Cold Lake, Big River and the Narrows across northern Alberta and Saskachewan on the way home to Pike Lake.
As I write this from our winter home, our cozy small cabin situated on a lake in central Saskatchewan, it’s only minus 31 Celsius outside but our wood stove with its warmth and a fresh white layer of snow outside it takes away from the cold and makes our winter stay enjoyable.
Our trip home as mentioned was quicker than planned as we thought we would spend more time crossing Northern Alberta. We saw lots of beautiful country and a steady stream of logging trucks most everywhere. Alberta has some fantastic campgrounds in the southern part of the province and the popular northern destinations but feel the northern ones are quite neglected and not well maintained. When travelling in the future we will be looking for those little campgrounds in some of the local communities usually run by a service club. Such is the case when we visited the community of Big River in Saskatchewan.
Day 45 Mileage 9,352 kms.We travelled 418 kms today from Slave Lake to Cold Lake, Alberta along Highway 2. We checked out a few communities on the way thinking we would stop when we found a suitable campground, the Alberta Provincial Recreation sites in our estimation were poorly maintained and offered nothing except $28 per night camping fee and, with the exception of a few, looked like they were not even used. We have been spoiled by BC, Yukon and the NWT campgrounds and prices. We stopped in Lac la Biche, Alberta where we toured their very well done museum, it was still fairly early so we continued on stopping in Athabasca. Located on the Athabasca River the community has to be the flower capital of Alberta. We arrived during their annual farmers market and street sale and were amazed at the beautiful pots and flower beds everywhere downtown.
We decided we would stay the night at the Lions Campground there. Driving to the campground across a somewhat shaky bridge we found the gate closed and a sign said reservations only. As usual there was no human to be found and a phone call rewarded us with a leave a message, please. Ok let’s get on the road and find somewhere we can stay it was early yet so perhaps Cold Lake. Athabasca’s recent population of around 3,000 was originally named Athabasca Landing and is located north of Edmonton, Alberta at the juntion of Highway 2 and 55 on the banks of the Athabasca River. Now the community is primarily an agricultural service center and also home to Athabasca University, Canada’s on line university. This high quality University provides education on line to approximately 40,000 students offering 850 courses with 55 undergraduate and graduate programs. Logging trucks are also common as it is home to the world’s largest and most technologically most sophisicated bleached Kraft pulp mill. So for you travellers into pulp mills this may be a must stop for you.
We passed a number of Alberta Provincial recreation sites they ranged from 15 to 35 kms off the road. Having visited 3 sites before and disappointed in all for the price we did not bother to drive the extra distance to check them out. We arrived in Cold Lake around 5:30 and upon checking found all campsites booked for the weekend online reservations only with no same day bookings. It’s August and nice weather so popular spots are fully booked. Touring one we did find sites empty but they were booked and paid for… so Walmart it is. So far we have found nothing in northern Alberta to write home about, a nice drive through but that’s it. We toured the marina packed with people and the beach area was lined up so we kept moving as it was even hard to find a place to park. Not sure what tomorrow brings except we will be in Saskatchewan.
The city of Cold Lake, Alberta is also home to the Cold Lake Airforce base situated on the outskirts of the city. Construction of the base began in 1952 and together with the Cold Lake Air Weapons Range to the north, earned the community the reputation of “Fighter Town Canada”. The base is home to two fighter squadrons, as well as training squadrons where future Canadian fighter pilots hone their skills. The sound of fighter jets is common to hear in the community of Cold Lake.
Day 46 Mileage 9,639.5 kms travelled from Cold Lake, Alberta to Big River, Saskatchewan. We had picked the right area in the Cold Lake Walmart along with several others, it was very quiet, quieter than some campgrounds. It was raining when we got up and we decided to hit the road. We had a hard time finding potable water for the camper so ended up purchasing some from Walmart. The drive from Cold Lake to Big River is very scenic with rolling hills and valleys.
We stopped at Green Lake and were very impressed with the development there a number of smaller new cabins on Green Lake. We were told the lake is 13 miles long and up to 90 feet deep in places so excellent fishing. The Village of Green Lake is the third oldest settlement in the province of Saskatchewan with a poplulation of around 500 residents. It is a villiage steeped in the rich history of the Metis and First Nations people and the fur-trade that founded our nation. We added Green Lake campground to our close to home check it out someday list.
At Big River we settled in at the community campground in the town for $22 fire pit and table, no power, this was our choice as most are power sites. A very quiet well-kept campground with the best showers of the whole trip. $2 for four a minute shower of nice hot water and large clean showers to boot. Spent the evening around a campfire and found it very relaxing after Cold Lake.
Big River is home to two Regional Park campgrounds, one located overlooking Cowan Lake with camping spots on the lake and the other located in the community center not far from the lake. This is our first time in the town center campground, previously we camped at the shoreline campground featured in a previous post. Both these campgrounds are neat, quiet and very well kept with the community center campground featuring laundry as well as very clean hot showers. After 9,800 kms this quiet campground was just what the doctor ordered and the day was perfect. Starting as a mill town Big River was originally owned by a lumber company and the campround is built on the site of the old mill yard. A group of individuals leased the land from the town and rural municipality and opened the park in 1978. It has now been turned into a very respectable campground to say the least, being as it was a pile of wood chips to start with. Big River and area is one of our favourites and close to where we call home when not on the road.
Day 47 Mileage 9,802.8 kms we travelled 163 kms today from Big River across country to the Narrows in Prince Albert National Park. Very few people here but met a few of the regular Narrows campers for a visit and caught up on the local news. We found one of our favorite camp spots open and booked a week stay here. We are back in Saskatchewan early and not ready to head home just yet. One of our favourite campsites will allow us to come down slowly from many miles of driving.
After having a winter at the cabin and finally getting our summer trip posted we have had time to reflect on our 10,000 km journey and lessons learned after living 3 plus months in a truck camper. My next post I am working on is a recap of travels, costs (the big one fuel in 2022) and what we feel we did wrong and what we did right. Hopefully a few suggestions will help you in travels as much as they will us in our new upcoming adventure. We have found just the right couple to house sit our wee cabin at the lake for at least 4 months….so stay tuned for the next adventure this summer and would love to share that experience with you as well.
Thanks for all those that check in as we are nearing 19,000 views and especially for those who subscribed to get notice when I finally get around to posting. My goal is to keep it more current as we go and try and notify those interested in following, which is easy as subscribers just automatically get a notice by email something I do not have to worry about. The blog originally planned to share with family has really expanded to our travel family and I really appreciate you feedback and comments.
Gerry and Charlotte…..hope to see you down the road in 23 and may the wind always be in your back.