Running the Boreal Trail – Part 3

A series of guest blog posts from trail enthusiast Russ Hodgins. Past posts: Part 1, Part 2

*This would be the best section to bike, about a 10 mile ride to Sandy Beach subdivision.

As I mentioned before, the magic of compression socks is something to behold. After Day One’s efforts, I had staggered off to the shower, had a good supper and even did the dishes before putting on the very tight and fashionable knee high socks and getting some rest. The theory is that they push the lactic acid up out of your legs. I have no idea if that’s what they do, but I am living proof that wearing them after a long run means you wake up the next morning with legs that feel almost OK. And that’s what happened. I woke up at 6 a.m., my legs felt great (as compared to how I expected them to feel) so it was a quick breakfast and tea and then Pam shuttled me to the west end of the trail near Cold Lake.

I wore the “fashionable “compression socks to run in as some say they actually help ward off tiring of the muscles. I have tried them before and am not convinced it works, but was willing to try it again. I’m still not sure if they slowed the rate of muscle fatigue but they did protect my ankles from the lower shrubbery for the half day I wore them, until I switched into a dry pair of socks. It is quite the look! Especially on a day that got up to 28 degrees.

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If you ever get up to Meadow Lake park and are going to hike part of the trail, this is the part you want to do. It’s 10 miles from the start shown above to Sandy Beach. The trail goes through a diverse variety of forests, running along the Cold River for much of it and the trail is fantastic. It has two back country sites, BT 1 and BT 2. Both are nice but BT 2 might just be the best site on the entire trail. This section is by far, my favorite part of this trail.

Near the start, it’s open poplar forest with a bit more understudy but easy to run.

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A short three miles in and the trail takes you to the river and BT 1, shown below. A very nice site on a ridge overlooking the river. There is a fire pit and a bear locker and lots of great sheltered spots to put your tent but still open enough so if there is a breeze, it will keep some of the bugs at bay. (the river would be off to the right in the photo)

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From BT 1 to BT 2, the trail goes through more of an open forest and goes along a ridge in one part with the river on your left and a small lake on the right. The views are amazing.

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These trail signs were very helpful. It was nice to see how far away I was from the next place I was trying to get to and it saved dragging my map out of my pack. The aerial photo was a nice touch so you could see what was coming as you went forward.

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This is the campsite at BT 2. It’s a sandy point, excellent tent sites, nice beach area and I could see this as a place worth returning to. The only down side is it can be reached by 4X4 and it appears many folks forgo the walk in and just drive. Having said that, other than a couple beer cans along the trail, the site was clean.

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BT 2 is just a couple hundred yards off the main trail so after a short stop to check out the site, I was off again on a beautiful trail with great views of the lake and I kicked up several deer in the next section.

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A short time after the above photo, the trail goes out to the road to bypass a wet area and then after a short run, ducks back into the bush and back to the lake shore again. You then have the option of doing a longer loop or follow the shore to the Sandy Beach boat launch. I opted for following the shore line and came to a muskeg right before Sandy Beach. The beavers had been busy, there was no signage (probably a result of the many beaver felled trees) and after several failed attempts thwarted by deep water, I finally located the right trail which took me to the shore of the lake. A short run down the beach, a hop over a small stream and I was at the boat launch. I had cached some extra grub and water just off the road so after picking that up, I had a 1 km skidder trail before I joined the Humphrey Lake Trail which goes past the lake and to a lookout tower. The Humphrey Lake Trail is a nice section of single track and more like one would think about when talking hiking trails.

This is Humphrey Lake from the trail:

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The Humphrey lake tower:

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I was out there so long, I grew a beard (sorta), which is impressive considering that I have been shaving since I was 12 and cut myself both times.

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I took a few pictures from the top, did the touristy enjoy the view thing and then was off. Of interest, on the way in to the tower, I ran past two people hiking in to the lookout. I’m sad to report that they were the only people I would see on the trail in my travels.

