Urban parks often offer residents and visitors alike the ultimate experience. Within minutes, you can trade in laughter and the lunch crowds for bird calls and the scent of flowers. What could be better?
The Wakamow Valley in Moose Jaw provides a four-season experience, so you won’t always find flowers when you stop in to visit, though. But I can guarantee you will find almost 500 acres of protected parkland just minutes from the downtown of one of Saskatchewan’s most hospitable cities. It’s certainly one of my favorites!
Paddling the Moose Jaw River
Southern Saskatchewan doesn’t provide paddlers with a lot of opportunities, so the Moose Jaw River is a popular spot. The headwaters of the river begin on the flats about 30 km west of Weyburn and flow northwest, fed by various small tributaries and the Avonlea Creek. From Moose Jaw, the river flows northeast, joining the Qu’Appelle River about 5 km downstream of Buffalo Pound Lake. In fact, it’s the largest tributary of the Qu’Appelle River.
While the river’s flow depends on spring run-off, it’s generally a gentle river that provides a scenic float through prairie landscape. If you don’t have a kayak or canoe, it’s easy to rent one in Moose Jaw too. Just check out Boh’s Cycle and Sporting Goods.
Over the years, since Moose Jaw’s settlement in the late 1800s, the river has had both an economic and recreational impact, along with a short period of commercial use. In fact, local resident, Percy Plaxton, put a motorized launch on the river on Canada Day (July 1) in 1902. The main boat in his fleet, the Edith, decked out with a canopy and padded seats, toured adults up the river for the grand price of $.15 a ride! Couples got a cut rate of $.25 and kids just $.10.
I wish I’d heard the 16th Light Horse Regiment Band play from a float towed by the Edith, as it led a flotilla of canoes and boats decorated with Chinese lanterns on July 31, 1909. It would have been amazing to have been part of the revelry!
Hiking and Biking in Wakamow Park
Moose Jaw is a favorite destination with members of my writer’s group, and this spring we spent an afternoon exploring the 20+ km of trails. We started at the Wakamow Valley Office, leaving our car in the free parking lot, then went exploring.
We weren’t the only ones out either. Indeed, the park was a busy place with moms and strollers, dog owners and pets on leashes, cyclists, joggers, and even the local militia group out marching in time.
Getting around the park is easy, as the boardwalk paths and paved bike trails are all easily navigated. I won’t say we made good time, though, as a number of my group are bird watchers. And with 190 species of birds, there were lots of stops to listen to different melodies and try to identify birds still visible in the trees before they leafed out.
McCaig Gardens was one of my favorite spots, although I must admit if the line-up hadn’t been quite so long for ice-cream I’d have treated myself at the local lunch stand in Rotary Park.
Facilities in Wakamow Valley
Wakamow Valley provides services for those who only have an hour or two to enjoy nature just minutes from Moose Jaw’s historic downtown, or who want to pitch a tent and spend a few days. There are a variety of pavilions and lodges available for rent for larger gatherings, too.
You can book facilities on the Wakamow Valley website at: http://www.wakamow.ca/facilities/bookings/
Getting to Wakamow Valley
The following Google map shows how to get from the Moose Jaw Visitor Centre, right off of the Trans-Canada Highway, to the Wakamow Valley Office. Find the best deal, compare prices, and read what other travelers have to say at TripAdvisor about visiting Wakamow Valley.
About the Photo
The photo of two kayakers on the Moose Jaw River is taken near the Rotary River Park in the Wakamow Valley in Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan.