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Moose Mountain Park

by Dave Yanko

MOOSE MOUNTAIN PROVINCIAL PARK - The term 'provincial park' often conjures up images of wilderness hikes, early-morning angling, pristine lakes and streams, and peaceful evenings around a crackling campfire, perhaps with a ghost story tossed in for good measure. Well, that's not precisely what Moose Mountain Provincial Park is all about. Except for the part about the ghost story.

However, if any of the following sounds interesting to you. . .

  • two of the finest 18-hole golf courses in the province
  • quality riding stables
  • 36-hole mini-golf facility
  • casino with high calibre entertainment
  • nightclubs/cabarets/bars/lounges
  • year-round luxury resort
  • restaurants
  • big waterslide complex
  • tennis courts
  • shopping

. . . then the Moose Mountain Provincial Park area may well be your kind of place. Few of Saskatchewan's provincial parks offer the range and quality of activities and facilities available in and near this park, located less than two hours southeast of Regina.

Spring blossoms in the park.
Spring blossoms in the park.

Moose Mountain is one of Saskatchewan's five, original provincial parks established by the province in 1931. But its status as a vacation spot actually goes back further than that.

"Cannington Manor people started coming into the Moose Mountains and using (the area) for recreational purposes back in the 1880s," says Marlon Klassen, who was park manager at the time of our visit.

Cannington Manor, a village established by a group of English settlers trying to create a utopian agricultural community on the Canadian prairies, was abandoned by 1900.

Park visitors curious about a social experiment that brought fox hunts and cricket to the wild prairie may want to visit the historic park, just 15 minutes by car from the provincial one.

In fairness, Moose Mountain is a handsome park, well-treed with aspen, white birch and ash. You certainly may boat, fish, sit around a campfire or hike in this park; our family enjoyed a two-hour trek around Beaver Lake. But today, the park that most people refer to as 'Kenosee' is known more as the kind of place where you can get away from it all, without leaving behind all the creature comforts (and nightlife) of the city.

The 36-hole miniature golf facility is well maintained.
The 36-hole miniature golf facility is well maintained.

The Resort Village of Kenosee Lake, situated just outside the park boundary some five minutes from Fish Creek and Lynwood campgrounds, offers nightclubs (one of them may be haunted), bars, restaurants and stores. A waterslide complex open from mid June to late August features seven slides ranging from a gentle kiddie ride to an eye-popping, eight-storey free-fall, and a 160-metre glide (500 ft). There are picnic tables and concessions on site.

Inside the park is beautiful Golf Kenosee, a splendidly-landscaped, 18-hole, grass-green course that's a pleasure to see whether you golf or not. (White Bear Golf Course, the other first-class course in the vicinity, is an 18-hole, grass-green, 'championship' challenge about 15 minutes from the park.) Golf Kenosee's licensed restaurant, lounge and deck overlook the lake and core area of the park.

This central zone is a lively spot featuring a large food and supplies store, a modern, four-season, luxury hotel and a picturesque stone chalet that serves as the park's visitors centre. When it was built in the 1930s, the chalet operated as a hotel. Today, it's the place to go for park information and to learn about area flora and fauna.

Beaver Lake is situated near a network od hiking and cross-country skiing trails.
Beaver Lake is situated near a network of hiking and cross-country skiing trails.

Perhaps 200 metres in front of the chalet is Kenosee Lake, although it wasn't that far away 30 years ago. The lake is replenished by precipitation and aquifers, together not enough to maintain water levels in dry years. At one point during the drought of the 1980s, for instance, Kenosee was down a full three metres from 'normal' levels. It was never a deep lake.

The lake's condition has improved somewhat in recent years, however, the low levels have resulted in 'winterkills' of fish populations, and weeds can be a problem during the summer. The improved situation is bringing more anglers and boaters back to the park, says Klassen. And while camper numbers are down a bit, Moose Mountain retains its position as one of the most visited parks in the province.

We tented during the Victoria Day long weekend in the Lynwood Campground and found the washroom facilities (flush toilets and hot water) quite satisfactory and the firewood plentiful. Showers are free in the two service centres, but a caution: the hot water is easily diverted to sink taps. There are more than 300 sites in the two main campgrounds, and the park offers site reservations, seasonal permits and group camping.

The park is a playground for kids, youths and adults.
The park is a playground for kids, youths and adults.

Kenosee lived up to its reputation as a 'May long' party park during our two-night stay. Twice before midnight on our first evening, a conservation officer chased one or more youths through our campsite as we tried to sleep in our tent. And all of us were mightily impressed with how well bass notes travel over a distance of one block. We woke up a little grumpy. But by the time we left the next day, we were all quite taken with this place.

Our collective change of heart began Saturday around noon, after a 20-minute drive to the Town of Carlyle to get money and grab some lunch - there's no ATM in the village.

Well, those who believe every small town on the prairies is about to fall off the edge of the map should visit Carlyle on Saturday at noon. Cars angle parked on either side of a median running down the centre of the main thoroughfare resulted in a level of bustle befitting a town three or four times its size (pop. 1,300). Main street and its sidewalks were buzzing with local shoppers and strolling tourists.

Many people appeared to be cottagers, villagers or campers from Kenosee who came to town to shop. Others were there to visit one of the restaurants or fast-food spots on the north edge of town. Carlyle is a charming and lively place that was harmed little, I suspect, by the arrival of the Bear Claw Casino, which we passed on the way to town.

Bear Claw is one of five jewels in the crown of the Saskatchewan Indian Gaming Authority, a job engine for Saskatchewan's native peoples and an economic juggernaut for the province in general. The casino is one of the biggest attractions in the region, drawing visitors from Saskatchewan, Manitoba, North Dakota and beyond.

Games in the 15,000-square-foot facility include blackjack, roulette, big wheel, and regular and progressive slot machines. The development includes a lodge, convention centre, restaurant and gift shop.

Summer memories for generations.
Summer memories for generations.

Back at the park, our hike around Beaver Lake and our strolls through the campgrounds and core area left favorable impressions with all of us - the only way to feel a place is to walk it. The grounds around the chalet are particularly pretty.

As its name implies, there are moose in this park (about 400 at last count). There's a similar number of elk, legions of white-tailed deer, and it's not unheard of to spot bald and golden eagles passing through on their way to nesting grounds north and west of here.

But above all, Kenosee is a place of human recreation. It's a beautiful and leafy backdrop to a summer play that's been running for generations, and will continue to do so for many, many more.

Check out the province's page on Kenosee. Here's the fee schedule for provincial parks. Moose Mountain park accepts reservations by phone or e-mail and you can check here to discover some of the other attractions in the area.



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