The trail was still good after the Humphrey Lake tower, more of an ATV trail but in good shape. It wasn’t that far and then it went out onto an old road. This was also a nice but short section and areas along the road had been cleared for cattle grazing some time back. From the look of the current growth, my guess is that this area is no longer grazed.

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This old road joined another much straighter and heavier used road that went out to the main road. This was where things started to heat up as there no longer was any shade. The main road is down at the far end in the photo below:

If you look at the sign below, I had come out on Highway 21 just south of the junction to Sandy Beach (and lower down than the “you are here” on the sign). The trail runs parallel to the road and was very overgrown. The thought of a long run through knee high brush didn’t inspire me as I was tired for some reason. In hindsight, I wish I had fresher legs and had run it  but instead, I opted to go down the road so the trail may have improved but I never got to see it.

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The trail followed the road to cross the bridge over the channel between Pierce Lake and Lepine Lake and the next section along the shore of Lepine was brand new. I was hoping it wasn’t another skidder trail but I wasn’t so lucky. I should note here that it had been a busy fire season which most likely diverted time away from trail maintenance and also, it would be easier to hike these sections than run them.

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The trail was fine when I first left the main road but when I got closer to the lake, the area had been burnt and my shade disappeared.

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This is BT 3. I took advantage of the river out front to take my shoes off and lie down in the water for a 5 minute break. This is the view from the site down to the water:

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The burn went on for a bit longer and then I got into some green timber for a much needed break from the hot sun.

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I then came to a creek crossing where a handy beaver dam and a short homemade bridge kept my feet dry.

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The trail past here was an old road and another nice but short section:

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The trail then goes out and crosses the main road through the park. I had high hopes for this section north of the main road as I knew it was an old road so hopefully, it would make for good running.

Running the Boreal Trail – Part 2

A series of guest blog posts from trail enthusiast Russ Hodgins. Past posts: Part 1.

After I left the road, my next point was the back country campsite BT 5 which was about 8 km away through the bush. But first I had to follow a faint trail through the trees which led to an old gravel pit and then at the far end, the trail vanished. It took about 20 minutes trying different routes and circling through the bush until I found an old trail marker. The trail got better and then became an old road but then went off on a right angle and back to searching for fallen down trail markers. This part slowed me down a bit.

(I later learned from park staff that a resident bear had taken to using the trail markers as scratching posts and knocked many of them over. That explained why I found so many lying on the ground and propped them up against trees so others could see them)

This is heading off the road and back into the woods:

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This is the narrow trail I was following after leaving the road and the gravel pit. She was a bit overgrown but way better then what came next.

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Just when I thought it couldn’t get worse, I came to the new part of the trail. That should have been a good thing. Instead, they had taken a skidder and a hydro axe mulcher to make the trail. This chewed up the first foot or so of soil while crushing the wood so it was like running on a trampoline covered with broken branches:

(After I got back, I suggested to the park that they take an ATV, drag some tires behind it and pack this section down. By now, this should be a well packed part of the trail but on that day, it was less than inspiring)

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The other part is that unlike a hand cut trail or using an ATV dragging tires to make a trail, a skidder needs a wide area between trees so this new trail went left then right, left, left, right, left, right, left, left….. you get the point. It was like they let a drunk guy loose on a skidder in the forest and I was on some overgrown forestry trail. In a couple words: it sucked. Probably had a lot to do with the fact that I had been on my feet for about ten hours at this point and really wanted an easier trail. What a wimp! The other part was, I needed to head west but because of the zig zag through the forest, I was going south and east as much as I went west.

Despite the trail condition, it was a scenic section and I arrived to find that BT5 is a very nice camp spot with a beautiful beach as shown below. There were a few families there in their pontoon boats having a few (too many) drinks while their kids swam and they looked at me like I was an alien. I snapped a quick photo of the beach but didn’t notice the guy emptying his bladder until later.

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After BT 5, the trail was OK for a short stretch and then came to more of the skidder trail. At this point, I had an option to take another trail out to the main road and as the Boreal Trail also headed out to the road, I took the other slightly shorter trail and bypassed the mulch. On a side note, I even saw a bear earlier on the zig zag trail but it ran the other way. Must have been the smell, I was a little ripe.

