The Wonders of Southwestern Saskatchewan

On the 10th anniver­sary of my first arrival in Cana­da last year, I made it to the only Cana­di­an province I had nev­er been before: Saskatchewan. When I told peo­ple that I was going to Saskatchewan, they usu­al­ly looked at me fun­ny and then asked why. I sim­ply said, because I’ve nev­er been, which is pret­ty much the main rea­son for all my trav­els, real­ly. I didn’t expect to fall in love with the province, but fall in love with it I did.

Most fel­low Cana­di­ans seem to think that Saskatchewan is flat and bor­ing with noth­ing to see, but I’ve found it to be quite the oppo­site. Now, I’ve only been to a small cor­ner of Saskatchewan, but if one small cor­ner could have that much to see, imag­ine how much the whole province has to offer! In the four days I spent in South­west­ern Saskatchewan, I saw so many amaz­ing scener­ies and so much wildlife unlike any­thing I had ever seen before.

We spent our first night in Saskatchewan in Swift Cur­rent, which is a pret­ty big town com­pared to oth­ers we’d passed along the way. We arrived ear­ly in the evening, but there was still a cou­ple hours of day­light left and we were not about to waste it by just sit­ting around in our hotel room. There are places to go and things to see! So we decid­ed to go on a mis­sion to find Wal­ly the Wool­ly Mam­moth, or rather, the stat­ue of Wal­ly, in a small town called Kyle. Why? Because wool­ly mam­moth is my favourite extinct ani­mal! And yes, we did find Wal­ly!

Me and Wally, best friends forever.
Me and Wal­ly, best friends for­ev­er. (Pho­to cour­tesy my hus­band.)

I learned from my first day there that Saskatchewan is noth­ing if not quirky. :-)

On our way back from see­ing Wal­ly, we made a quick stop at Saskatchewan Land­ing Provin­cial Park to take a few pic­tures of the beau­ti­ful Lake Diefen­bak­er, named after John G. Diefen­bak­er, the 13th Prime Min­is­ter of Cana­da. From the look of the sky, we could see that a big storm was com­ing in.

Lake Diefenbaker at Saskatchewan Landing Provincial Park.
Lake Diefen­bak­er at Saskatchewan Land­ing Provin­cial Park.

That night, we wit­nessed one of the most spec­tac­u­lar storms we’ve ever seen. The light­ning seemed to go on and on and on. The hotel lost pow­er sev­er­al times dur­ing the storm but we didn’t real­ly care. We were quite enjoy­ing the light show. Lat­er we learned that a tor­na­do had actu­al­ly touched down fur­ther south from where we were. I was real­ly glad that we missed it.

The next morn­ing, we checked out of our hotel and drove straight out to Val Marie, which is the gate­way to Grass­lands Nation­al Park. It was a very scenic dri­ve from Swift Cur­rent, and being in Val Marie made me feel like I was in an old wild west movie. We had lunch at a local restau­rant and picked up some fresh fruits and snacks from a local gro­cery store before head­ing out to the park.

A grain elevator in Val Marie.
A grain ele­va­tor in Val Marie.

We stopped by the Grass­lands Nation­al Park vis­i­tor cen­tre first to pick up a map of the eco-dri­ve we were plan­ning to take and the friend­ly park staff point­ed out to us on the map some low-lying areas in the park that might be flood­ed after last night’s storm. We made a note to avoid those. There was no entrance fee to the park. All we had to do was sign the guest­book and we were good to go!

Grass­lands Nation­al Park deserves its own post, but let me tell you this: it is now one of my most favourite places in Cana­da, if not on Earth. I often think about it, long­ing to come back. Land­scape pho­tog­ra­phers should real­ly be all over this place. It’s beau­ti­ful. It’s nature, pure and sim­ple. Imag­ine a wide open space with big skies and plains bison roam­ing free; with riv­er val­leys and hills dot­ted the park here and there; and the prairie grass­es danc­ing and whis­per­ing soft­ly in the wind. Amaz­ing place. You should total­ly go there. I can’t rec­om­mend it enough.

