A long while ago a dear friend told me about “Good Spirit Acres”. An off-grid campground ideally situated where two rivers meet - the Waterton and the Belly River - on a 300 acre piece of undeveloped and pristine land. A part of nature that is accessible yet untouched by the hands of big developers and commercialization. And best of all a mere 45 minutes away from home in Lethbridge.
The land that is Good Spirit Acres has been in the family since 1936 and remains to this day, unserviced by electricity or gas. The owner has roots in Lethbridge that go back some time. Blair Orr ran Orr Karate from 1964 to 1975. He gained local notoriety in 1974 when he represented Canada in kickboxing at a competition in Long Beach, CA. There he fought Jim Kelly, Joe Louis (‘not the boxer’ he clarifies) and others. Soon after he trained Arnold “The Terminator” you know who. For his achievements he has pictures and memorabilia of all kinds. His house is a veritable trove of not only newspaper articles but native artwork, skins, bracelets as well as generational artifacts.
Today Blair happily minds the 300 acres that is part of his heritage. His love of the land extends to an extensive knowledge of its history. As the story goes, a Kootenay tribe member was killed on that land for his guns, horses and headdress by three Blackfoot. Unbeknownst to the assailants there was a war party of Kootenays just across the river who enacted revenge by killing two of them. The third assailant got away by hiding in a beaver lodge.
From that time on it was known as the Kootenay River until the name was changed to Waterton River in the late 1800’s. In 1970 Blair inadvertently unearthed the remains of the two Blackfoot members that were buried there.
Keeping the land as ecologically balanced as possible is important to Blair. You can tell by talking to him that it really is about good stewardship. He recently banned hunting from the property, “the deer were getting too friendly” adding that there comes a point when it’s “not hunting anymore”. And the fact that it’s completely off-grid acts as an inspiration more than a deterrent. It would seem the campers going there would have it no other way. Touring the site one sees a number of solar panels, pit toilets and propane tanks. There are a handful of year-round residents enjoying the benefits, and struggles, of off-grid living. Certainly this is camping the way it was intended to be - off-grid, low impact on the land and a do-it-yourself approach.
Gilles Leclair is the founder of GeoStudios. Somewhat eccentric, fairly environmentalist, politically aware, he believes the world should have more off-grid communities... many more.