by Dave Yanko
QU'APPELLE VALLEY - Legend tells of a young Indian brave canoeing home from a hunting trip one evening when he thought he heard
someone calling his name. "Who calls?", he asked aloud.
no reply. "Qu'appelle?" he tried again, this time in French. Then
came a reply from the hills on the other side of the placid,
moonlit lake: "Qu'appelle?" It was his echo.
|Stations of the Cross and Chapel, at Lebret.
On his return home the following night he discovered the young
maiden he was to marry died suddenly the previous evening. With her
dying breath, she called out his name.
Thus, the beautiful Qu'Appelle Valley received its name.
Or rather, that's the essence of the poem The Legend of the
Qu'Appelle Valley, by the late Mohawk-Canadian poet E. Pauline
Johnson. Johnson's verse made a romantic legend out of an unusual
phenomenon reported a century earlier by Metis trader Daniel
Harmon. According to Saskatchewan place-name expert Bill Barry's
People Places, Indians of the region in 1804 told Harmon
they often heard what they believed to be a voice crying out to
them as they travelled the valley. "Kâ-têpwêt?", "who calls?", or
"qui appelle?" was their response, in Cree, English or French.
Today, this area (map) is one of southern Saskatchewan's most popular playgrounds. Katepwa, Mission, Echo and Pasqua are known as The Calling Lakes (they used to be known as The Fishing Lakes until
someone realized there was a perfectly good legend going to waste).
Fed by the meandering Qu'Appelle River and aquifers beneath them,
the quartet of lakes makes this an exceptionally pretty section of
the valley, which runs from the Manitoba boundary some 400
kilometres (250 miles) west into southern Saskatchewan.
|Katepwa: popular beach in a pretty setting.
It's recreation and cottage country for Reginans 45 minutes away.
Fishing, boating, skiing and sailing are popular summer activities,
and the valley is considered one of the best hang-gliding locales
between Ontario and the Rockies. Most motorists on the TransCanada
Highway speed right past this valley retreat, however, unaware that
a mere 20 minutes north of the community of Qu'Appelle lies welcome
respite from the seemingly endless plain.
Fort Qu'Appelle, not to be confused with Qu'Appelle, is a valley
town of 2,000 situated smack dab in the middle of a sizeable
recreational area that encompasses two provincial parks, at least a
half-dozen beaches and all manner of shops and amenities.
Snowmobiles bloom here in winter - the local club grooms more than
350 kilometres of trails - and Mission Hill ski resort offers nine
runs, with two T-bars and two handle-tows, just south of town.
"The Fort" features a surprising number and variety of eating
establishments, including the dining room at the Country Squire Inn
that's recommended in Where to Eat in Canada. There's a host
of hotel and motel rooms, bed-and-breakfast accommodations, as well
as a 42-site campground right in town.
The acclaimed Hansen-Ross Pottery studio is open all year 'round,
while the farmers market goes every Saturday morning from May to
the end of September. The Fort Qu'Appelle Museum has plenty of material to work with due to a colourful recorded past dating back to the early days of the North West
Mounted Police and the Hudson Bay Company, which established a fort
here in 1864. But as a crossroads in an age-old trail system on the
prairies, this was a popular spot well before The Bay sold
"Every year the different bands would gather here to enjoy each
other's fellowship, to get business out of the way, to trade, to
hunt - it was an excellent place to hunt," says Shelley Fayant, of
the File Hills Qu'Appelle Tribal Council. "It was an annual
That annual gathering has returned after a hiatus of more than 100
years. First Nations from across southern Saskatchewan and parts of
Manitoba and Alberta renewed the tradition in 2000 with a
celebration timed to mark the Sept. 15, 1874 signing of Treaty
Four. The festivities take place in mid September on the grounds of
the Treaty Four Governance Centre where First Nations groups camped
before signing the treaty. A "keeping house", or museum, is
expected to open there in 2002.
|Hungry breeding stock trout at the fish station.
Ten minutes west of Fort Qu'Appelle on the B-Say-Tah Road, past the
bulbous spire of the Romanian Orthodox church, is the Fort
Qu'Appelle Fish Culture Station. Hundreds of thousands of the
non-native rainbow, brook and brown trout each year are bred here
and stocked in about 150 Saskatchewan lakes.
An annual walleye program tops up native populations of
Saskatchewan's most popular game fish by releasing 50 million
hatchlings into 100 lakes. A video illustrates the extraordinary
process in which eggs are harvested and fertilized from fish
trapped in the wild. The fish are released unharmed and the eggs
are carefully transported to the station for hatching. Summer tours
of the station are free. The kids will get a kick out of feeding
the fingerlings and breeding stock.
Further west, beyond the cottage community and public beach at
B-Say-Tah Point, is Echo Valley Provincial Park. Echo, with beaches
on the west end of Echo Lake and the east end of nearby Pasqua
Lake, is a recreational park. The focus is people and fun, rather
than wildlife and wilderness. However, access to the beaches
requires a park permit (we had one, but the entry booths were not
staffed when we visited on a weekday in August), so many people opt
for the free beach at Katepwa Point.
Echo features three campgrounds with more than 300 individual sites
and eight, non-electric group camping areas. Due to its environment
and proximity to Regina, it tends to be a quiet park during the
week and a bustling little community on pleasant summer weekends.
here for the province's page on Echo, which includes contact
|- courtesy Saskatchewan Environment
|Echo Beach from the top of the valley.
Katepwa Point Provincial Park, adjacent to the Resort Village of
Katepwa, is a park much smaller than Echo. But it's home to the
most popular beach in the region and visitors would be hard pressed
to find a prettier spot in the valley. Driving Highway 56 on the
north side of Katepwa Lake is one of the most pleasant cruising
experiences in Saskatchewan. A highway in name only, the old
blacktop known locally as the "Katepwa Road" (there's no confusing
it with The B-Say-Tah Road) winds around hills and dips through
coulees, opening occasionally onto grand vistas of sparkling blue
water with green velvet hills beyond.
The beach is located on the east side of the point, across the street
from a hotel with a dining room and bar. A limited number of
modern, four-season cabins go for about $100 (Cdn) to $250 per
night (four bedrooms), and $500 to $1,000 per week - electrified
campsites are available outside of the park. Two, nine-hole golf
courses with grass greens are situated nearby. Echo Ridge Golf
Course, at Fort Qu'Appelle, sits on the site of the old North West
Mounted Police Post.
Perhaps 10 minutes northwest of Katepwa on Highway 56 lies the
Village of Lebret, noteworthy for the stately, century-old, Sacred
Heart Roman Catholic Church anchoring the centre of the village, and
the Stations of Cross and chapel on the hill above. Antiques,
collectibles, aboriginal crafts and clothing, and a new café - all easily accessed from Highway 56 - await visitors.
|Echo Valley Conference Centre.
Continuing northwest along Highway 56, past Echo Ridge Golf
Course, is Echo Valley Conference Centre, recognized as a Municipal Heritage Property in 2007. Nestled in a lovely and
serene coulee off the main valley, the centre began its life around
WWI as a tuberculosis treatment hospital. In more recent years, it served as a retreat and special occasions centre prior to its closure in 2004.
The Calling Lakes portion of the valley is a pretty small piece of
the lengthy Qu'Appelle basin, and certainly not the only one with
pretty lakes. But with roots as a crossroads, it has seen many good
times by many different people over many summers. And there's every
reason to believe it will continue to be a gathering place for
many, many more.
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