Northern Saskatchewan:

A Fun and Affordable Holiday Destination

After eight hours of driving through the drought stricken farmland of eastern Alberta, then the slightly more lush hills of the more northern reaches of the province, we arrived at Meadow Lake Provincial Park. Situated just across the Saskatchewan border east of Cold Lake, Meadow Lake Provincial Park encompasses 1600 square kilometers of boreal forest and more than 25 lakes. It promises to be a nature lover’s paradise with abundant wildlife and the adventure’s dream with many recreational opportunities.

We had booked a cabin at Northern Cross Resort on Lac Des Iles. It has no bathroom and only cold water but at $52.00 a night we consider it a bargain. (We paid twice as much for a cabin just like it in B.C. two years ago.) We used our first full day to explore as much of the park as we could – mainly to scout out good fishing spots. We stop first at Vivian Lake. It’s a relatively small lake but we find it rather difficult fishing from the shore, as there are many weeds. However, we take the time to enjoy the hiking trail that goes around the entire lake. Further down the road, we stop briefly at the Interpretive Centre at Greig Lake. Both my boys (ages 9 and 11) and I found this interesting and fun. Some of the displays consist of interactive games that quiz your knowledge on things such as aboriginal peoples’ uses of native plants and characteristics of local wildlife. My husband and oldest son were still anxious to get some fishing in so we headed off to the Kimball Lake campground. From there, we found the trail to Little Raspberry Lake – a lake accessible only by foot. While my husband and older son fish, my youngest son and I decide to hike around the entire lake and meet back at the Kimball Lake campground in an hour and a half.
The first part of our hike is enjoyable as Little Raspberry lives up to its name; there are lots of raspberry plants along the trail bearing the delicious fruit. We also had a chance to indulge in some wild blueberries, which also happened to be in season. Realizing we were in bear country, we tried to make as much noise as we could. Still, we were a little nervous and the moment we heard rustling in the bush we both jumped, only to discover we’d frightened the living daylights out of a deer who was a mere ten to fifteen feet away from us! Our biggest scare though, came later when we had made it about three quarters around the lake and we thought the trail would head back to the campground. The map we had, turned out to be good for nothing but starting fires. The trail didn’t seem to head back towards Kimball Lake; instead it seemed meander deeper into the forest in the opposite direction! Just when I began to have visions of being lost for days, we came to a fork in the trail. One branch was labelled with an arrow simply indicating that it was a hiking trail and the other was not labelled at all. Ignoring everything I’d been taught about staying only on marked trails, I followed my instinct and decided to take the unmarked trail. It just seemed to be going in the right direction and I also thought I could faintly hear voices coming from that vicinity. I think it was then that I decided that if we ever got out of this pickle, I’d invest in a compass before I ever go hiking in the woods again. To our utmost relief, we spotted a camper through the trees after about five minutes of walking. We’d made it to the campground.
Cool, rainy weather interfered with enjoying the beach at Northern Cross Resort, which boasts having the second largest beach in Meadow Lake Provincial Park. Despite this, it was an enjoyable holiday. Both my husband and son caught fish in the lakes and streams that are teaming with northern pike, walleye and perch. We enjoyed another hike (this time without getting lost) to a lookout tower that offered a spectacular view of the surrounding mixed wood forest canopy. On our last day we traveled to nearby Goodsoil where we took in mini-golf and the local museum. Although we weren’t treated to the sight of a black bear, we did see a few white tailed deer, a couple of red foxes and many pelicans, loons and squirrels. Elk, moose and coyotes also inhabit the region.
There’s more to do in Meadow Lake Provincial Park than hiking and fishing. There are a few riding stables (one was located at Vivian Lake) which offer horseback excursions through the backcountry. Canoes and paddleboats can be rented at some of the campgrounds. Many adventure tour operators offer canoeing and rafting packages on the Cold and Waterhen Rivers. There are golf courses in the nearby towns of Goodsoil, Cold Lake and Meadow Lake. With so much to offer, we’ll likely head to Northern Saskatchewan for a vacation again.

Helpful tips if you go:

¨ BOOK EARLY. I booked our cabin in early March and couldn’t get a fully modern unit (with bathroom and hot water), as they were all booked up. By this point many of the resorts were completely reserved for the whole summer! I therefore recommend reservations be made in early January:maybe even December.
¨ If you plan on hiking, remember you are in bear country therefore a bell or any other type of noisemaker is a MUST. Also be prepared for poorly marked and seldom used trails. We’re used to hiking in K-Country where you’re constantly meeting other hikers. We didn’t encounter another soul on any of the trails we hiked on this trip, so if you go hiking alone make sure you let someone know where you’re going as help may be a long time coming if you happen to need it.
¨ If you plan on fishing and you don’t have a boat, you might want to consider renting one as the best fishing spots are far from shore. Most of the bigger lakeside resort and campgrounds have fishing boat rentals. It cost us $27.00 for 2 ½ hours at Northern Cross Resort. Remember, too, that you’ll require a Saskatchewan fishing license. (Children 16 and under can fish for free.)
¨ Meadow Lake Provincial Park is home to fifty species of mammals and over 175 species of birds. The forest consists of a variety of different trees and other flora. If you’re a nature enthusiast, a field guide may prove to be indispensable.

Useful websites:

http://www.ncresort.com – Northern Cross Resort. Cabins and campsites available. Ideal for families with very young children as there is a “Little Tikes” play park and a large beach.

http://www.sasktourism.com – the entire province has vacation appeal. From world-class spas in Moose Jaw and Manitou Beach to house boating on Lac La Ronge or Tobin Lake, Saskatchewan has something for everyone.

Nola lives in the village of Rockyford, Alberta with her husband and two sons. She’s studying toward her Bachelor of Administration with a concentration in Management. Between raising a family and her studies, she also juggles two part-time jobs. She can be reached at lnnewitt@telusplanet.net for comments or questions.

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