Prince Albert National Park

(continuer en français) – Published: December 25, 2020

The national park is located 56 miles, 90 kilometres, from the city of Prince Albert, north of the main populated area of the province of Saskatchewan. Beyond this point, the boreal forest is home to only a few small communities, mostly the result of First Nations settlement around former trading posts and religious missions.

Since its creation in 1927, the park has provided a good example of the boreal forest ecosystem, striving to preserve its ecological balance while making it accessible under optimal conditions. With the busy summer months, the park sometimes tends to look like a simple recreation base, especially around Waskesiu.

Grey Owl Trail

Grey Owl, whose real name was Archibald Belaney (1888-1938), was born in England and emigrated to Canada in 1906. Passionate about nature and Indian culture, he soon pretended to be of Amerindian Métis descent. He became a warden at Prince Albert Park and lived in an isolated cabin where he managed to domesticate beavers. In addition to lectures around the world, he published numerous articles and several books on the protection of nature.

The old Grey Owl cabin is still in the park, it can be reached as it was in the old days at the end of a 12 mile, 20 kilometre, trail that takes the day. The narrow path sometimes runs along the Kingsmere Lake, elsewhere it winds through the trees. It is also possible to go directly across the lake to get close to it and access it.

I didn’t go all the way to the end of the trail, but this other warden’s cabin is a slightly modernized version of Grey Owl’s one. Its singular history continues to motivate many visitors to make this hike. Next to his old, preserved cabin is his burial place where his wife and daughter joined him.

Kingsmere River Trail

This trail is only a few kilometres long and is fairly representative of most of the trails accessible to visitors in the park. It begins near the Kingsmere River, connecting Waskesiu and Kingsmere Lakes. This river has a rapids section and is therefore not fully navigable. A portage trail with rail and wagon is used to cross the obstacle.

The French syntax is sometimes a little mishandled, but the effort must be appreciated.

After the portage, the trail continues along the lake to a small backcountry campsite. From there it is still possible to continue along the lake shore, but the progression becomes more and more difficult. Once past an ideally located warden’s cabin with a view of Kingsmere Lake, the trail loses its official and organized character until it is interrupted by a marshy area.

It soon becomes clear that the real way to discover the park is by canoe and kayak. Despite the disadvantage of portages, they provide access to areas where hikers cannot find a way through. Motorboats are also allowed, albeit at a slow speed.

Narrows Peninsula Trail

The park has more than 90 miles, 150 kilometres, of hiking trails and an unknown number of mosquitoes eagerly awaiting hikers. The Narrows Peninsula, mainly swampy terrain, is one of their favourite hangouts.

Sometimes overlooking Waskesiu Lake, the hiking trail passes over a promontory where a trading post was once established. There are no vestiges of this site, but it is possible to understand the advantageous position of such a location.

The signposted trail makes a loop around the peninsula. On that day, part of the boardwalk built to cross a marshy area was in an impassable state. So I decided to improvise off-track to get round the problem. Bad idea, apart from the spongy ground, a horde of voracious mosquitoes didn’t accept being disturbed.

Waskesiu

Waskesiu means red deer or elk in the Cree language.

The village of Waskesiu is the only permanently inhabited area in the park and serves as a service centre for the rest of the park. In addition to shops and outfitters, several lodging options are available as well as restaurants.

After the creation of the park in 1927, Canada went through years of economic recession. Between the unemployment resulting from the stock market crisis of 1929 and the exodus of ruined small farmers, the available labour force was abundant. Numerous major public works programmes were launched in Canada, both to equip the country and to provide jobs. Several developments were thus carried out in the park, such as the construction of the Nature Centre, which dates from this period.

Waskesiu Lake is the best equipped lake in the park, offering many activities for visitors. Starting with a beautiful sandy beach where the waves come to break like at the seaside.

Prince Albert National Park is home to typical wildlife of the region including a herd of wood bison and wolf packs. However, they are difficult to see, especially in the summer. On leaving Waskesiu, two young elk appear to be more greedy for tender grass than worried about traffic.

To be informed of upcoming articles, register here (it’s free).

Other articles about Saskatchewan:

To be informed of upcoming articles, register here (it’s free).

19 comments

  1. What a dream to explore that breathtaking landscape by foot or by kayak. The forest looks so dense and diverse with its mix of trees compared to the forest where I live. Thanks for taking us deep into Canada! And Merry Christmas, Lookoom!

    Liked by 1 person

    • I’m sure you will find hikes in every province and territory that you will enjoy. In Prince Albert, it’s relatively flat with spaces created by the lakes and rivers between the trees; the boreal forest offers a diversity of species that gradually shifts northward.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I was born in Prince Albert, left at 6 months and have never been back. Amazing article! Can’t believe you know Canada so well🙂. The mosquitos are legendary though.

    Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s