Once on the road, it was a short run to join the trail back in the bush. This part was single track and nice running.

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This section joined up with the campground’s interpretive trail and then I came out at the beach. Our son Kellen was waiting for me when I arrived and rode his bike to our campsite, returning with a cold bottle of water for which I will always love him.  And then after what seemed like a really, really long walk, I was back at our site and moving like a very old man.

Anna was happy to see me:

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Day 1 was over! I had seen a bear and about 3 deer up close. The kids had spent the day swimming and learned that swimmers itch exists in the north. This was followed by a trip to Goodsoil by Pam, where she was able to get calamine lotion and they had a few itchy days after that. They blame me as I was the one with the big idea to come up there and run the trail so they are pretty much right.

So best I can tell (cuz I wasn’t keeping that much track of the time), using the time Pam dropped me off and when I got to the site, I was on the go for about 12 and a half hours to cover what looks like 50 miles (80 km) according to the park maps. Now, just to figure out how I was going to get up tomorrow and cover the next 30 miles (50 km). I was really thinking about not doing it. Thankfully ,Pam knows me well and knew I wouldn’t be happy and would want to return until I got it done. Thus, she left me no choice and told me I was doing it! I thank her for that. It was just what I needed at the time. That and compression socks. They work magic on tired legs when you wear them overnight between long runs.

Running the Boreal Trail – Part 1

A series of guest blog posts from trail enthusiast Russ Hodgins.

Under the category of “it seemed like a good idea at the time,” here is what I did on my summer vacation:

I had a dream of running the Boreal Trail across Meadow Lake Provincial Park and thought about attempting it in one long run but navigating by headlamp on an unknown trail isn’t high on my to do list, so plans were adjusted to run over two days and thanks to my supportive family it came true.

Day 1

My wife Pam shuttled me to the start in the early morning hours of Aug. 9th, dropping me off at the east end of the trail. After the obligatory photo, I was off. Any dreams of keeping my feet dry ended immediately as it was a cool morning with a heavy dew, so within minutes me feet were soaked. Oh well, how sad, never mind.

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Shortly after starting, I came to this bog and as the trail runs parallel to the road, I hiked out, ran down the road and then bush-wacked back in to the trail and carried on. It was too early to get that wet but my joy was short lived. A few miles later while crossing a much shorter wet section, I stepped into what I thought was a shallow puddle but it went up very high on my body. It officially became a trail run.

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The first seven or so miles were kind of like this. The grass and shrubs were halfway to my knees and I didn’t realize it as the legs were fresh, but it was hard work dragging my feet through this stuff. At one point, the trail ran down the power line and I ended up in neck high reeds and ankle deep water. Once again, it was quicker to detour out to the road and bypass this short section.

The trail eventually took me to Kimball Lake, which has a large campground and cabin subdivision. Heading east after Kimball, the trail gets much better and suddenly it’s fun again. From here, it goes to Tall Timbers Riding Stables (where I had cached some extra food and water on our drive out) and then the trail is an old road going down to a Chalet which is also part of the snowmobile trail. This 33 km section from Tall Timbers to the park entry gate was the longest stretch, with no road access, so along with my Camel Back hydration pack, I carried two extra water bottles. Even with that, it was a warm day and I ran out of liquid a mile short of the park gate where the next water cache was stored.

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The chalet was my stopping place where I changed into dry socks inside and got away from the winged motivators. The mosquitoes were ever present, but not really a problem unless you stopped completely. Having said that, a nice cool September day with fewer bugs would be a much more pleasant time to wander on this trail, so I should probably go back and test that theory.

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From the Chalet, it’s a hair under four miles to the first back country campsite came to called BT 7. Much of this section runs along the Waterhen River and at one point, I scared up four sandhill cranes. This was probably the best section of the trail in terms of good footing/easy running on day one. It didn’t hurt that it was very scenic with great weather.

