National parks and historic sites help you discover the beauty of Saskatchewan
National parks across Saskatchewan feature incredible native plants and animals in the region.
Jonathan Potts is the director of marketing for Tourism Saskatchewan. He has outlined his top three picks for places to discover in Saskatchewan that will bring you closer to nature.
Grasslands National Park
According to Potts, Grasslands National Park holds the largest segment of short grass prairie left in Canada and is also the only national prairie park. The park, located about one hour south of Swift Current, is also the only place in Canada where you can see black-tailed prairie dogs and black-footed ferrets in their native habitat.
"Mixed short grass prairie was exceptionally important to the plains bison across much of the prairies of North America," said Potts. "It exists here in abundance, so much so that about 75 bison were reintroduced to the park about 10 years ago. The size of the herd is now up to 400. So it's one of those things. To the untrained eye, a person wouldn't really appreciate it. But then you realize how this short grass was extremely important to the health of ecosystems across the prairies, as it is the main diet of the bison. They eat it and in turn fertilize the prairies and help other plants take root."
The black tailed prairie dogs are also something not to miss, since it's the only place they still exist in the wild.
Prince Albert National Park
Prince Albert National Park is located about 200 kilometres north of Saskatoon and protects a slice of the boreal forest. It is also a transition zone between the parkland and the northern forest. The park features many outstanding natural wonders and cultural treasures, including the only fully protected white pelican nesting colony in Canada, the isolated lakeside cabin of conservationist Grey Owl and a free-ranging herd of plains bison.
The town of Waskesiu is the closest community to the park and the Waskesiu Marina Adventure Centre can take you on an amazing tour called the Hanging Heart Lakes Interpretive Tour. The cruise, which operates from Victoria Day to Labour Day, takes you to the Hanging Heart Lakes aboard a 24-foot Bennington pontoon boat. While touring the Hanging Heart Lakes you will experience some of the most beautiful scenery that the park has to offer. On the tour, learn about and see wild rice stands, a bald eagle's nest and beaver lodges. While you explore the lakes you will also learn about the natural, historical and cultural features of the area.
"This place is incredible," said Potts. "It has everything you would expect in a boreal forest, from bears, moose, elk, golden and bald eagle, river otters and so on. It is very diverse and rich in wildlife and flora."
Saskatoon Forestry Farm Park and Zoo
This national historic site offers incredibly crafted gardens, restored heritage buildings, a naturally-themed playground and Saskatchewan's only Canada Accredited Zoos and Aquariums (CAZA) zoo.
"This is a great place to go to discover the flora and fauna of the region," said Potts. "The gardens in the park feature flora from different parts of the province and it's great for people who want to come in, walk around or have a picnic. You can spend several days here exploring the different aspects of Saskatchewan flora as well as a lot of the native animals to the region as well."
There are several different types of flowers and trees that are native to Saskatchewan such as the prairie lily.
Saskatoon Foresty Farm Park and Zoo is located in Saskatoon at 1903 Forestry Farm Park Drive. Check out its website for more information.