Val Marie - almost a ghost town
Val Marie is just one of these typical Saskatchewan prairie villages. Situated in the middle of vast plains. The first thing we saw was ‘off course’ the grain elevator, but as in many other small villages it is not used any longer.
Val Marie has one paved road the Main Street with an increasing number of closed shops. There are just two businesses still open: a grocery / general store and a hotel. The remarkable ‘Little Brick House’ is used by the friends of the Grassland’s National Park and is shop, museum and gallery at the same time.
Val Marie is an excellent starting point for a visit to the ‘Grasslands National Park’, an absolutely must see site. More information and a free map in the Information Centre of this national park.
You will find unique accommodation in "The Convent Inn", one of the most remarkable B&B's we ever had (see tip).
Val Marie is located in the south west corner of Canada's Saskatchewan Province.
Gravelbourg - a touch of Europe
Gravelbourg was founded in 1906 by a French priest from Quebec with the name of Louis-Pierre Gravel. Afterwards hundreds of French-Canadian families settled in this part of Saskatchewan.
During our visit we still found a lot of French influence in Gravelbourg. Signs do have two languages and we sampled a special atmosphere in some shops and café s. Everywhere we found amazing French names; what about 'Jardin Notre Dame'.
We heard that still 50% of the population is from French-Canadian origin.
Most important building in Gravelbourg is the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Assumption. A huge Roman Catholic cathedral, built in 1919. Inside most of the walls are covered with murals with scenes from the Old and New Testament, painted by Charles Maillard.
The church is 55 meters long and 25 metres high and can hold up to 1500 people.
But Gravelbourg has more historic buildings. The best way to see them is to do the Heritage Walking Tour. Information at the Gravelbourg & District Museum, 300 Main Street.
Gravelbourg is situated about 115 km's south-west of Moose Jaw along highways 43 and 58.Related to:
- Religious Travel
- Arts and Culture
Canada's Largest Turtle
Built in 1983, Ernie the Turtle is Canada's largest turtle and is the second largest turtle in the world. The world's largest turtle is in North Dakota but that one is made up entirely of tire rims so it's only in the shape of a turtle. Ernie makes his home in Turtleford which is a little less than 100km west of Lloydminster. You can get there on Secondary Highway 303 or Highway 26. Ernie is located on 26. There is a little info hut next to him. I didn't go inside as it was closed when I was there.
World's Largest Bunnock
If you are looking for the world's largest bunnock, you'll have to head to Macklin. What's a bunnock? It's a horse anklebone. Where is Macklin? It's about 10km from the Alberta-Saskatchewan border near the intersections of highways 14, 17 and 31. Why would Macklin erect a 32 foot tall anklebone of a horse. While in Bunnock is a game invented by Russians in where two teams would stand on opposite sides of the field and knock over bones by throwing bones at them. It was brought to the Macklin region by Russian immigrants and it is here where the World's Bunnock Championships are held yearly.
World's Largest Tomahawk
In Cut Knife, you can find the world's largest tomahawk. Cut Knife is located a little less than 50 km west of North Battleford along Highway 40. The tomahawk is located in Tomahawk Park which is on the western edge of the town. I guess the tomahawk is supposed to show the unity between First Nations and whites in the area. It is located near the Battle of Cut Knife which happened in 1885.
The prairies own lighthouse...
Being from Nova Scotia, Canada, I'm used to the oceanside scenes of washed up seaglass, driftwood, faded fishing boats with mended nets...and the ever-present lighthouse. I have to say, though, that I never really expected to see such a thing driving through northern Saskatchewan from Tessier to North Battleford. Strange, strange, strange. I guess it was put up to save the poor souls who might get lost in the blowing snow drifts. An interesting picture if you're headed that way.
St. Nicholas Church near Lumsden
This little wooden church is situated in the Qu'Appelle Valley, east of Craven nearby Lumsden. Craven. Take road '99' from Craven and you can not miss this lovely church.