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The trail after BT7 comes to an area where cattle graze and runs just outside the fence. It was grazed down inside the wire so I jumped over and ran in the pasture which was parallel to the trail. After leaving back country campsite BT 7, the first sign of the grazing was crossing through a cattle gate. After this point, I had a fence on my right and after a certain point, an overgrown trail under my feet. Seeing as the cattle had done such a good job of mowing down the grass, I hopped the fence and ran on the grazed side as it was much easier.

(I have since learned that the access to BT 6 is near here but the sign wasn’t up two years ago. I’m sure it is there now)

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The cattle also make nice trails to run on but the bad part was I missed the sign that would have shown me where the back country campsite BT 6 was, thus I never got to see it.

As I was running, the trail eventually came inside the pasture and all was going well until I caught a glimpse of a trail sign on the other side of the gate. It went a short distance and ended at the water in a muskeg.

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The water looked deep enough to swim in but not all that inviting. Swamps tend to have beaver dams and after a short search and a ten minute bushwhack, I was crossing on the beaver dam to circle back and pick up the trail on the other side.

This is my view from the dam back to the trail:

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After the muskeg, the trail was decent but overgrown. There were markers about every km and as I got closer to the main road and the park entry gate, the trail became more of a road and the running got easier. That was good news as about a mile or so from the road and my next water and food cache, I downed the last fluid I had with me and was getting mighty dry in the 26 degree temperature.

And then I was there! I had also left a chocolate bar as part of the reward of crossing this 30 km plus section and Pam was waiting for me when I arrived. She had rode her bike out and joined me for a short, much needed rest.

Best I could tell, I now had 16-18 km to go until I was back at our campsite in Murray Doell Campground. What I didn’t know was what the trail was like in front of me. I knew they had built a new section but had no idea what it would be like. It’s probably a good thing that I didn’t know…

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2017 STA AGM Fast Approaching

The 2017 STA Annual General Meeting (AGM) is scheduled for Saturday March 25, 2017, from 10:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. at the Home Inn & Suites Saskatoon South (253 Willis Crescent, Saskatoon). The event flyer and agenda can be found below.

The registration fee is $25 and includes lunch, a program and a business meeting. To register,
email or call (306) 522-9326.

This year, we have some exciting and informative presentations on the docket, including:

Putting Trails On The Map: There is a lot of interest in the trail community about creating better trail maps since some are outdated and poorly designed. STA secretary Ryan Goolevitch will discuss how OpenStreetMap is a great place to send trail mapping data.

Heading Down The Right Insurance Path: Keith Bossaer of Oasis Insurance lets trail
administrators know which will insurance is right for them. If you think all you need is a “Use
At Your Own Risk” sign to cover you in the event of an accident, then this is the session for you.

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Bill Shurniak donates $1,000 to the STA

We would like to thank Bill Shurniak for his $1,000 donation to the Saskatchewan Trails Association. In making his donation, Shurniak becomes our first Trail Ranger, a classification of donors who give between $1,000 and $4,999.

For more information on ways you can support the STA, click here to visit our Get Involved page.

Deadline for STA Member Grants fast approaching

The STA would like to remind members that the deadline for applications to STA’s Members Grant Program is Dec. 31, 2016. Funding grants of $200 to $500 for maintenance such as updating maps, GPS trails, fixing signs, purchasing maintenance tools, etc., are available through an application process.

To learn more, visit our funding page.

Also, the deadline to nominate someone for the STA Volunteer Award and/or STA Stewardship Award is Feb. 15, 2017. The STA Volunteer Award is designed to recognize the outstanding volunteers who dedicate their time and effort to developing, maintaining and promoting trails and trail development in Saskatchewan. The STA Stewardship Award is designed to recognize the outstanding people and organizations that have been dedicated to the restoration, preservation and enhancement of Saskatchewan’s trail system.

To learn more, visit our awards page.

The STA would also like to remind members to notify us of any updates to your trails, as we will pass along the information to Tourism Saskatchewan to ensure the trail directory remains up to date. If you have any changes, email

SaskHiker: 5 Reasons Why Saskatchewan Winter’s Don’t Suck


Jay Brown, the SaskHiker, is an avid outdoorsmen and hiker from Saskatchewan who is continually looking for the next adventure. He runs the website, which he encourages people to use as a guide to their own adventures.

Well folks, we got hammered with an early taste of winter. With a 100 year snowfall record being broken in the past 24 hours, we are all participating in the same old conversation whenever winter decides to blast us with a taste of cold, “Why do we live here?”

I know we all love sitting on a beach basking in the warmth of the sun, but in my opinion you wouldn’t appreciate it as much if you didn’t have to spend 6 months enduring winter. To me the best part of living in Saskatchewan is the fact that we get the full experience of all the 4 seasons. We are living in a postcard world it is just that some days it is tough to see it!

So while you are grumbling at work and trying to find your winter jackets and gloves, I thought I would remind you of 5 reasons why Saskatchewan winter’s don’t suck.

Click here to visit the SaskHiker’s blog and read the entire post

Join the STA at the Saskatchewan Trail Mix

The STA will be hosting the Saskatchewan Trail Mix on October 27, 2016 from 9:00-11:30 a.m. at the Delta Hotel in Regina. The Saskatchewan Trail Mix is an opportunity for trail builders, users, and enthusiasts to meet and discuss common issues, review community needs, develop best practices, and develop new collaborations.

The agenda for the meeting includes:

• Welcome and Introductions – Saul Lipton, President, Saskatchewan Trails Association
• Overview of STA – Pat Rediger, Administrator, Saskatchewan Trails Association
• Roundtable Discussions – Each member to discuss issues that most concern their organization
• Themed Discussions – Place discussed items into various themes for further discussion, either as a group or individual discussion groups
• Possible Solutions – Identify possible solutions to the issues that have been identified
• Closing Comments – Saul Lipton

The Trail Mix allows the trail community to come together, learn from each other and work collectively on solutions that benefit everyone.

This meeting is open to everyone. If you plan on attending, please contact the STA at to register.

Saskatchewan’s section of The Great Trail now connected


Trans Canada Trail (TCT) is thrilled to announce that Saskatchewan’s section of The Great Trail is now connected, province-wide, making it Canada’s fourth province or territory – after Newfoundland & Labrador, Prince Edward Island and Yukon – to reach this milestone. This achievement was marked at a public celebration (in collaboration with Wakamow Valley Authority) on Oct. 1 in Moose Jaw, in conjunction with the unveiling of the new Wakamow Valley Suspension Bridge, part of The Great Trail.

“The Great Trail has become a living symbol of national collaboration, as we work with partners,  volunteers, donors and all levels of government to connect the Trail country-wide for Canada 150 celebrations in 2017. With Saskatchewan’s section now connected, we are much closer to making this bold dream – launched in 1992 to celebrate Canada’s 125th – a reality,” said Deborah Apps, TCT president & CEO. “Saskatchewan can be proud of being the fourth province or territory in Canada to connect their section of the Trail, and we could not have done it without that truly Canadian spirit of helping each other and working together.”

TCT partners, volunteers, donors and government supporters were in attendance, including Ralph Goodale, Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness (Regina-Wascana). Representatives from the Canadian Armed Forces were also present, including reservists from 38 Combat Engineer Regiment, 38 Canadian Brigade Group, based out of Saskatoon and Winnipeg, responsible for the construction of the Wakamow Valley Suspension Bridge, funded by Trans Canada Trail, the City of Moose Jaw and the Wakamow Valley Development Fund. The bridge was a key component in fully connecting The Great Trail in the province of Saskatchewan.

“Since 2009, it has been Wakamow Valley’s dream to build this style of bridge over the Moose Jaw River and connect the trails on either side,” said Paul Spriggs, Chair of Wakamow Valley Authority. “We couldn’t have achieved this without our donors, the Wakamow Valley Advisory Committee, TCT, Canadian Armed Forces 38 Combat Engineer Regiment, the City of Moose Jaw and the many people who attended our fundraising events.”

