Top Tourist Attractions in Saskatchewan
Saskatchewan, "province of 100,000 lakes", has shared borders with Manitoba in the east, Alberta in the west and the two U.S. states of Montana and North Dakota in the south.
Two-thirds of the province belong to the Interior Plains of Canada, the remaining (northern) third being part of the Canadian Shield. As a result Saskatchewan reveals two very different topographical faces. The north, shaped long ago by glaciation, is a landscape of extensive bogs with literally thousands of lakes. In the south gently rising prairies of fertile brown and black earth merge into the hill country further west. The province's highest point (1392 m (4570 ft)) is found in the Cypress Hills, the lowest at Lake Athabasca (65 m (213 ft)). Half the province is wooded, a third is arable land, and one eighth (totalling 80,000 sq. km (30,880 sq. mi.)) is covered with freshwater. The vast majority of the almost 100,000 lakes, relics of Ice Age glaciation, are found in north Saskatchewan.Of the major river systems three, the Assiniboine, the North and South Saskatchewan and the Churchill, all flow into Hudson Bay; the Frenchman River (in the far south-west) flows into the Mississippi.To the Cree Indians living on the Great Plains centuries ago the biggest of these waterways was "the river that flows swiftly" or "Saskatchewan". It was from this that the province later took its name.Saskatchewan has a distinctly dry continental climate with temperatures that increase progressively from north to south. The long cold winter begins in October, average temperatures being below freezing point (January temperatures in the north range from about 220° to 225°C (24° to 213°F). But the sun alleviates the cold even when the thermometer falls to 230°C (222°F), and the warm chinook wind can lift the temperature within hours by up to 25°C (77°F). The north averages 130 cm (51 in.) of snow, the south 76 cm (30 in.).Spring generally arrives in April. In the very short but extremely hot summer temperatures of up to 38°C (100°F) can be reached, though from May through to August they most often hover between 20°C (68°F) and 35°C (95°F). Saskatchewan is Canada's sunniest province and Estevan the country's "Sunshine Capital" (averaging 2540 hours of sunshine a year). Nights are usually quite cool. Rain accompanied by violent thunderstorms is a quite frequent feature of the late afternoon or evening. Annual rainfall ranges between 250 and 600 mm (10 and 24 in.).Influenced by the climate the vegetation also varies progressively from north to south. The sub-Arctic coniferous forests of north Saskatchewan give way to mixed coniferous forests (spruce, aspen, poplar and birch), these latter yielding in turn to the prairie grasslands of the south.The history of the area now comprising Saskatchewan can be traced back at least 30,000 years, to the time when nomadic hunting tribes crossed from Asia into North America over the land bridge which then connected the two. These first inhabitants of North America migrated with the seasons, moving between the prairies and the forests and river valleys. They lived primarily by hunting buffalo. Few vestiges of their presence now remain though archaeological excavations near Saskatoon have revealed some evidence of Indian tribal culture from 8000 years ago.Saskatchewan's more recent history reflects the complex interplay of differing ethnic groups. Its opening chapters were written centuries ago when the native Assiniboine, Blackfoot, Chipewyan and Cree Indians, living on the Great Plains, came into contact with the first European adventurers pushing west into the interior from the shores of Hudson Bay.The earliest recorded arrival (1690) was that of Henry Kelsey, commissioned to reconnoitre the area on behalf of the British Hudson's Bay fur trading company. Soon other explorers followed, also making their way inland from Hudson Bay or from the Great Lakes, men such as La Vérendrye, Hearne and Pond, who helped map out Canada and in doing so opened the hinterland to the growing trade in furs. Rupert's Land, as it was then called, remained in the possession of the Hudson's Bay Company for 200 years, before recognition of the vast mineral wealth led to its purchase by the Canadian government in 1870. This was followed by large-scale settlement of the prairies where plots of arable land were sold to pioneer farmers for just a registration fee.In 1873 the Canadian government appointed a provisional administration for the region (renamed the Northwest Territories and incorporating the bulk of western Canada). Battleford became the territorial capital in 1876.It was also at this time that the police force known today as the Royal Canadian Mounted Police came into existence. It was formed in 1874 when 300 police recruits, charged with establishing the rule of law in the North-West, set out on an incredible 1300 km (800 mi.) trek from Fort Dufferin in Manitoba.In 1885 simmering unrest in the new frontier region boiled over into armed conflict between the Metis and the Canadian government. The root cause of the North West Rebellion (as the conflict became known) was the failure of the federal authorities to concern themselves with the problems of the frontier folk. Several clashes took place between government troops and the insurgents led by Louis Riel before the rebellion was finally