- Estimated distance travelled this season: 1,730 km
- Most km’s paddled in 1 day: 72 km
- Hottest Day: 40 C
- Coolest Night: 4 C
- Number of bottles of SPF 60 Sunscreen used this leg: 4
- Favourite pieces of gear: Coleman 2 burner white gas stove – We usually cook over fire, but decided to use a stove on the prairies. Neither of us wants to be responsible for igniting a grass fire.
- Least favourite piece of gear: aluminum gunwales of the Nova Craft canoe – keeps rubbing off and making all of our hands and gear black. Terrible!
We’re in Saskatchewan!!!
We’ve been incredibly fortunate to have visits from family and friends along the way. It’s always exciting to see a friendly face on the banks after a long day on the water. Sascha Tueck, a good friend from Germany, flew to Canada to paddle with us for 10 days from Medicine Hat, AB, to Saskatchewan Landing, SK. In the interest of logistics, we decided to jam 3 people and a malamute into one 18-foot canoe. I must admit, it floated low in the water and steered like a tanker, but we managed.
What paddler doesn’t enjoy a few free miles now and then!?!? We have been very lucky the prairie winds have been kind and enabled us to sail. So far, we have only spent one day wind-bound on Lake Diefenbaker, SK. Unfortunately, there are limits to the amount of wind we can paddle with, even if it is behind us. The picture on the right shows the waves from a huge tailwind we sailed on the South Saskatchewan River west of Medicine Hat.
This picture of Taq was taken on a gravel island on the Bow River near the Blackfoot Indian Reserve. The mist rising from the water only lasted a half hour or so. I enticed Taq to “pose” for the picture by finding him a small stick to chew.
Generally, we try to camp on islands to keep Taq contained. One evening in August, we were forced to camp in a pasture on the South Saskatchewan River near Lake Diefenbaker. Sascha and I were setting up our respective tents while Geoff prepared dinner. We each selected a nice flat site (a lovely benefit of camping on the prairies.) As I was inflating the sleeping mats, Sascha came over to warn me about cactus – he had somehow acquired a small grape sized one on his shirt. I had checked for cactus, but had failed to search for such small specimens. Suddenly we could see them everywhere! We had both miraculously avoided setting our tent on one (I lifted it up to look); however, they were everywhere else.
They blend quite well with the grass. How many cacti can you find in the middle picture? We found at least 10!
I tried my hand in the stern on the Bow River after Bassano Dam. I think Geoff really enjoyed seeing the entire river from the front of the canoe…without my large head in the center.
We had a week of hot weather (over 30 C every day). To cool off (especially for the stinky team member wearing the fur coat), we’d take a dip in the river 2-3 times per day. It was already 34 C at 9 am when we met a couple of fisherman on the river. They asked if we needed any supplies. “Cold beer?” It was 5 o’clock somewhere!
There’s plenty of life on and around Prairie Rivers:
- Pelicans are a surprisingly graceful bird in flight.
- Swallows fiercely defend their nesting sites along the banks – even driving away eagles!
- Few people have ever seen a Lake Sturgeon – we were lucky to see one being tagged on the South Saskatchewan River.
- A Great Horned Owl called from a sign at Cabri Regional Park
- I was about to roll up this green dry bag when I spotted what looked like a rolled up leaf…until it moved like a caterpillar. Does anyone know what this little critter is?
- In early evening we paddled up to a herd of Elk that was in the midst of crossing the river. We quietly floated while listening to them bugle to each other.
Big, clear, blue skies are perfect for charging batteries with the solar panel (it’s sitting on the packs in front of Geoff in the first picture.) We can’t wait to see the colour of the sunsets will be each night.
Local Media Coverage:
Thank you to the following people:
- Ryan Chin and Anja Lina Wamser for inviting us to a delicious BBQ in Calgary, AB
- Ben & Deb Guerard for many great dinners and a place to stay each time we visit Calgary, AB
- Danielle Nerman for coordinating our interview at CBC. Also thanks to Jeff Collins for winning Taq over with treats in his pocket – you are now his friend for life.
- Edwin MacDonald for driving us to our canoe in Calgary before work, and opening your home to us in Calgary while Taq’s paw finally healed. (and thanks to our trip vet Dr. Bob Hinton in Peterborough)
- Brian and Burdine Rex for making us breakfast and helping us carry gear.
- Unidentified man who tipped us off to a store near the river with ice cream before the Blackfoot Indian Reserve.
- Les (one of the operators of the Crowfoot Ferry) for giving us an overview map of the Bassano area.
- Hugh and Carolyn Bodmer of Olds, AB, make wonderful gin and tonics. It was a lovely treat to share a cold drink with them after portaging our gear over the Bassano Dam. Thank you for sharing your campsite and company with us for the evening.
- Jennifer and Todd Readman drove out from Calgary, AB to spend the day with us. They brought many wonderful treats – water, my favorite cold beer (Kilkenny), fruit, chips, brownies and muffins. They also brought their husky, Cinder. She and Taq had some good plays which was really nice for Taq.
- Bow Cattle Co. for a lovely place to take shelter from the sun and wind for the night.
- ARCA (Alberta Recreational Canoeing Association) for sending us maps of the Bow River and for recommending the book: “The Prairie River” by Dawn Dickinson and Dennis Baresco. It is a fantastic resource for the river, we highly recommend it.
- Melanie Isaac of High Level Canoes and Kayaks for helping us find phone numbers and addresses for contacts in Medicine Hat.
- Ralph’s Texas Bar and Grill in Medicine Hat serve excellent steaks! They were also very accommodating – allowing us to tie Taq in the shade, within view, with a bowl of water. This allowed us to enjoy our much anticipated salad and steaks.
- Marie Guerard and Jared Giesbrecht – we can’t thank you enough! You opened your home to us, loaned us your car, made numerous calls to find out about the Suffield Base closure, stored our gear, and saved the potential toilet paper crisis when we realized we’d forgotten to pack enough.
- McNiven Ranch Supply Ltd for sending us Muck Boots to test on the next leg of our journey. We’re looking forward to it!
- Pak & Allyson Wong (Pam’s parents): thank you for everything (there are too many things to list here), especially driving us to and from numerous points along the river this summer.
- Lana Dalshaug for helping find a second canoe for our friend. Even though we didn’t end up using it, we appreciate the time you took.
- Gregg & Krista Campbell for storing our canoe while we were waiting for the base to open the river, and for cooking us a hearty breakfast before setting out again.
- Les & Duncan for showing us our very first live Lake Sturgeon and for the ice cold beers we had been craving in the scorching heat since Medicine Hat. You made our day.
- Terry Wynder and Wendy Trapp for sharing their cold beer with us at Sandy Point Campground. We had stopped to fill our water jugs and ended up spending a few hours with these friendly folks.
- Justin Jeffrey & Jen Broderson for giving us a ride to Leader, SK to pick up supplies.
- John Wyman spent his 56th birthday with us at Lemsford Ferry Regional Park. He shared his fresh berries, vegetables and cokes with us and even gave Sascha a fishing rod.
Where do we go from here?
We haven’t made it as far as we thought we would since the last newsletter (who knew the Canadian Military would close the river for almost two weeks!). Our plan is to continue through Lake Diefenbaker to Saskatoon. Near Prince Albert, the South and North Saskatchewan R. merge to form the Saskatchewan R. We’ll then paddle near Cumberland House, SK, through The Pas, MB, into Cedar Lake and through Grand Rapids into Lake Winnipeg, MB.