by Dave Yanko
CANDLE LAKE -- Legend has it Candle Lake received its name from
First Nations people who believed the lake was haunted.
It's said their unease arose from the strange, glowing lights that
appeared on the water at the northern end of the lake where several
Indian graves are situated. According to the legend, Indian people
visited this area during hunting expeditions but never settled here
because they believed the 'candles' on the lake were a bad omen.
Today, the legend and mysterious lights add to the charm of this
small but popular provincial park and resort village, located less
than an hour's drive from The City of Prince Albert in the mixed
boreal forest of central Saskatchewan.
"I used to see them when I was a kid," longtime resident Dennis
Chamberlain says of the mysterious lights. "They looked something
like very low northern lights, bouncing around."
|Loons, but no lights.
Chamberlain says it's unlikely all aboriginal people were frightened
by the lights. Indian artifacts discovered in the area that's now
the Minowukaw campground show First Nations peoples were at least
visiting this area for hundreds of years. An old Hudson Bay Company
report of a smallpox outbreak in the district seems a more likely
explanation as to why so few Indian people were present when Euro-Canadians
like Chamberlain's father settled in the region in the 1920s.
"The haunting was probably part of it. But the (local history)
says they left the area because of smallpox. . . Those that didn't
The unusual lights continue to be reported on occasion. Scientific
speculation suggests the 'candles' are swamp gas or a phosphorescent
glow created by decaying drift wood.
Chamberlain says visitors interested in trying to spot the legendary
lights should consider camping at the Minowukaw campground (pronounced
'min-na-WA-kuh'), on the southeast shore of the lake. Two other
longtime residents have reported regular sightings from that area,
If you've never been to Candle before, I recommend spending
the hour it takes to check out both Minowukaw and Sandy Bay campgrounds,
the latter situated on the west side of the lake. Gate staff are
happy to let you do this, so long as you have a park entry pass
(see links at bottom).
Sandy Bay campground has 85 sites with electricity and 59 without.
Wheelchair-accessible and group camping sites are available, and
the service centre has coin-operated showers, laundry facilities
and flush toilets.
The beach at Sandy is long and features beautiful white sand -
Candle Lake is renowned for its fine, sandy beaches. From the campground,
it's a five-minute drive to the healthy little resort community
of Candle Lake, where there's a good assortment of supply stores,
restaurants, bars, lodges/cabins, services and another fine beach.
On the way to town, you might want to check out Castle Gardens Crafts
and Tea Shop. It features a moat, a tiny marina that allows access
by boat, and a nice little play area for the kids.
|- courtesy Tourism Saskatchewan
|The kids love the
fine sandy beaches at Candle.
I opted for the smaller campground at Minowukaw. On the night I chose to perch myself
on the beach to try my luck at viewing the lights, three loons patrolled
the shoreline providing a wonderful soundtrack to a crimson sunset
over the lake. But I saw no unusual lights.
The loons who serenaded me and other Minowukaw campers well into
the night were far from the only creatures I observed in the park.
The amount of 'watchable' wildlife at Candle is equal to what's
available in Prince Albert National Park, one of best places in
Saskatchewan for viewing wildlife. For better or worse, depending
on your perspective, I'm told Candle has far fewer bears.
During an early morning visit to Fisher Creek, a pleasant little
recreation area just a few kilometres south of Sandy Bay campground,
I was awestruck by a great blue heron that I startled as I walked
near a marshy area beside the creek. He scrambled to take flight. But between each wing stroke, the
large and graceful bird lost almost as much altitude as it gained
during the previous thrust. This surging takeoff was all the more
pronounced by the heron's long, dangling legs that surfed the air
White-tailed deer are abundant in the park. The short, paved road
leading from access Highway 120 to the Resort Village of Candle
Lake is a particularly good stretch of road for viewing the timid
creatures. I spotted at least two and as many as seven deer grazing
at the edge of the forest during my half-dozen trips down this road.
Elsewhere I saw several fox, a dozen rabbits, a white pelican, and
numerous greebs, squirrels and ducks.
|The pretty (and
well stocked) trout pond near Sandy Bay features a paved trail
that leads to this fishing platform.
Candle Lake is classified as a 'recreational' park, a designation
that sanctions a little more development than what's allowed in
Saskatchewan's 'natural environment' parks. Many people from the
cities of Prince Albert and Saskatoon have cabins at the lake, where
they retreat for weekends and holidays. That means Candle can be
a bustling place when the seasonal visitors join the permanent residents
who live in resort village, located near the southern tip of the
Water skiing, boating, swimming and fishing are the most popular
recreational activities in the area - anglers can fish for pike,
walleye, perch and whitefish. A few minutes north of Sandy Bay campground
there's a wheelchair-accessible trout pond that's stocked with 800
fish a month during May, June, July and August.
The Candle Lake
is a nine-hole, grass-green facility carved out of the natural forest,
and there's mini-golf, an arcade and a petting zoo at the south
end of the lake. Snowmobiling, cross-country skiing and ice fishing
are popular winter activities.
If long, sandy beaches and lots of watchable wildlife are high
on your list of vacation priorities, Candle's a great choice.
For more information on Candle Lake Provincial Park, and for
general information on camping at provincial parks in Saskatchewan,
check out the parks branch site here.
Candle Lake park is open year 'round.
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