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Battlefords Park

by Dave Yanko

BATTLEFORDS PROVINCIAL PARK — Battlefords Provincial Park takes its name from the riverside communities located 40 km (25 miles) south of here on Highway 4. It's one of Saskatchewan's 'recreational' parks.

That means it was designed and developed for more intensive use than a 'natural environment' park, where the emphasis is on preserving for public enjoyment large tracts of unspoiled land. Here, the amenities and facilities were created with a view to serving the recreational needs of many people, all at once. You might say that in these (typically) smaller recreational parks like Battlefords, flora and fauna take a back seat to people.

Sunset on Jackfish Lake.

The beach at Jackfish Lake is the focal point of the park, and it is grand. It's more than two football fields in length, 25 metres (yards) wide, and the water remains fairly shallow a good distance from the shoreline — we did encounter a few weeds in the deeper water. It's situated in the core area, on the edge of one of four campgrounds that support a total of more than 400 campsites in the park.

This large beach also serves as a grandstand for the water sports and boating activities occurring on the lake beyond the broad crescent of buoys demarcating the swimming area. And there's certainly plenty going on out there on a nice summer day.

A portion of the large, well-maintained beach.

Jackfish (and the adjacent Murray Lake, located outside of the park boundaries) is cottage country. Campers who bring their boats to the lake for the weekend augment an armada of crafts launched from scores of cabins on the north and east sides of Jackfish, including those from the resort community of Cochin just south of the park boundary. Meota, a lovely little resort, regional park and retirement community on the south end of the lake, contributes its share of vessels, as well.

We saw water skiers, tubing aficionados and people on 'jet skis' sharing (surprisingly close) quarters with anglers and pleasure boaters. All appeared to be enjoying themselves.

Bicycle, boat and water-craft rentals are available near the public boat launch at the north end of the beach. In this same vicinity there's a miniature golf course, a ball diamond, a horseshoe pitch and group camping sites.

Above the beach are wash and change rooms, and a modern store containing camping supplies and a fast food concession. All around the main beach area is a lush and expansive grass carpet as well as two, excellently-maintained beach volley ball courts and a modern creative playground. Two parking lots, large enough surely to handle any weekend surge of visitors, separate this extended beach area from campsites in the Centre Campground.

Just paddling around at the beach.

The camping facilities at Battlefords are among the best I've seen in Saskatchewan's provincial parks. The popular Centre Campground, where we staked our claim, will appeal to people who want to be close to the beach area and other amenities, while the equally popular North Campground offers a quieter and more secluded camping experience. Some sites in the North Campground are carved out of thick bush and others straddle small meadows.

The beach- volleyball area is a popular spot.

Group camping is no afterthought at this park. The several areas we checked out were well designed around large fire pits, with drinking water, firewood and washrooms close at hand. A picnic pavillion on a rise overlooking the beach appears to be a good place to feed a medium to large group of people.

If the beach at Battlefords Provincial Park is the focal point for most visitors, Jackfish Lodge Golf & Conference Centre is the major attraction for many others. The facility features a first-rate, 18-hole course that hugs the lake, modern accommodations (58 rooms, three of which are wheelchair accessible), a licenced restaurant, lounge, conference rooms and banquet facilities.

The focus is fun.

There are two short nature trails in the park, and a lengthier mountain bike trail winds through the hills near the park entrance. If you're new to the park, watch for the camping-permit office on your right after entering the main gates. It's easy to miss.

While the setting of Battlefords Provincial Park is without a doubt a pretty one, the park is not really a place designed for people to enjoy nature on her own terms. If you're seeking pristine wilderness, backwoods hiking or camping, or a quiet canoe ride on a lake with few other boaters, you would do well to look elsewhere.

But if you're looking for an outdoor experience that includes lots of other people, a nice range of camping and recreational facilities, and a nearby lake for swimming, fishing, water-skiing and boating, Battlefords Provincial Park may well be just the spot.

To learn more about Battlefords or other provincial parks, or to use Saskatchewan Park's online campsite reservation system, click here.

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