Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Saskatoon & Fort Battleford

My mom and I ventured out to Saskatoon the weekend before last. It's a 5-hour drive from Edmonton and neither of us had been.
We made a pitstop a short ways east of Edmonton at Elk Island National Park to walk the boardwalk at Astotin Lake and drive the loop road in search of bison (no such luck).
saw some baby ducks and red-winged blackbirds
but nothing on the safari...sneaky bison
We followed the Yellowhead east to Vermillion, home to Lakeland College, an agricultural college whose size felt a bit disproportionate to that of the town.
Our next stop was Lloydminster, which straddles the Alberta-Saskatchewan border (literally -- half of the town is in each province -- not so fun when we see patients from the Saskatchewan side and can't access their electronic medical records...). We stopped for a picnic beside an old church.
the border -- a little anticlimactic
Alberta - Canada - Saskatchewan
St. John's Minster Anglican Church
We continued for another 2.5 hours through golden canola fields and river valleys to Saskatoon.
After a KFC dinner stop we drove into town to take a look around. Although it's the largest city in Saskatchewan, Saskatoon's not a big city. It actually feels a bit like Victoria. We appreciated the quiet; the city was probably at its most laid back on this hot summer weekend.

Our first stop was the University of Saskatchewan, an old campus with beautiful stone buildings -- the most unique one we saw being a tiny observatory.
Next to the university, overlooking the South Saskatchewan River Valley, is Varsity View, a neighbourhood of elm-lined streets and character houses. We walked around for a bit to get a feel for it.
elm tunnel 
this house's entire front yard is a garden
sweet bachelor's buttons
one of seven bridges that earns Saskatoon its "city of bridges" nickname
these houses have the above view, lucky ducks
We crossed the river to Kinsmen Park which features probably the best kids' playground I've ever seen, complete with a splash park, zipline, and ferris wheel.
$2 a ride; too bad it wasn't running
We picked up Tim Hortons and headed back to Quality Inn for the night.

The next morning we took a walk around the downtown. It's a nice area, with old stone buildings revitalized by trendy shops and restaurants. At its heart is the Delta Bessborough Hotel, an old railway hotel that resembles a castle.
We walked along Meewasin Trail and happened upon Pets in the Park, basically a park social for dogs (and their owners). There were vendor booths and demonstrations, but I think most folks were there for the dogs (and cats -- we did see one, which promptly retreated to its crate).
all sorts of dogs
a gentle Newfie + friendly owner
We headed back west on the Yellowhead, through canola fields and small towns. Borden, where we stopped to fill up the tank from an old-fashioned gas pump, has some neat old buildings.
We continued on to Battleford, a small town founded as a fur trading post and North-West Mounted Police fort. We visited the latter, Fort Battleford, which has been restored as a Parks Canada National Historic Site (so was free for Canada 150!).
On the sunny afternoon of our visit it was hard to imagine the site's grim history. As we learned from the exhibits, Canada's largest mass execution occurred at Fort Battleford in 1885, when 8 First Nations men were hanged after the Frog Lake Massacre, a Cree uprising during the North-West Rebellion, in the face of poor treatment by the Canadian government.
We toured five restored outbuildings -- a barracks, guardhouse, sick horse stable, and two houses -- and learned a little more from chatting with the historical interpreters (which looked to be a fun summer job, aside from the having to wear a Mountie uniform when it's 30 °C out).
NWMP barrack
commanding officer's house
fancy for its time
Highlights of the drive back included an ice cream stop in Lloydminster and bison and elk sightings at Elk Island (just from the highway this time!).
All in all a great weekend that brought new appreciation for lovely Saskatoon!


  1. That's so cool! I live in Winnipeg Manitoba and I went there too (about 2 years ago). The scenery is really pretty (very flat but very pretty). Hope you had an awesome time there!

    1. I agree, the beauty of the prairies is so often overlooked. Winnipeg's a great city too -- would love to see more of it some day.


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