Grasslands is not a developed park. And although there's talk of creating low-profile camping areas in the future, no such facilities currently exist. Primitive and random tent camping is allowed one kilometre off road. However, no vehicles are allowed off road (there's concern about catalytic converters starting grass fires) and open fires are not permitted anywhere. Use of camp stoves is encouraged and campers should leave no trace of their presence.
|A view across the valley floor of the Frenchman River Valley.
You will find no water, washrooms or any other facilities in either block. The commonly hot and windy summer weather makes it essential to have water with you when you enter the park. Drinking water is available at the east- and west-block offices; you may wish to bring your own supply.
For east block visitors, camping facilities are available at Wood Mountain Regional Park, located just south of the Village of Wood Mountain on Highway #18. The campground features electrical sites, showers, laundry facilities, a concession booth and an outdoor swimming pool (call 306-266-2115 for year-around information).
The Rodeo Ranch Museum, which includes the east-block park office, is located within the regional park. The partially reconstructed Wood Mountain Post Historic Park, used by the Mounties to keep tabs on Sitting Bull, is located a few minutes south of the camping area. It's about a 45-minute drive from the regional park to the east block.
Three main roads, all gravel, provide the main access routes to the far more popular west block of Grasslands National Park. All are within a few minutes drive of Val Marie (pop. 160). A visitor reception centre for the west block is located at the junction of Highway #4 and Centre Street. It's a recommended stop for updates on park conditions and general information. Visitors may also wish to check out the museum and gift shop located in the red brick school building on Centre Street.
Electrical campsites and showers are available at a campground in the village. But note that, as of this writing, availability of automobile fuel in Val Marie is limited on weekends. It's a good idea to fill up before arriving.
The roads are poor in this rather remote section of Saskatchewan -- all three highways providing access to Val Marie contain cracks and pavement breaks. Highway #4 is your best bet.
Hotel rooms and bed-and-breakfast facilities are available in Val Marie, as well as in the nearby larger towns of Shaunavon and Assiniboia. Contact Tourism Saskatchewan for information on other accommodations in the vicinity.
Interpretive programming at the park is limited, however, park staff can put you in touch with a volunteer willing to guide groups (check park site listed at bottom for phone numbers). Horseback riding is an enjoyable way to tour the park. Make arrangements for guides, and/or for horse rentals, at least several days in advance.
Prairie rattlesnakes are found in the park, but they're neither plentiful nor aggressive. Officials suggest using a stick to sweep the grass in front of you as you walk. If you hear a rattle, stop and back away slowly.
Rattlesnake venom can affect people in different ways; however, small adults and children normally face the biggest risk from bites. Ask park staff for the best course of action in the unlikely event of a bite. First aid for snakebites includes keeping the patient calm, the bite area cool, and insuring the patient avoids activity that will accelerate blood flow and heart rate. Do not use a tourniquet or suction. Antivenin is available in the area.
Ticks are common in spring and early summer. While they can spread disease, they're mostly just a nuisance. Tight-fitting clothing, with pants tucked into socks, is an option for those who find these insects particularly unappealing. Full body checks at the end of a hike should suffice for others because ticks move slowly.
Visit the Grasslands National Park website for additional information and contact numbers.
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