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Chitek Repose

by Dave Yanko

It's a bane of those who scribble about travel: by casting light on unspoiled gems, we threaten a good part of their appeal. I'm thinking about this as I write about a midsummer, long-weekend tour of the lands west of Prince Albert National Park. But I'm still writing.

Chitek Lake, one of several spots we visited, is a curious aggregation of water, provincial recreation site, resort village and vacation land owned by Pelican Lake First Nation. The area is by no means unknown—one of the few available pieces of printed information about Chitek notes the summertime population of the resort village is "many times" that of the 200 souls who call the place "home" on a year 'round basis. And there's no question there's a construction boom underway as we visit.

Walking down to beach at Chamakese Resort campground on Chitek Lake.

But I suspect that, for the vast majority of Saskatchewan folks—and certainly for most people who live outside our provincial boundaries—Chitek is unknown. It's one of those "Saskatchewan secrets" you're not apt to learn a lot about by googling "Chitek". As one summer resident of a beautiful little subdivision told me: "It's like Emma or Christopher, without the crazy."

Just over two hours north of Saskatoon, virtually all the way on paved highway, Chitek is a relatively small lake with several beaches, two campgrounds, and reportedly good walleye and pike fishing. We pitched our spankin' new tent in the provincial recreation site located just west of town on the easterly shore of the lake. Even though we arrived on a Thursday afternoon, most of the more than three dozen sites were taken (as of 2012, the rec site had 26 electrical and 24 non-electrical sites - ed.).

It's not an outstanding campground, by northern Saskatchewan standards. It's a perfectly serviceable campground, however, where the majority of sites are set amid airy pines and sheltered by aspens from the breeze off the lake. And we found the single service centre to be clean and the showers hot. But the campground's open nature seems more suited to RVs than to tents and camper trailers. Our initial concerns about the spare supply of firewood were quelled when we realized the small pile was replenished frequently.

Yes, the recreation site is serviceable and practical. But what's most attractive about Chitek is the First Nations land on the south end of the lake. That, and Chitek's close proximity to more than a dozen other beautiful northern lakes.

Kids enjoy the shallow water at the beach at Chamakese Resort, owned and operated by Pelican Lake First Nation.

When we "discovered" the Chamakese Resort campground on the day after we arrived, we were sorely tempted to break camp and move to this attractive location. Almost all of the first six or seven sites at the Chamakese campground are just the kind of cozy, leafy and private spots I look for when I'm tenting. There are more of these well-sheltered sites sprinkled here and there elsewhere in the campground—it's worth noting here that although Chamakese is called a resort, there are no fixed-roof accommodations for rent. Cabins, at least, are planned for the future, and Chamakese promotes houseboat rentals. Meantime, there's a limited number of small rental cabins, as well as lodge and hotel rooms, and boat rentals, available in the village, which also features three restaurants.

With 35 electric and 56 non-electric sites, the Chamakese campground is larger than the provincial recreation site facility, which features 26 electrified and 18 non-electrified sites. But it doesn't seem that way, because Chamakese's well-spaced sites (that range in price from $18-$25 per night—campers are asked to phone for current fees), are situated in a more heavily treed area.
The see-saw rocking horse at Chamakese has seen a lot of action over the years.
Tall swings, a high slide and a beautiful old see-saw rocker that's perfect for the toddlers are located in a pleasant clearing just metres from the lake, and there's an Indian crafts shop nearby. While the washrooms and showers appear to be older than their counterparts at the provincial campground, they're clean and in good working order, according to the campers we spoke to.

The beach, a short walk from the campground, is a beauty. Since we were driving, we pulled into the gravel parking lot above it and we were greeted by a thoroughly enticing view. The grass and trees before and below us reach down to touch a fine light sand beach that's no doubt a little smaller than usual because of the high water levels. Amid the pockets of people in brightly coloured bathing suits was a group of First Nation kids who seemed to be having a scream. The Pelican Lake band will own about 45,000 acres in this area once the Treaty Land Entitlement process is completed.

A wide range of supplies are available a couple of minutes away in the village, which lies between the campgrounds. The man in the general store at Chitek was disappointed to report he had neither the flip-flop sandals nor the dice we were looking for. Judging by the great selection of food, camping and fishing gear, toys, treats, utensils, hardware and knick-knacks, however, these are just about the only two items this superb little general store does not carry. While beer is available at the hotel, those wishing to purchase liquor will have to drive 15 minutes south on Hwy #24 to Leoville. The nine-hole, grass green Chitek Lake Golf Course is located just a couple of minutes south of the village on the same highway.

If you're looking for something even further off the beaten path, try Lac Eauclair, about half an hour north of Chitek Lake. The small campground is maintained by the Pelican Lake band and looked most pleasant and tidy when we drove through at mid day. When Renée and I sat down to eat our lunch on the shore of this pretty little lake, we were entertained by more than half a dozen loons who seemed to be blissfully unconcerned about us and the half dozen yelling and laughing swimmers at the beach about 200 metres south of us.

lac eauclair
Lac Eauclair is one of more than a dozen lakes close to Chitek.

While we had few problems with the gravel logging roads in the area, I suggest travellers keep an eye out for big rocks and rainy weather. These roads can get greasy, fast.

Chitek is a place that's quickly growing in popularity as more and more Saskatchewanians discover its charms and invest in vacation and retirement property. For the time being, at least, however, it's a great place to visit and a superb base for exploring the many lakes located nearby.

Chamakese Resort can be reached by phoning 1-306-984-2330 or e-mailing Chitek. For more information on Chitek Lake Recreational Site, visit the Chitek page on the Saskatchewan Provincial Parks website.

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