Stroll around and look at the old tombstones and off course take a look inside this simple wooden church. It is the oldest remaining church of Saskatchewan.
But most of all: enjoy the quietness of this spot and the living skies of Saskatchewan.
From Regina tahe Highway 11 to Lumsden, turn off and take highway 20 to the north, in Craven highway 99 to the east and after a couple of km's you will see the church on your right hand side on the other side of the valley.Related to:
- Road Trip
Lumsden: step into a country pace
Leave Regina over ‘Highway 11’ and after 30 km’s you will find the ‘Lumsden exit’. Even better you take halfway the exit (left) for Deer Valley. Take a look at Condie Nature Refuge and Deer Valley Resort and drive through the amazing plains to Lumsden.
Suddenly you descend into a lovely valley and ‘step into the country pace’ of Lumsden.
On the main street you will find some beautiful houses, shops, a good art gallery (old post office) and some café/restaurants. Lumsden has a couple of craftspeople.
Some km’s to the North on ‘Highway 11’ is an exit to Regina Beach. Here you will find a lovely beach and the best ‘fish and chips’ shop of SK.
Buffalo Pound Provincial Park – with buffalo
Buffalo Pound Provincial Park is named after a ‘buffalo pound’, which was used by the first nations of the Canadian plains for hunting buffalo. In the park were once areas were the hunter corralled the animals. The plains bison were reintroduced to the park in 1972.
We visited Buffalo Provincial Park during autumn and ‘of course’ couldn’t use the summer amenities like a swimming pool, beaches, camp- and playgrounds, but still there was a possibility to make some walks in this scenic landscape of Buffalo lake and the surrounding rolling prairie hills, dotted with yellow coloured trees.
We started our walk(s) from the car park close to the lookout tower. First we hiked the ‘Bison Trail’, more or less along a buffalo paddocks. But we did see ‘our’ buffalo from the lookout tower; a herd of about 30 of these grazing ‘monsters’. (It is possible to walk to the Nicolle Homestead.)
After returning to the car park we did also the ‘Marsh Boardwalk’ into the wetlands of Nicolle Flat. The boardwalk through reed and cat tails ended in the middle of the Nicolle Flat Marsh on a place called ‘A Room with a View’. Ideally located for viewing (water)birds.
Buffalo Provincial Park is located about 25 km’s northeast of Moose Jaw: highway 2 and 202.Related to:
- National/State Park
- Hiking and Walking
Big Beaver has still its own store
Big Beaver is in my pinion one of the most remote settlements in Saskatchewan. Along Highway 34 there wasn’t even a signpost; in the village we saw another (paved) road coming from Highway 18. The tiny village is surrounded by the prairies and rolling hills of the Big Muddy Badlands and as far as you can see there are no other living species around (perhaps some cows).
There are about 20 people living and it is almost unbelievable it once was a more or less flourishing little village with five grain elevators, a school, houses, garages, shops and a hotel. In that time the rail line ended in Big Beaver.
Nowadays it is almost a ‘ghost town’ with just a couple of houses, unpaved roads and a Main Road with just four or five buildings. I suppose one of them will accommodate the Big Muddy Nature Centre and Museum, which was closed during our visit late September (just open from May till September).
Three of the buildings are used by Aust’s General Store; although closed during lunchtime we were allowed to enter this really rural general store and to look for some food and drinks. People were so friendly and helpful and at last we had our lunch with yoghurt and a couple of bananas.
Just a visit to the store makes it worth to travel to Big Beaver (almost certainly in combination with a visit to the Big Muddy Badlands. The Aust’s do have a motto on a sign above the front door: “If we don't have it, you don't need it”. And I think they are right; never having seen so many different articles in just one shop.
Big Beaver is located about 175 km's more or less south of Regina and about 15 km's north of the border with Montana-USA.