Plains bison in Grasslands National Park.
Plains bison in Grass­lands Nation­al Park.

We start­ed doing the Eagle Butte Loop hike but turned around short­ly after real­iz­ing that I was just too tired and hun­gry (and there­fore hangry) to do this hike in its entire­ty, even if it was only a 2 km., easy hike. Will have to do this next time for sure. It def­i­nite­ly looks like a beau­ti­ful hike with chances of inter­est­ing wildlife sight­ings.

The Eagle Butte looks very inviting.
The Eagle Butte looks very invit­ing.

The next day, after spend­ing a night at a love­ly B&B in the town of Fron­tier, we set out for the next part of our adven­ture and head­ed to Eas­t­end, Saskatchewan’s dinosaur coun­try, to vis­it the T. Rex Dis­cov­ery Cen­tre. It wasn’t half as big as the Roy­al Tyrrell Muse­um in Drumheller, Alber­ta that we vis­it­ed on the first day of our trip, but it was still quite inter­est­ing, infor­ma­tive, and edu­ca­tion­al. We real­ly enjoyed the screen­ing of the film about the local dis­cov­ery of Scot­ty the T. Rex, Canada’s largest and most com­plete T. Rex fos­silized skele­ton, in the ear­ly 90s.

A replica of Scotty the T. Rex skeleton at the T. Rex Discovery Centre.
A repli­ca of Scot­ty the T. Rex skele­ton at the T. Rex Dis­overy Cen­tre.

Then we real­ized that we had com­plete­ly missed The Old Man on His Back Prairie and Her­itage Con­ser­va­tion Area, which we found out to be locat­ed just around the cor­ner from Fron­tier where we had stayed the night before, so we had to back­track our way towards it. I just need­ed to see more of the majes­tic plains bison! We did see a big herd of them, but they were stand­ing far away from the road and we knew bet­ter than to approach them.

Trust me, those are plains bison, not cows.
Trust me, those are plains bison, not cows.

After check­ing in to a B&B in Maple Creek, we unloaded our bags to our small room in the attic, and then had din­ner at a local Chi­nese restau­rant before head­ing to Cypress Hills Inter­provin­cial Park to explore, and also to find the high­est point in Saskatchewan some­where in the park. We found one close to it.

The highest point in Saskatchewan.
The high­est point in Saskatchewan. Or close to it.

I was real­ly impressed with the beau­ti­ful panoram­ic view from the top of Con­glom­er­ate Cliffs inside the park. It was quite stun­ning. There were love­ly wild spring flow­ers all over the place at the time, which made a great back­drop to the love­ly scener­ies.

A view from the top of Conglomerate Cliffs.
A view from the top of Con­glom­er­ate Cliffs.

We start­ed dri­ving towards the Alber­ta part of the inter­provin­cial park but had to turn around due to a flood­ed area on the road that we didn’t want to risk get­ting stuck in because it was almost dark, we didn’t have a 4x4 vehi­cle, and there was no cell­phone recep­tion. It was also quite a remote area. You don’t want to get stuck there! So we drove towards Fort Walsh instead even though we knew it wouldn’t be open. We just like to check things out. :-) Didn’t real­ly explore the fortress but I could see that it had quite a beau­ti­ful back­drop of lush green treed hills.

A teepee in Fort Walsh.
A teepee in Fort Walsh.

The next day we drove around Maple Creek a lit­tle bit before leav­ing and I saw a cow­boy cross­ing sign that made me smile; a friend­ly reminder that we were in the wild, wild west!

Cowboy crossing sign in Maple Creek.
Cow­boy cross­ing sign in Maple Creek.

It was our last day in Saskatchewan and our final des­ti­na­tion was the Great Sand Hills. On our way there, we stopped at an old, one-room school build­ing that was oper­a­tional in the years between 1924–1965. Every­thing seemed to be well-pre­served. I felt like I had been trans­port­ed to the old­en days.

The classroom in the old school building.
The class­room in the old school build­ing.

Next to the school build­ing was a tiny old church with old pho­tos hang­ing on its walls. Anoth­er trip back to the old­en days.

