Northern Saskatchewan is a land rich with outdoor adventures. Its world-class national and provincial parks provide opportunities for a wide array of recreational pursuits, from camping, hiking and fishing to canoeing and wildlife spotting. The prairie province is an underrated and under-the-radar destination for travelers looking for remote and wild adventures.
Paddling the Churchill River System
The Churchill River flows a 1600km east and northeast across the lowlands of northern Saskatchewan and Manitoba all the way to Hudson Bay. It’s actually a series of island-bespeckled lakes linked by whitewater rapids and waterfalls – paddling this forested river system is on most every canoeing enthusiast’s bucket list.
There are many paths suitable for novices and experts alike, several of which were voyager routes used during the days of fur trading. The most popular section to run starts at Otter Rapids in Missinipe, accessed by Highway 102, and flows along the northern edge of Lac La Ronge Provincial Park.
It’s a good idea to hire an outfitter to take care of all the details for you. Churchill River Canoe Outfitters offers custom and pre-packaged tours that include guides, gear, food, and transportation. It also has cabin rentals and a hostel where you can stay pre- and post-trip. Navigating these waterways can be challenging and some areas are so remote you won’t see another group for days, so it’s important to know what you’re getting into.
Highlights include the historic Holy Trinity Anglican Church at Stanley Mission, Nistowiak Falls, one of Saskatchewan’s highest waterfalls (10m), whitewater rapids, and the chance to see loons, pelicans, and eagles.
The exquisite lakes and mellow waters of Saskatchewan are part of the reason Saskatchewan is considered one of the world’s top fishing destinations. Its plethora of options can make it tough for anglers to pick where they want to start and what they want to catch – from fishing for arctic grayling and trophy-sized pike at Reindeer Lake to exotic hybrids like splake and tiger trout at Gem Lakes in Narrow Hills Provincial Park.
The northern Saskatchewan region is home to walleye, pike, trout, perch, bass, whitefish, sauger, goldeye, and many more. Book a package with an outfitter like Arctic Lodges, Scott Lake Lodge, or Adventure Destinations International so you’ll have the advantage and expertise of a local guide as well as a cozy log cabin to sleep at and gourmet meals to eat.
If you prefer more of an independent trip, head to the Jan Lake and Deschambault Lake area. There are cabin accommodations available, and you’ll have a good time fishing for walleye, northern pike, whitefish, and yellow perch there.
People come from all over the world to hike the trails in northern Saskatchewan. The prairie province offers plenty of lake views, historic trails, wildlife, and endurance opportunities on its hiking trails. Whether you’re looking for something long and arduous or short and sweet, you’ll have no trouble finding the perfect trail.
If you’re up for the challenge, a classic Saskatchewan hiking endeavor is the 40km out-and-back Grey Owl Trail to Grey Owl’s Cabin on Ajawaan Lake in Prince Albert National Park. Grey Owl, formerly known as Archibald Belaney, was a controversial wildlife conservationist and author who lived there with his wife Anahareo and their two pet beavers, Jellyroll and Rawhide. There are five backcountry campgrounds on the shore of Kingsmere Lake along the trail so you can do an overnight or two on the trail.
Prince Albert National Park has a high concentration of curated hikes, but Meadow Lake Provincial Park features the Boreal Trail, which at 135km is the longest hiking trail in Saskatchewan. There also are excellent backcountry campsites available on the trail.
No matter where your adventures take you in northern Saskatchewan, you’ll easily be able to find drive-up and backcountry campsites to stay at. Many of the campgrounds at the national and provincial parks are open year-round. Though it’s not unreasonable to expect to find a spot at the last minute, it’s wise to book your campsite ahead of time using the park’s reservation system.
Washroom facilities, fire pits, and water refill stations are well-maintained at the sites. Some campgrounds offer electrical hookups, laundry, fish cleaning facilities, and other amenities, such as kayak and canoe rentals.
Some parks offer Camp-Easy, which is a good option for those traveling without their own camping equipment. If you book one of these, you’ll get a tent or yurt with cots or bunk beds, as well as picnic tables, camping chairs, a camp stove with propane, a fire pit, and an axe for wood chopping.
Also known as the Northern Lights, the Aurora Borealis is an unpredictable astronomical phenomenon caused by geomagnetic activity. Because of Saskatchewan’s geographic location from the 49th to 60th parallel, the province is perfectly situated for Aurora Borealis viewing. This ephemeral light show attracts hopeful stargazers from around the globe, hoping to catch a glimpse of dancing colors in the night sky.
You have a chance to see the Northern Lights in August and September in the towns of La Ronge and Melfort, which have good track records for the frequency of Aurora Borealis. Milton Lake Lodge offers aurora experiences.