Meadow Lake Provincial Park is one of the most popular vacation
spots in Saskatchewan, and yet it seldom seems crowded.
Imagine a string of 25 clear lakes nestled amid 1,600 square kilometres
of aspen, birch and pine forest and you’ll understand how it is
that "popular’’ need not mean "crowded’’.
|- courtesy Tourism
Waterhen River system feeds more than two dozen clear, sandy
The park is located about two hours north of North Battleford,
near the Saskatchewan/Alberta boundary. It’s called a "natural environment’’
park, a designation which, if left unexplained, may sound redundant.
Each of Saskatchewan’s roughly three dozen provincial parks falls into one
of four classifications: wilderness; natural environment; recreation;
and historic. Wilderness parks remain undeveloped to protect the
fragile ecosystems they envelop. Natural environment parks allow
limited development, like fixed-roof accommodations, and provide
a wide range of facilities and services.
Recreation parks typically
are located close to urban centres and exist to provide a natural
setting for intensive recreational use, and the historical ones
preserve portions of Saskatchewan’s past.
While Meadow Lake park is not labeled "wilderness", you can see
it from the side of the road, a two-lane gravel conduit that snakes
and rolls from east to west along the Waterhen River that feeds
and cleans the picturesque lakes. The road can be a little messy
in the rain and a touch tricky at night. It’s wise to respect the
signs and reduce speed accordingly from the posted 80 kph (50 mph).
|- courtesy Tourism
a popular beach, or grab a boat and discover an exclusive one.
Meadow Lake’s attraction is her beauty, but her charm arises from
the large number of widely dispersed camping venues available. There
are more than 900 campsites in a dozen public campgrounds, and another
200 sites at a handful of private resorts located within or adjoining
the park (see italics at bottom for current fees). Cabins are available at several locations for those who prefer a higher level of creature comfort.
This variety means you can choose a campsite to suit your tastes.
But it also means vacations in Meadow Lake Provincial Park can "feel’’
very different, depending on where you stay. The popular campground
at Greig Lake, for example, is a large and sunny family area with
more than 150 campsites (including a number of full-service RV sites), a good beach, many privately-owned cabins (Note: no rental cabins), a miniature golf course, and recreation and interpretive
programs. Its setting on the east side of the lake provides for
great sunset viewing. The campground on the south shore of little
Vivian Lake, on the other hand, is situated amid moss-shrouded jack
pines that evoke a peaceful solitude protected by the small number
of campsites available – there are only eight, non-electrified sites.
Vivian, which is stocked with rainbow trout (see Fishing Guide), has no beach or cabins
and the sun sets behind the trees.
trapper’s cabin: a vestige of the past.
Interpretive and recreational programs are offered throughout the
park during the summer months and many people are content to take
up residence in their tents or cabins and simply enjoy the local
beach and outdoor setting. But Meadow Lake Provincial Park also
appeals to people who enjoy nature, camping, wildlife, and wilderness
on their own terms. It’s a place to experience and explore.
A handful of hiking trails in the park range from 1.6 kms in length to the epic 120-km Boreal Trail running the length of the park – you can do it in bite-sized sections that range in difficulty. Vivian has a short and a long trail, the
latter of which is an easy 4.2 km that circles the lake through
jackpine, white birch and green alder forest. Don’t be deceived
by the somewhat imposing view from the shoreline trailhead: our
party of four adults and four kids, including a vigorous boy who
was then six years old, made the hike in an hour and a half.
|- courtesy Tourism
fitting end to a busy day in the park.
Watch for common loons, red-necked grebes and Lesser scaups cruising
the lake, and don’t miss the blueberry patches near the trailhead.
We’ve not encountered a black bear on the Vivian trail, but the
live traps we’ve seen in the camping area suggest they roam the
area no less frequently than other campgrounds in the park. The
rule of thumb when hiking in bear country is "make noise while you
walk’’. And if you do encounter a bear, withdraw slowly and don’t
challenge the bruin by looking him in the eye.
