The following provides an account of a 5 day canoe trip on the South Saskatchewan River from Leader, SK to Saskatchewan Landing, SK, Canada from July 25 to 29, 2009.
On “Day Zero” aka “Getting There”, Sarah and I drove to Leader, Saskatchewan via Alsask. From Alsask to Leader we travelled highways I have never travelled before. South of Alsask we encountered an abandoned GULF gas station in the middle of the prairies, with no other farms or buildings in sight. There was an old, crooked sign hanging near the highway indicating “GULF”. I considered and now regret not stopping to take what would have been an interesting photo. I vow to go back, but not likely to travel the highway again for a long time. The highways were very windy as they attempted to follow the road allowance grid pattern (as most highways in SK did at one time).
As we crossed the South Sask River just north of Leader, I surveyed the chocolate coloured river with exposed sandbars and somewhat open prairie landscape along the shores, and wondered if the route selection was a good choice, especially for Sarah’s first canoe trip. I was mainly concerned with possible extensive shallow water/sandbars that we would have to drag the canoe through and high winds with little trees for shelter. Oh yeah, and the poisonous snakes…
We arrived at Sarah’s friend’s home (the S’s) in Leader by late afternoon. We enjoyed some cool drinks, as the weather was very hot. On the way to check out the town campground, Mr. S and I ran into his friend who has done some canoeing on the South Sask River. I was eager to hear any information he could provide as the stretch of river we were planning to paddle is not a common or popular route, so I was not able to find any information on the internet about it beforehand.
He had canoed on the South Sask River mostly upstream of Leader (CFB base to Leader), but also to Lemburg Ferry Regional Park (but not beyond). He mentioned there are interesting cliffs along the river upstream of Leader by The Forks (Red Deer and South Sask Rivers), which we would miss as we were starting downstream from the forks. He also mentioned to watch out for rattle snakes and bull snakes. We packed leather boots with high ankles for hiking, in preparation for this. Mr. S seemed to wonder why on earth we would choose such a vacation!
We set up our tent two blocks away at the town campground near the railway tracks. Cooked and ate supper. Mr. S drove us down to the river to scope out a launching site, about 3 km west of the Highway 21 bridge.
As we observed a spectacular sunset, my concerns about the trip washed away and were replaced with anticipation of a new adventure. This feeling seems to come strongest with self-propelled trips and makes the extra work of preparation and planning worthwhile.
An irrigation pump droned across the River for the small strips of cropland in the river valley bottom. After this Mr. S gave us a tour of the animal sculptures around town, a popular “tourist” attraction of many small Sask towns and villages. The local primary economies that fuel the town are mainly natural gas extraction and agriculture.
There were no other campers in the town campground at the time, however it was a little noisy from traffic on the adjacent street. Considering this plus streetlights shining through the tent walls made it quite late before falling asleep (5-6 hours sleep that night). There also seems to be an adjustment period when transitioning to sleeping in tents from buildings (that I often forget about).
There were no washrooms at the campground (water and sewer hookup for RV’s only, not intended for tenting). Sarah had to rush to the adjacent store in the morning to use the washroom.