Author: Larry St Aubin
Today is a long drive to the northwest of Saskatchewan. We are headed to Makwa Lake Provincial Park. Instead of a direct route, I’m taking a detour to the Batoche National Historic Site.
“Makwa Sahgaiehcan is a Cree First Nation band government in Loon Lake, Saskatchewan, Canada. Their reserve is northeast of Lloydminster. The English translation of Makwa Sahgaiehcan from Plains Cree language is “Loon Lake”. It is also the administrative headquarters of the Eagles Lake band government.”
Acknowledging the ancestral lands of the Blackfoot, Cree, Assiniboine and Metis
Breakfast – Double Tree Hilton’s Wild Sage restaurant. Wanted to get an early start so breakfast at the hotel. Double Tree is also a conference centre so I was confident the chef would deliver. I was not disappointed. It was a buffet breakfast that included an omelette chef to do a personal omelette. I was not going to eat lunch so loaded up. Brought a sausage up to the room for the pugs.
Because of the amount of driving, there were not many activities planned. This will be a short post. I was looking for a place to rest, stretch and give the pugs a break. I saw a sign for Liberty, SK and took that as a good omen. Early Sunday morning and no one is around. I drive to the end of the road and find the most iconic, Saskatchewan photo op – an old, weathered grain tower. It is a cool, early morning so no tongues hanging out. They don’t look as impressed as I was.
Batoche National Historic Site was declared a national historic site in 1923, the site features the remains of the Metis village of Batoche, the site of an armed conflict between the Metis Provisional Government and the Government of Canada in 1885. The site features the restored church and rectory of the parish of St.-Antoine-de-Padoue, built before 1885.
For some reason the visitor/information centre was closed. Another person came a little later. He didn’t know why it was closed either and he had been here before. I didn’t really know where to go, other than around the building.
The Mission Ridge Walking Trail at Batoche is bordered by the lasting markers of the river lot system. Imagine yourself in the battle as you walk through the open plains. This is where Louis Riel, Gabriel Dumont and many other Métis soldiers made their last stand.
By this time it was getting hot – too hot to walk along the trail. It took me some time to figure the layout because no one was around. By then, Eve was panting so we didn’t stay.
I once did a walking tour of the more interesting monuments in Mount Pleasant Cemetery in Toronto. There is a monument to the Battle of Batoche. The carvings located here represent the amazing work of the stone masons over the last 2 centuries. Here is the Northwest Rebellion monument. It honours 2 soldiers, Thomas Moor and Isaac Hughes, who were killed at Batoche fighting Louis Riel.
Here is another view of the Northwest Rebellion monument. It is 14 feet tall and this shows the carving at the top. The granite and marble in the older section came from Scotland or Ireland as Canada’s stone quarrying was still in its infancy.
The Farmhouse Inn, St. Walburg. From Batoche, I do a 3 hour drive to St. Walburg. Needless to say it is another sunny day, blue sky and prairie flatness. St Walburg is the nearest town to Makwa where I can get takeout for dinner. The menu had the usual fare but I wanted something easy so went for a burger and fries.
Makwa Lake Provincial Park has three separate campgrounds with a combined 260 campsites. All three campsites have beach access while the largest is Stabler Point Campground with over 200 campsites. On Little Jumbo Lake is Jumbo Beach Campground. It is the smallest with 16 tenting only sites but it has beach access and a boat launch. I decided on Jumbo Beach and picked #16 and have a lovely view of the water.
However I had a very frustrating experience with the park. First, there was major road construction, on a Sunday, leading up to the park. Was stop and go as cars were directed by the signal guard. Finally, there was a big sign Makwa Lake Campground, with and arrow turning left. I followed the road to the sign Campground Registration – 500m.
Before the kiosk there was a Road Closed sign. Odd, I thought. Maybe someone forgot to take it away. I had a reservation. So I drove around it. The kiosk was closed. It directed by to go 2 km to a Customer Service Centre. There was no one there. There was Park Emergency phone number. The person took my particulars and said someone from the park would call me.
I drove around, trying to find the exit, and then it hit me. – there was no one camping in the park. Creepy. Maybe I had drive into a Twilight Zone thing. Finally a woman came on to the road and flagged me down. She said the park was closed. I showed her my reservation. She said I was in the wrong campground. I told her I just followed the big sign on the highway. She and her partner stopped to close the gates. I would not have been able to get out if she had not found me.
I got to my campground and a nice park warden stopped his truck, came up and asked “Are you Larry?” I explained what had happened and that I was good to go.
However, the construction crews were right beside me and they continued to 6:30 pm
Meewasin Interpretive Trail I had planned to go on this trail but after the 5 hour drive and mixup, I decided to just setup the tent and go to sleep.
“Makwa’s location in the transition zone between parkland and boreal forest means stands of white birch are a common site on the Meewasin Trail and throughout the park. Elsewhere along the loping and gentle route, jack pine stands evolve into popular bluffs and bushy lowlands. Fish found in the lakes include northern pike, walleye, yellow perch, rainbow trout, and tiger trout.”
There was a little path down to the lake – about 20 feet, so we went and had a look. The beach was at the other end but there were a bunch of campers there so did not go. There will be other beaches.
I checked the Weather Network and they had a Severe Thunderstorm advisory. I had spoken to someone in one of the other campgrounds who said Saskatchewan storms can appear out of the blue. I put the rain guard on and staked it down. During the night there was a gently rain but no high winds.