A few hills on the moderately-difficult Humphrey Lake trail make
it seem a little longer than the 3.2 kms at which it’s listed. But
the cheery aspen forest and lush undergrowth, and particularly the
view from the lookout platform located at the turn-around point
of the trail, make the Humphrey hike a rewarding way to spend two
or three hours. Red-tail hawks, Canada geese, white pelicans, ducks,
and a variety of shorebirds inhabit the marshy lake, but so do mosquitoes
– bring repellent. Try to spot the bear den 10 metres off the trail
and 50 metres from the lookout platform.
A former aboriginal hunting grounds and fur-trapping region, Meadow
Lake park is rich in wildlife. Deer, elk, wolf, moose, beaver, otter,
coyote, fox, lynx and cougar are at home in the park, as are some
130 species of birds, including bald and golden eagles, great blue
herons and yellow-bellied sapsuckers.
One legacy left by the fur trade is the trapper’s cabin, a number
of which can still be seen in the park. They’re not normally found
on designated hiking trails, but the several I’ve seen are situated
in splendid natural surroundings, and are well worth a visit if
you’re the type who enjoys musing about the romantic, albeit isolated
existence of these hardy souls. The cabin often is located on high
ground and beside a lake, which delivered three of the trapper’s
needs: water, fish and transportation.
Park officials or long-time locals can probably give you directions
to one of these cabins, or you can simply pull off the road near
one of the many non-designated trails leading into the forest and
try your luck. But take note: the park frowns upon off-road driving
through the forest. It’s best to park in a safe spot, off the main
road, and hike in. And while it may be tempting to enter one of
the old cabins, it’s not wise. Some are still occupied.
Just as fishing played a significant role in the trapper’s way
of life, so it does for many who visit Meadow Lake park today. The
fishing is excellent and few go home disappointed. Northern pike,
walleye, perch and whitefish are common in most of the lakes, and
several are stocked with splake, cutthroat trout and rainbow trout.
Brook and brown trout are stocked in De La Ronde and Dennis creeks,
while lake trout occur naturally in Cold Lake and the Cold River,
as well as in Pearce and Lepine lakes. Fishing boats can be rented
by the hour or day at many points in
the park. The lakes are sandy bottomed and present few hidden hazards.
Still, it’s wise to chat with your outfitter about potential problems
that could arise, like wind or thunderstorms. And he or she will
no doubt have a pretty good bead on where they’re biting.
in the park. Can you hear the loons?
A small motor boat or canoe is a great way to enjoy the wildlife
and scenery in the park. We’ve spent many a delightful hour casting
barbless hooks into the bay at Big Island on Lac des Isles, watching
the loons and grebes dive after their prey and surfacing many metres
from where they went down. One afternoon was particularly enchanting
as the bay and the forest beyond became an echo chamber for a melancholic
loon roaming a small territory perhaps 50 metres from our boat.
Boats have afforded us our best views of bald eagles and great blue
herons, and there are scores of small, sandy beaches to discover.
It’s a great way to experience the park.
The small towns of Goodsoil and Dorintosh are located at the south-central
and south-eastern entrances to the park, and each has at least one
grocery store, a gas station, a hotel and liquor store. Goodsoil
has a golf course and an interesting pioneer museum with a nearby
cairn commemorating the spot where Woodland Cree Chief Big Bear
released white prisoners after the Northwest Resistance of 1885.
For a wider selection of grocery and shopping items, the larger
towns of Meadow Lake, Saskatchewan and Cold Lake, Alberta are about an hour’s drive
from the park.
Meadow Lake Provincial Park is a vast expanse of rolling forests
and clear lakes. For those who enjoy the convenience and camaraderie
of a small resort, or for those who enjoy their camping experience
straight up – no pavement, lineups, or street lamps that erase the
stars and Northern Lights – a visit to Meadow Lake park may well
mark the beginning of a long relationship.
Check out the Saskatchewan provincial parks website for more information about Meadow Lake park or to access the provincial campsite reservation system.
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