Prince Albert National Park
covers 3,874 km² (1,496 mi²) in central Saskatchewan
and is located 200 kilometres (120 miles) north of Saskatoon
. Though declared a national park March 24
, it had its official opening ceremeonies on August 10
performed by Prime Minister William Lyon Mackenzie King
. The park is open all year but the most visited period is from May to September. Although named for the city, the park's main entrance is actually 80 km (50 mi) north of Prince Albert
via Highways 2
. The park ranges in elevation from 488 metres (1,600') on the western side to 724 metres (2,375') on the eastern side.
Waskesiu is the only town within the park, located on the southern shore of Waskesiu Lake. Most facilities and services one would expect to find in a multi-use park are available, such as souvenir shops, small grocery stores, gas station, laundromat, restaurants, hotels and motels, rental cabins, a small movie theatre (which adds showings on rainy and cold days), Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) detachment, camp grounds, many beaches, picnic areas, tennis courts and lawn bowling greens. The facilities and services combine recreational and nature experiences. Notably, the park contains the Waskesiu Golf Course designed by famed golf course architect Stanley Thompson who also designed the course in Banff National Park.
The park also contains the cabin of naturalist and conservationist Grey Owl, on Ajawaan Lake.
Until the establishment of Grasslands National Park in the 1980s, this was the province's only national park.
Prince Albert National Park represents the southern boreal forest
region of Canada. It is a rolling, mostly forested landscape that takes in the drainage divide
between the North Saskatchewan
and Churchill Rivers
The very southern part of the park is predominantly aspen forest with an understory of elderberry, honeysuckle, rose and other shrubs and openings and meadows of fescue grassland. The fescue grasslands are considered ecologically important because of their rarity; outside the park, most of the native fescue grasslands have been lost to the plough or to urban development. The aspen forest/meadow mosaic in the southwest corner of the park is particularly unique as it sustains a growing herd of more than 400 Plains Bison, the only free-ranging herd in its original range in Canada that has a full array of native predators, including wolves.
Most of the park is dominated by coniferous forests, with the cover of jack pine and white spruce becoming more prevalent the farther north one looks. Woodland caribou from a regional population that is declining due to loss of habitat to forest logging range sometimes into the park, but their core habitat lies outside the park to the north. White-tailed deer, elk and, locally, moose are the common ungulates. Wolves are fairly common..
The park is noted for its numerous lakes including three very large lakes - Waskesiu, Kingsmere and Crean. The water quality is high and fish populations robust, except for lake trout that were commercially fished to near-extinction in Crean Lake in the early 20th century and, in spite of protection, have yet to recover their former numbers. Northern pike, walleye, suckers and lake whitefish are among the most common larger fish. One of Canada's largest white pelican colonies nests in an area closed to public use on Lavallee Lake in the northwest corner of the park, and pelicans, loons, mergansers, ospreys and bald eagles are common in summer. Otters are seen regularly, year round. Winter is an especially good time to find otters as they spend considerable time around patches of open water on the Waskesiu Lake Narrows and the Kingsmere and Waskesiu Rivers.
The boreal forest extends northerly into the Canadian Shield
area from the agricultural zones of southern Canada. Prince Albert National Park lies south of the Shield in landscapes that were shaped by Pleistocene glaciers
that deposited glacial till, sand and other materials that were later colonized by trees and shrubs. The ecosystems of Prince Albert National Park are lush and productive. During the warm, humid summers there is abundant insect life and numerous fungi, sustaining a remarkable diversity of boreal birds and other wildlife. There are many lakes and rivers creating wonderful water systems for a variety of waterfowl..
Some of the many animals are elk (wapiti), moose, black bear
, red fox
, moose, beaver
, deer, badger
, otter, red squirrels
, wolf. A herd of plains bison roams in the southern areas of the park where grasslands and woodlands mix. Flycatchers
, Tennessee warblers
, double-crested cormorants
, red-necked grebes
, brown creepers
, three-toed woodpeckers
, bald eagle, osprey, great blue herons
, many species of ducks
, and the common loon
are just a few of the water fowl and birds which make their home in the park. There are 21 species of fish recorded in the park, including Iowa darter
, yellow perch
, brook stickleback
, spottail shiner
, northern pike (locally called "jack fish"), walleye
(locally called "pickeral", and lake trout.
There are archaeological traces of pre-history in the park reserve in the form of tools which have been located.
- Early Pre contact (11,000 to 7500 BP [Before Present])
- Middle Pre contact (7500 to 2000 BP)
- Late Pre contact (2000 to 200 BP)
- Post Contact or Historic (200 BP to Present).
The Rocky or Woods Cree would be found using this area during the 1600-1800s.
At Waskesiu Lake was an early Hudson's Bay Company fur trade post between 1886 and 1893.
In the early 1900s the industries of fishing and logging were carried out in this boreal forested area. The large 1919 forest fire eliminated the logging industry.
The Dominion Parks Service hired Grey Owl
, Archibald Stanfield Belaney (1888
) as the first naturalist. He lived on Ajawaan Lake
in Prince Albert National Park and wrote of wilderness protection: Pilgrims of the Wild
(1935), Sajo and the Beaver People
(1935) and Empty Cabin
There are many things to do in this park:
Scenic driving tours
There are a few main roads through the park.
- The Narrows Road along Waskesiu Lake's southern shore, with many points of interest and picnic areas, ending at a 200 metre narrows, where there is a campground.
- Lakeview Drive or Scenic Route #263 which provides access to several other lakes: Namekus, Trappers, Sandy (also called Halkett); as well as many trails.
