Second Stop: Lake Diefenbaker
The prolific geologist recommended, in 1858, that a dam be built at the “elbow” of the South Saskatchewan River, near the site of what would later become the un-ironically-named town of Elbow. Government bureaucracy being what it is, construction on the Gardiner Dam began a scant one hundred years later, in 1958. By 1967, the largest earth-filled dam in Canada, the Gardiner, and its counterpart the Qu’Appelle, were in place, and the creation of massive Lake Diefenbaker was underway.
Today, Lake Diefenbaker provides much-needed irrigation in the area, as well as drinking water and hydroelectricity. Covering over 135,000 square kilometres, and with 800 km of shoreline, this lake is perfect for all sorts of water-based recreation: speed boating, sailing, tubing, fishing, and more.
First Time for Everything
I am a born and raised Saskatchewan guy, but like so many of us Saskatchewanians, there is a lot of this province I’ve never seen, including Saskatchewan Landing Provincial Park. I turned off the Trans-Canada #1 Highway and took the #4 highway (which is in great shape, by the way) north for less than half an hour. The descent into the valley was amazing, with really cool hillside scenery along the lake’s north shore (video to come). Checked out Goodwin House and its historical significance, then moved along into the park. Uncrowded beaches, lots of room for boating fun, nice golf course and marina side by side. The camping areas are perfect for families seeking a quiet, peaceful place for a summer getaway; Saskatchewan Landing Provincial Park is exactly that.
Had to make Saskatoon the follow day, so I hightailed it to the Riverhurst ferry. It turned out to be a case of hurry up and wait, as the eastbound sailing goes on the half-hour, but I just relaxed and took in the scenery while I waited to experience another first: my first Saskatchewan ferry ride. Spent the night just a few minutes away from the east side ferry dock, at the Mainstay Inn Resort; no reservation, but thankfully they had a room (and some super-yummy chicken wings) for me. Mental note: must find out what is going on in the town of Kyle with the whole wooly mammoth thing.
Encountering the Elbonians
Inhabitants of the fine harbour town of Elbow are nothing like how they are portrayed in Dilbert cartoons. Friendly folk greeted me at every stop: the marina office, on the docks, and downtown at lunchtime. I have never given sailing much of a thought, but after spending a couple of hours around the harbour and shoreline near Elbow, I think I get it now. I am especially interested – okay, obsessed – with the idea of sleeping in a boat. Is it awesomely relaxing and soothing? Is it rocky and nausea-inducing? What kind of dreams does a boat-sleeper have? Where do you take a whiz? So many questions. Perhaps next tour I’ll get me into one of those sweet boats, preferably one that hasn’t sunk at least twice.
Elbow, like so many Saskatchewan towns, embraces and celebrates its past. It is also home to the Back Home Bakery and Deli, purveyors of fresh bread products and an excellent clubhouse sandwich. The place seems to be more famous for its burgers, but I was already burgered out so I had to take a pass. I saw one go past my table, though, and boy it looked good. Also, a great private campground is just outside of town, Tuft's Bay.
Douglas and Danielson Provincial Parks
Elbow is a leisurely canoe ride from both Douglas and Danielson Provincial Parks. The weather was perfect when I visited, and staff at both parks advised me that business was brisk to the point of capacity on the weekends. Overflow sites were available mid-week, but disappointed campers were turned away on the weekend. Traveller tip: reserve a site!
Had a blast going from one end to the other of this amazing lake, which I almost forgot to mention, is where the Konrad brothers set a world record by pulling in a 43 pound rainbow trout in 2007. If you are not into boating, spend some time in the parks and beaches around this lake and with the people enjoying life on the water, and you will totally start to understand the attraction. If you are into boating, you have already been to Dief; you have your spot at the marina; you already know.
Food of the Day: The above-mentioned clubhouse, Back Home Bakery and Deli, Outlook
Cleanest bathroom: Mainstay Inn, just outside Riverhurst
Oversized Undersized Things Spotted: What is up with that wooly mammoth?
Traveller Tip o’ the Day: When in a restaurant, pull out a notepad and make some notes, and pull out a camera and take pictures of your food. The staff may conclude that you are a food critic, and boy will you get good service and the best food.
Near-Injury of the Day: On the hillside leading into Saskatchewan Landing Provincial Park, my sandals lost a battle with a sturdy thistle. No feet were harmed in the filing of this report, though.
Obsession of the Day: Boats you can sleep in.
"Land of Living Skies" moment: outside Riverhurst
NEXT UP: Bruno Cherry Festival