blackfoot peoples, rested on the rock because the day was warm and he was tired. He spread his robe on the rock, telling the rock to keep the robe in return for letting Napi rest there. Suddenly, the weather changed and Napi became cold as the wind whistled and the rain fell. Napi asked the rock to return his robe, but the rock refused. Napi got mad and just took the clothing. As he strolled away, he heard a loud noise and turning, he saw the rock was rolling after him. Napi ran for his life. The deer, the bison and the pronghorn were Napi’s friends, and they tried to stop the rock by running in front of it. The rock rolled over them. Napi’s last chance was to call on the bats for help. Fortunately, they did better than their hoofed neighbours, and by diving at the rock and colliding with it, one of them finally hit the rock just right and it broke into two pieces.
Not only does this story explain why the rock is in two pieces, but also why bats have squashed-looking faces. The tale provides helpful caution against taking back what you have given away.

The name of the erratic was derived from the Blackfoot word for rock, “okatok”.

Okotoks Erratic Quartzite is slippery to climb and although it is hard, pieces can break off in climbers’ hands. Also, there are aboriginal pictographs on the rock which could easily be damaged by climbers so people are encourage to stay off the rock, but few listen.

The Okotoks Erratic is located off Highway #7, 10 kilometres southwest of Okotoks
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I was actually amazed that the photos from 1976 and 2009 are so similar as it really seems to be deteriorating more and more every time we drive by and see it sinking into the field.

Artwork Comments

  • Vickie Emms
  • Al Bourassa
  • Antanas
  • Al Bourassa
  • paintingsheep
  • Al Bourassa
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