- Highway 264 to Kingsmere River, which accesses a small boat or canoe launch site mid-way between Kingsmere and Waskesiu lakes, and a trail through a railway portage to Kingsmere Lake.
There are many picnic sites within the park, set up with picnic tables, scenic views, campfire pits and swimming areas.
- Namekus Day
- Sandy Lake
- South Gate
- Meridian Day
- South Bay
- Trippes Beach
- King Island
- Paignton Beach
- The Narrows
- Waskesiu River
- Waskesiu Landing (Main Marina)
- Point View
- Birch Bay
- Heart Lakes
These trails are less than 2 kilometers in length. They each have descriptive guided brochures which help to identify the natural sights along the way.
- Boundary Bog Trail
- Mud Creek Trail
- Treebeard Trail
- Waskesiu River Trail
- Kingsmere River Trail
- Amiskowan Trail
- Ice-Push Ridge Trail
- Narrows Peninsula Trail
- Spruce River Highlands Tower Trail
There are longer trails for the backpacker and hiker which vary from 13 kilometers in length and to 54 kilometers (return).
- Kingfisher Trail
- Grey Owl Trail
- Freight Trail
- Kinowa Trail
- Elk Trail
- Fish Trail
- Hunters rail
- Spruce River Highlands Trail
Surrounding Waskesiu Lake there are several beaches to take in swimming during the hot summer months. There are also good beaches at the south end of Kingsmere Lake (boat or trail access), Namekus Lake, and Sandy Lake.
Bagwa Canoe Route and Bladebone Canoe Route are two canoe routes of varying lengths. As well the park offers a multitude of lakes which are amenable to the canoe enthusiast. Amiskowan, Shady, Heart, Kingsmere and Waskesiu lakes are just a few of them.
Power boats are only permitted on some Prince Albert National Park lakes. Motor boats are allowed on Waskesiu, Crean, Kingsmere, Sandy and the Hanging Heart Lakes. There is a limit of 40 horse power motors on Kingsmere. The Waskesui Marina, Heart Lakes Marina and the Narrows have boat launches (permit and fee required) and docks. Boat and canoe rentals are available at all three, by the hour or by the day. The Waskesui Marina has a concrete breakwater. A permit is required to use boat launch facilities. Personal watercraft are not allowed on any lakes. Canoes and sail boats are allowed on all waters.
Just as those who used the waters for commercial fishing in the early 1900s, campers may also find relaxation fishing for Northern Pike, Walleye, Lake Trout, Whitefish, or Yellow Perch. The park requires purchase of its own licences to fish in the park. Limits and seasons are different than in the province of Saskatchewan. Some areas, e.g., spawning grounds, are closed to fishing.
At this park one can choose from serviced or unserviced 'front country' camping or go by canoe/boat and backpacking, and choose 'back country' camping. Most back country camping occurs on Kingsmere and Crean lakes. Permits and fees are required for all camping, whether front or back country. Front country sites can be reserved by website or telephone. Open fires are allowed at campsites, after payment for a "fire permit" (fire permits are not required in picnic areas).
The following are accessible by automobile and can accommodate trailers and motorhomes:
- Beaver Glen Campground on the east margins of the Waskesiu town site has electricity to the sites (no water or septic hook-ups), washrooms with hot and cold water and showers, central septic tank service and drinking water.
- The Narrows Campground has flush toilet washrooms with cold water only, and no other services.
- Namekus, Trappers, Sandy Lakes have septic tank toilets, water source (not drinkable without treatment).
There is a Trailer Court, with full motorhome and trailer hook-ups (no cable TV), to the west of the Beaver Glen Campground in the Waskesui townsite. Open fires are not allowed in the trailer court.
There are a series of boat-accessible campsites - the level of waves that can come up with overnight weather changes on Waskesiu, Kingsmere and Crean lakes, provide some risk for boats that cannot be completely pulled out of the water at night.
The nature centre in the Waskesiu townsite has information about interpretative walks, films, and activities, and will assist in providing park visitors with interpretive programs for their choice of activity, tours and special events. There are evening interpretative programs at Beaver Glen Campground at an outdoor theatre.
Cycling is permitted on roads anywhere and on most trails. The following trails are specifically designated for bicycles
- Anglin Lake Trail - 12 km return
- Freight Trail - 27 km one way
- Elk Trail - 39 km one way
- Fish Lake Trail - 12 km one way
- Hunters Lake Trail - 12 km one way
- Westside Boundary Trail - 37 km one way
- Red Deer Trail - three loops totalling 17 km
- Kinowa Trail - 5 km one way
- Amyot Lake Trail - 15.5 km loop
Bicycle rentals are available in Waskesui townsite.
Wildlife and bird watching
Flycatchers, Tennessee warblers, red-necked grebe, brown creepers, nuthatches, three-toed woodpeckers, bald eagle, osprey, great blue herons, common loon are just a few of the many bird species to be seen in the park. Elk, black bear, fox, moose, beaver, deer, otter are a sampling of wild life of the park area.
Although most people visit the park in summer, the best wildlife watching is often in the winter. Wolves often travel on the frozen lakes and along the ploughed roads, and elk and deer are common right in the town of Waskesiu. Open water at the Narrows on Waskesiu Lake and where the Waskesiu River exits from the lake makes otter sightings very reliable. Foxes, including the red, cross and silver colour phases, are frequent sightings in winter too.
Stanley Thompson designed an 18 hole golf course in the park. It was built in the early 1930s. Its official name is the Waskesiu Golf Course, but is often called "The Lobstick" after a tournament it hosts each year.