A tiny old church near Leader, SK.
A tiny old church near Leader, SK.

When we arrived in the town of Leader, of course we had to check out all the giant ani­mal sculp­tures the town is famous for, like this one of the kan­ga­roo rats.

Kangaroo rats aren't really this big.
Thank­ful­ly, kan­ga­roo rats aren’t real­ly this big.

And this one of the bur­row­ing owls.

The one on the left is looking straight into your soul!
The one on the left is look­ing straight into your soul!

I don’t think it was open at the time but the local tourist infor­ma­tion office in Leader is locat­ed inside a red caboose! How adorable is that? 

Tourist information office in Leader, SK.
Tourist infor­ma­tion office in Leader, SK.

Just out­side the town of Leader, we saw this loco­mo­tive. It was in a pret­ty good shape and didn’t look over­ly old so I’m not sure if it was aban­doned. If any­thing, it made for an inter­est­ing pho­to op with the stormy skies and the prairies in the back­ground.

A locomotive outside the town of Leader, SK.
A loco­mo­tive out­side the town of Leader, SK.

In order to get to the Great Sand Hills, we need­ed to pur­chase a map to the loca­tion from the Great Sand­hills Muse­um and Inter­pre­tive Cen­tre in Scep­tre, SK. While we were there, we thought we might as well pay the admis­sion fee to the muse­um and check out its quirky col­lec­tions of things from the old­en days. I just had to have my hus­band pose as a kan­ga­roo rat to remem­ber the vis­it by.

My husband is a kangaroo rat!
My hus­band is a kan­ga­roo rat!

After our lit­tle vis­it to the muse­um, we head­ed out to the Great Sand Hills with our copy of the map to the loca­tion in hand. After dri­ving on a dirt road for a bit, not quite sure if we were even on the right track, we saw the giant piles of sands in the mid­dle of a prairie land, and we knew we had been on the right track all along. It was just as beau­ti­ful, serene, and sur­re­al as I’d imag­ined it to be.

The Great Sand Hills.
The Great Sand Hills.

We climbed up a hill to get a sweep­ing view of the dunes and on top of it, we found this struc­ture with cow­boy boots hang­ing all over it. Not quite sure what this is all about but it’s inter­est­ing. As I men­tioned before, Saskatchewan is noth­ing if not quirky. :-)

A great collection of cowboy boots on top of a hill in the Great Sand Hills.
A great col­lec­tion of cow­boy boots on top of a hill in the Great Sand Hills.

As we were head­ing out of Saskatchewan towards Alber­ta, we saw a herd of prong­horn antelopes. We had seen them before in oth­er loca­tions in Saskatchewan but they were either alone or in pairs, nev­er in herds. It was as if they were giv­ing us a big send-off. :-)

A herd of pronghorn antelopes.
A herd of prong­horn antelopes.

I love Saskatchewan. Will def­i­nite­ly make a trip back there again in the future to see more.

5 comments / Add your comment below

  1. I saw this on the Cypress Hills FB page.Thanks for vis­it­ing my province.Next time you want to explore South­ern Saskatchewan try the Clay­bank His­toric Brick Plant, south of Moose Jaw. It’s almost a hun­dred years old and is actu­al­ly pre­served the way it was when it was closed. The near­by clay hills are locat­ed near a beau­ti­ful val­ley. Any­way, good luck with your trav­els.

    1. We would have loved to make it to Moose Jaw and check out the attrac­tions around it but couldn’t due to time con­straint. Next time for sure! The Clay­bank His­toric Brick Plant sounds very inter­est­ing. I’ve actu­al­ly nev­er heard of it before so thanks for the tip! Always appre­ci­ate trav­el tips from the locals. :-) And thank you for vis­it­ing my blog!

  2. Thanks for vis­it­ing my lit­tle cor­ner of the world, make sure to come back again some­time. Any­one thinks that Sask is noth­ing but flat has nev­er been off the #1 and even the flat bits are beau­ti­ful pieces of prairie with gor­geous skies. :-D

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