Accessible (from Regina) through Highways 6 > Highway 18 (or Highway 6 > 13 > 34)Related to:
- Road Trip
Thunder Creek Heritage Marshes
A system of wetlands, creeks, lakes, and upland containing more than 10,000 acres of wildlife habitat along its 80 km length - great for birdwatching and possibly other wildlife viewing. There are several trails (gravel roads) that can be taken to reach the waterways, heading north (right) off of Highway 1 between Moose Jaw and Chaplin. We took the trail just east of Mortlach, which led us to Pelican Lake, where I saw my first White Pelicans!Related to:
- Road Trip
Acadia Valley – Grain Elevator Museum
If you are visiting Leader there is an off the beathen path sight just across the border of Alberta.
You can not miss these ‘Cathedrals of the prairies’ when driving in the eastern part of Alberta (or in Saskatchewan). After we turned off Highway 9 in Oyen to drive to Leader in SK we soon could see this impressive landmark of the hamlet of Acadia Village.
There is just one (from three) grain elevator left and a very tiny piece of the railroad with a caboose. The people of Acadia restored this impressive landmark and nowadays it is a museum. We got an impression (video and explanation of a guide) of how these large structures handled the millions of bushels of grain grown in the agricultural areas of Alberta.
Next to the museum is a tea house / gift shop with crafts made by locals.
From Leader take road 741 westward to the ferry across the Red Deer River and further to Highway 41 and Acadia Valley.Related to:
- Historical Travel
- Arts and Culture
- Road Trip
Fort Qu’Appelle – fish and lake
Driving from Regina through Highway 10, we suddenly descended into the Qu’Appelle River Valley and reached the little village of Fort Qu’Appelle. These valleys are the ‘negative’ hills of Saskatchewan, which is not as flat as a lot of people think. Another proof: Fort Qu’Appelle offers during winter time down hill skiing !!
Fort Qu’Appelle is ‘surrounded’ by four lakes: Katepwa, Mission, Echo and Pasqua Lake and is one of the most popular destinations in South Saskatchewan for water sports and beach activities. The village itself offers all kinds of facilities, it has the Fort Qu’Appelle Museum, with the story of the history of the region, some galleries/artisans and a pottery. During the summer months every Saturday morning goes a Farmer’s Market.
On the South shore of Echo Lake ( 5 or 6 km’s from the village) lies the Saskatchewan Fish Culture Station. This fish hatchery raises fish from eggs to the adult stage, which are then distributed to various fish and lakes in the region. In the summer and during weekdays there are guided tours with free admission.
Directions: about 1 hour drive from Regina through Highway 10.Related to:
- Water Sports
- Road Trip
Condie Nature Refuge
This is just a small nature park in the middle of the Saskatchewan plains. The heart of the park is the dammed Boggy Creek by Canadian National railways to create a water reservoir for their steam engines. Nowadays a place to observe waterfowl and other birds, as well as marshland and grasslands habitats with native plants.
Within Condie Nature Refuge are some trails and a picnic site. It is open all year and is free of charge.
Directions: 14 km Northwest of Regina along Highway 11, off at exit A.Related to:
- Hiking and Walking
North Battleford - Allen Sapp Gallery
We were driving on the long straight roads through the plains of Saskatchewan and stopped in North Battleford. More or less looking for a café to drink a cup of coffee. On the way back to our car we found by coincidence the Allen Sapp Gallery.
This gallery is completely dedicated on the most famous Cree (one of the First Nations) painter of Canada: Allen Sapp. We saw a lot of his colourful and impressive paintings. A helpful employee showed us a DVD with Sapp’s paintings. We bought also something for home in the gift shop.
So turned a coffee stop into a cultural break in the middle of nowhere.
The gallery is located in North Battleford along Highway 16, between Saskatoon and Edmonton.Related to:
- Arts and Culture
- Museum Visits
Province of Saskatchewan Hotels
The castle-like Delta Bessborough Hotel is the most striking building in Saskatoon. It is modeled on...more
Checking in was so easy thanks to the online self check-in process and the great valet parking...more
4444 2nd Ave W, Prince Albert, SK S6V5S2
Satisfaction: Very Good
Good for: Couples
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