quashed. Riel was found guilty of treason and hanged the same year.The population of Saskatchewan and Alberta increased rapidly in the first decades of the 20th c. with the arrival, in wave after wave, of 700,000 new settlers. Attracted to the prairies by cheap land they quickly established agriculture as a major sector of the country's economy.Saskatchewan only became a province in 1905 and has the reputation of being the most politically radical in the Canadian federation.The 1930s were a turning-point for the economy. First came the stock market crash of 1929 and the worldwide Great Depression which followed. Then drought and failed harvests brought the country to the edge of ruin. Within a short time, however, Saskatchewan had recovered and today enjoys the benefits of a stable economy based on a wealth of natural resources.In 1944 the people of the province elected the first socialist government in North America, keeping it in power until 1967. A series of measures were introduced to improve living conditions. These included the creation of state enterprises, modernization of schools and expansion of electricity supplies throughout the region.PopulationMany of the more than one million Saskatchewan's trace their roots back to Europe, to Russia, Scandinavia and the British Isles.About 55 per cent of the population are urban dwellers, of whom a third live in Regina and Saskatoon. Most people are concentrated in the south of the province, 40 per cent of them in farming communities.Saskatchewans have the highest life expectancy in Canada - 78.6 years for women, 71.1 years for men.EconomyThe Saskatchewan economy reflects the richness of its natural resources, particularly the mineral deposits, energy reserves (mineral oil, natural gas) and huge supplies of timber.Between 1982 and 1987 skillful management of the economy saw Saskatchewan's GNP rise from $14.7 billion to $18.4 billion. 40 per cent of goods produced in the province are exported, three quarters of them beyond Canada. Almost half (45.2 per cent, mainly oil, potash and uranium) go to the USA.The second most important market (24.7 per cent) is in Asia and the countries of the Pacific basin, which between them import $1.4 billion worth of produce, primarily cereals, potash and uranium. Exports to western Europe account for 8.8 per cent.Saskatchewan is a major source of potash, oil, gold and uranium. It is the world's leading supplier of potash possessing almost two-thirds of the planet's known reserves. 25 per cent of world demand is met by ten mines.The richest deposits of heavy oil in Canada are also found in the province, a total of 662.7 million barrels (1988). Production in 1987 was 76.2 million barrels.Saskatchewan is the world's largest exporter of uranium, more than 300 million kg (661 million lb) of uranium bearing ore (about 80 per cent of the earth's total) having been discovered in the Athabasca basin. Annual production is presently running at 8.2 million kg (18 million lb).In its first year the Star Lake mine, one of a number of gold mines opened in 1987, produced 1056 kg (2328 lb) of gold valued at $20 million.Saskatchewan also exports increasingly large quantities of natural gas. Reserves are estimated at more than 69 billion cu.m.Lignite deposits totaling 7.6 billion tonnes/tons supply almost 75 per cent of the province's electricity requirements.Mining of all kinds contributes 9 per cent of the province's GNP.Saskatchewan's largest renewable resource is its forests, barely half of which are exploited commercially. The most important woods are spruce, aspen, poplar and birch. In 1987/88 timber production was worth $258 million.As a result of deliberate economic diversificiation into new technologies the province is today a world leader in the fields of bio-technology, fiber optics and satellite communications. SaskTel developed and installed the world's first commercial fiber optics telephone, television and data communications system (still one of the largest) and, with telecommunications playing an increasingly important role, runs a worldwide service network (video conferences, data and teleprinter communications, etc.)Agriculture, cereal production in particular, continues to be a major source of income for Saskatchewan, possessing as it does 44 per cent (20 million hectares) of the federation's agricultural land. Canada's "bread basket" produces 60 per cent of the country's wheat and meets 12 per cent of total world demand.Livestock represent another important branch of agriculture, with more than 25 per cent of the country's cattle and 20 per cent of its sheep, pigs and poultry being reared in the province.The food processing industry also contributes substantially to the economy (meat and potato products, pasta, etc.)LeisureIn its still largely unspoilt landscape Saskatchewan has a further resource, particularly attractive to anyone with a love of the great outdoors and the untouched, tranquil beauty of the land. While canoeing, angling and swimming can all be enjoyed on the numerous lakes, many visitors want nothing more than the opportunity to observe wild creatures in their natural environment. But for those keen to participate in any of the various sports and leisure activities excellent facilities are provided by the National and Provincial Parks (walkers' trails, swimming and a wide range of other pursuits).