“The Great Trail will unite us from coast to coast to coast as a sustainable national treasure, one that helps to create economic drivers for tourism, and healthier, more active communities,” said the Honourable Ralph Goodale, Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness. “Today’s milestone celebration in Saskatchewan is an important step toward the Trail achieving full connection for Canada 150 celebrations in 2017, and a wonderful example of community collaboration.”

TCT is supported by financial contributions from donors in both the public and private sectors, who believe in TCT’s commitment to investing in vital infrastructure for safe, affordable outdoor activity, and fostering an appreciation for Canada’s spectacular natural heritage. The following TCT donors played an integral role in connecting Saskatchewan’s section of The Great Trail:

RBC Foundation
R. Howard Webster Foundation
Berkshire Hathaway Energy Canada
Information Services Corporation
Bill Shurniak
Jack Cockwell, in honour of Daphne Cockwell

All gifts to TCT are matched by the Government of Canada, as part of a funding program to support TCT’s 2017 national connection goal.  This program has the Federal Government contributing one dollar for every two raised, up to $25 million. This support allows for Trail development across the country, benefitting Canadians and strengthening communities.

Every Canadian province and territory is home to its own section of The Great Trail, which is owned and operated at the local level. Formed in 2014, the Saskatchewan Vision 2017 Trans Canada Trail Committee is comprised of dedicated volunteers from across Saskatchewan, with representation from provincial and municipal governments, Indigenous peoples and user groups. The Committee has been the driving force in connecting The Great Trail across the province.

Now connected, The Great Trail route in Saskatchewan spans nearly 1,700 kilometres from the Alberta to the Manitoba border. From prairie to pine, and waterway to greenway, Trail users can experience rural and urban municipalities, ferry crossings and several of Saskatchewan’s provincial parks.

The Great Trail currently spans over 20,000 kilometres across the country and, nationally, is 87% connected. TCT’s goal is to connect the entire network, nearly 24,000 kilometres, in 2017. But connection is only the beginning: TCT will continue to encourage Canadians and visitors to discover, experience and cherish the Trail by supporting improvements and by sustaining its integrity for future generations.

For more information, visit

October Trail of the Month: Wakamow Valley trails


Each month from May to October, the STA is promoting a trail in a different part of the province to encourage people to explore nature and be physically active.

For trail enthusiasts, there are plenty of reasons to flock to Wakamow Valley at the heart of the Moose Jaw River. The area is home to 190 bird species, and as you make your way through the Wakamow Valley trail system – featuring nearly 15 kilometres of trails – there are prime opportunities for bird watching.tag

In fact, if you visit the Wakamow Valley Authority office (276 Home St. E), you can even borrow a bird kit, including: binoculars, a bird book, a check-list of birds and bird seed.

Beyond bird watching, Wakamow Valley Trails are also designed for walking, cycling, in-line skating and water activities such as canoeing and kayaking.

Trail users will appreciate the vast amount of amenities located within the valley, including washrooms, picnic benches, BBQ pits, a playground, concession, gazebos, canoe and kayak rentals, a boat launch, pedestrian bridges, parks and plenty of free parking.

There’s plenty of great tourist destinations within the trail system:

  • Plaxton’s Lake: Picnic and water activities. Complete with sun shelter and boardwalk;
  • Lions River Park: Picnic tables and barbecues;
  • Kiwanis River Park: Picnic tables, fire pit, canoe launch and the outdoor Speed Skating Oval;
  • Rotary River Park: The Burger Cabin, McCaig Gardens, accessible playground and sun shelter;
  • Kinsmen Wellesley Park: Accessible playground, sun shelter, picnic tables and barbecues;
  • Connor Park: Barbecues, canoe launch, fire pit, picnic tables, pavilion, and playground;
  • Devonian Trail: A 4.2 km pedestrian and cycling asphalt pathway from near Union Hospital, through Plaxton’s Lake, Lions River Park and Rotary River Park to Kinsmen Wellesley Park.
  • River Park Campground: Campsites, canoe launch.