My New Favorite Spot

Grasslands at dusk
After several years of  complaining about the lack of facilities, the state of small town Saskatchewan motels and the legendary bad roads we decided to head down to Grasslands National Park (West Block) this week end.

We decided to leave the Trans Canada and wind our way from small town to small town across Southern Saskatchewan. It was an interesting drive, quite pretty but the state of many of those smaller roads put the lie to Brad Wall's claim that there is an economic boom here in Saskatchewan.

At this point the park encompasses about 500 square kilometres. It will be several years before the park is completely established but eventually, it will cover 900 square kilometres in two blocks along the Canada - U.S. border in southwestern Saskatchewan. It might take a while. The federal government will continue to purchase the land on a willing-seller/willing buyer basis and says there will be no expropriation . Ranching has got to be a tough life so bit by bit the old timers are retiring with no one in the family willing to take over the spreads.

Grasslands National Park is my new favorite spot.

The park is an amazing find. Miles and miles of grasslands, with barely a tree in sight it almost defies your imagination. After years of ranching, grazing destroyed many native grasses but with careful management those species are coming back along with prairie flowers. 

Deer Feeding in the Coolie
Wildlife has returned as well. A bison herd was reintroduced a few years ago as were black footed ferrets which had become extinct in the wild. There are burrowing owls, black tailed prairie dogs, antelope, deer, swift foxes, coyotes and of course rattlesnakes. 

There are at least 12,000 tee-pee rings in the park. This is where first nations peoples camped and hunted in summer months.

The challenge now is finding new undiscovered sites. They seem to be all over the park but, with all the rain this year, the grasses and flowers are so prevalent it is hard to make out the rings through the green growth.

There is no question that we will be going back again and again. The country is magnificent and we met some pretty interesting people as well.

We stayed in Val Marie in the old converted, Convent Inn, owned by Robert and Mette Duncan which while it isn't fancy, is very comfortable and the food was great. Robert loves to chat and tell stories and is more than willing to help you find new places to explore the area. I'd recommend the place without hesitation.

At supper we notices a group of about six women that it turned out were on a photo workshop with photographer James Page who recently moved from Victoria to Val Marie. We had seen his book Wild Prairie in the afternoon and  we had a good chat with him about the park and the photographic opportunities there. We cross paths with them that evening as we moved through the park just before sunset.

The Duncans also have a lovely two story house in the village they rent out by the week for around $600. It would be a deal at twice the price.

If you want to camp, there is a campground in town or, about five km south at the Crossroads you can RV it, tent or rent one of their tee-pees for $20.00 a night.

You may not know much about the park but, if you like wide open spaces, there is nothing like it. Visit now before people from Ontario and Europeans discover it and over run the place.

1 comment:

  1. nice..........
    as your interested
    check this out
    almost in the neighborhood too
    if you google map it those co-ordinates are off.
    follow the road south of ft.walsh to that ranch then back over the hill to the west about a mile.
    i marked them at 49.543922N - 109.887706 W
    that was last year tho


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