Prince Albert National Park is uniquely situated on the edge of the boreal forest, in a transition area. The famous naturalist, Grey Owl, lived in the park for seven years and his cabin, Beaver Lodge, can still be visited.
Fort Walsh National Historic Park was established in 1875 under the direction of James Walsh. It was intended to stop the illegal whisky trade, and became one of the most important posts in the West.
Batoche was the headquarters of the famous Métis, Louis Riel, during the 1885 North West Rebellion. It is also where the rebellion finally came to and end following a decisive battle.
Fort Carlton was originally built as an outpost in 1820, to provide river patrols. Visitors can see the fort and a wooden shack, hides, and various supplies.
As the name suggests this park encompasses the grasslands of the Great Plains.
Other Ukrainian memorabilia, some dating from the 18th and 19th c., are collected together in the Museum of Ukrainian Culture in Ave. "M" S. This ethnographic museum, founded by the Ukrainian Catholic Church, has various collections devoted to the religious, secular and folk heritage of Ukrainian immigrants.
Address: 910 Spadina Crescent East, Saskatoon, SK S7K3H5, Canada
Opening hours: 10am-5pm; Sun: 1pm-5pm; Closed: Mon
Entrance fee in CAD: Adult $4.00, Senior over 60 $3.00, Child 15 & under $2.00, Child 5 & under FREE
Canora (population 2,000; 25 km / 16 mi further on) has a Ukrainian Orthodox Church which is well worth visiting . Built in 1928 and later restored the church with its paintings and colored glass might almost have been brought here straight from Kiev.On the south side of Canora stands the Ukrainian Welcome Statue, designed by the inhabitants themselves. The 7.6 m (25 ft) high "Lesia", decked out in traditional Slav costume, is intended to symbolize the Ukrainian heritage.The route now follows Hwy. 9 southwards allowing an additional worthwhile detour via Hwy. 229 to Good Spirit Lake Park.
Duck Mountain Provincial Park caters for a wide range of leisure activities, particularly in the area around the lake. Near the Ministik Beaches, in addition to an 18-hole golf course, there are facilities for riding, tennis, cycling, boating and mini-golf, also angling on both Madge and Batka Lakes. In winter the possibilities include cross-country skiing and snowmobile trekking.As the route heads west again along Hwy. 5, the Ukrainian origins of many of the inhabitants of this part of Saskatchewan are everywhere evident, most noticeably the Ukrainian Orthodox churches with their silver domes.
Address: Box 39, Kamsack, SK S0A1S0, Canada
TransCanada HighwayA substantial part of the province can be seen by following the TransCanada Highway as it runs across the prairies and wheat fields of southern Saskatchewan. It is best to start from the province's south-east border with Manitoba and drive east-west along the Highway (which passes through the capital Regina and the town of Swift Current). Detours can then be made either north or south to visit the many places of interest (Moose Mountain Provincial Park, Qu'Appelle Valley, Cypress Hills Provincial Park, etc.). Plenty of opportunities for swimming, fishing and hunting will be found along the way.
The Addison Sod House is a unique heritage site with a farmyard that includes a sod house, barn, two sheds, dugout and a shelterbelt. A 'soddy' was originally a temporary shelter made with large blocks of topsoil, held tightly together by the matted roots of prairie grasses. Addison originally planned to replace the sod portions of the building with wood-frame construction but he realized that the sod was going to be permanent and the interior was divided into rooms.
The Clayton McLain Memorial Museum displays articles used by the combatants in the Battle of Cut Knife. In addition, the following restored and furnished buildings are open to visitors: school (1908), railway station (1912), shop (1920), village church (1925) and a log-cabin (1930). Items on display include objects used by the Indians and the pioneers, machines, antiques, shotguns, archive material, etc.
Cut Knife Hill
16 km / 10 mi to the north of Battleford the Cut Knife Site overlooks Battle River Valley. This is another important arena depicting the North West Rebellion, as it was here that the battle took place in 1885 between the Canadian troops under Colonel Otter and the Indians under Chief Poundmaker. Otter thought the Indians had been responsible for plundering Battleford and burning it to the ground. The natives were victorious in this battle. Chief Poundmaker was convicted of treason, imprisoned, died a year later and was buried up on the hill.
Hanging near the museum in Tomahawk Park is the biggest tomahawk in the world, nearly 12 m (39 ft) tall and weighing 8 tonnes. This remarkable architectural feat is a symbol of the public-spiritedness and friendship existing between the good people of Cut Knife.
Battlefords Provincial Park spans an area alongside Jackfish Lake, a favorite spot with anglers. The park offers the following attractions: camping, picnicking, a golf-course, minigolf, hire of boats and bicycles, a nature path and an excellent sandy beach.
Address: Box 100, Cochin, SK S0M0L0, Canada
Estevan Art Gallery & Museum has two galleries, the Main Gallery and the Community Gallery with a permanent fine art collection as well as temporary exhibits. The permanent collection in the museum has a collection of NWMP/RCMP artifacts as well as local history displays.
Address: 118 4th Street, Estevan, SK S4A0T4, Canada
Opening hours: 8:30am-6pm; Sat: 1pm-4pm; Closed: Sun, Mon
Outlook & District Heritage Museum is housed in a former railroad station that was built in 1909. Artifacts on display feature over 3000 items including artifacts and items that belonged to a resident of the town or surrounding area. Highlights of the Outlook Museum include a caboose and a collection of arrowheads.
Biggar was founded in 1909 and named for W.H. Biggar, General Counsel for the Grand Trunk Pacific Railroad. The town was the home of Sandra Schmirler, three time world curling champion and gold medalist in the 1998 Olympic Games.
Biggar Museum and Gallery
The Biggar Museum houses a variety of historical artifacts that illustrate the town and district's history, as well as an art gallery. There are two outdoor murals, First People displays and a silent film theater.
Address: 105 3rd Avenue West, Box 400, Biggar, SK S0K0M0, Canada
Opening hours: Jun 1 to Sep 30: 1pm-5pm; Closed: Sun, Mon
Oct 1 to May 31: 1pm-5pm; Closed: Sun, Sat
Oct 1 to May 31: 1pm-5pm; Closed: Sun, Sat
Entrance fee: FREE
Facilities: Gift shop
Roger Martin's Homestead Museum
The Homestead Museum is an eight building display including a rural school, pioneer home, general store, church, sod house, and barn dating to the early 20th Century. Agricultural displays and a doll collection are also featured.
Wynyard (population 2187) is another small place with something to see - in this case the Frank Cameron Museum.Only a short drive away to the north are the Quill Lakes.
Little Manitou Lake
The medicinal properties of the mineral rich, 19 km / 12 mi long Little Manitou Lake were well known to the early Indians, to whom it was the "Place of the Healing Waters". In its heyday the lake was called the "Karlsbad of Canada", the mineral content of the water being similar to that of the famous German spa. A new attraction has recently been added in the shape of the Manitou Springs Mineral Spa at Manitou Beach. Opened in 1988 this is now the largest indoor mineral bath in Canada.
Lying on a major bird migration route Quill Lakes are a resting place and breeding ground for many.At Plunkett a detour via Hwy. 365 leads to Little Manitou Lake.
Swift Current, west of Moose Jaw, has a number of attractions including some historical buildings and a re-created Mennonite village.
Art Gallery of Swift Current
The Art Gallery of Swift Current features changing exhibitions from across Saskatchewan and Canada.
Address: 411 Herbert Street East, Swift Current, SK S9H1M5, Canada
Opening hours: 1pm-5pm, 7pm-9pm
Useful tips: Closed Sundays in July and August.