In June of 2017 Charlotte and I had the opportunity to camp at Rowan’s Ravine Provincial Park. We were on a photography job for a client that would have us travel from Weyburn, Saskatchewan through the south of the province west to near the Alberta border. The job required close to 18 locations to be photographed, so we loaded the camper leaving a few days early to camp on the shores of Last Mountain Lake. We have travelled extensively through Saskatchewan doing photography jobs, rodeo events, and with our western magazine Pure Country always camping. For some reason we never got to camp on one of southern Saskatchewan’s longest lakes. We decided on Rowan’s Ravine Provincial campground as it was on the eastern side of the lake near where our work week would start.
The road to the campground left a lot to be desired Hwy. 322 and 220 approximately 25 kms of gravel and a little washboard to say the least. But once getting to the campground we were quite impressed. We love either the very north with the tall spruce trees or the very south with the rolling hills and grasslands and not much for wide open prairie. Rowan’s Ravine was established as a provincial park in 1960 and the trees in this well treed park were hand planted to create an oasis on the open prairie of mostly farm land.
The lake itself is a few kms short of 100 kms long and 3 kms wide at its widest point. The area was chosen partly because of a large sandy peninsula, now one of southern Saskatchewan’s largest natural sand beaches. Because of the location the beach is usually always sheltered from the wind.
The campgrounds were very well kept, clean and some very private areas along with more open and group camping areas. Most important all the facilities were very clean and maintained, large modern washrooms and hot showers, laundry facilities etc. Free firewood which is becoming rare, picnic tables, firepits, electric 30 amp service and dump stations to mention a few. The campground has 300 sites, including pull thru and tent sites. We stayed two nights and cost was $30/night with power. Not sure what the provincial park entry was as in Saskatchewan residents who are 65 or older get free passes, and we qualify….Yes!!! Just looked it up a provincial yearly pass is now $65 for all Saskatchewan provincial parks.
I think this may be the only Provincial Park I can walk the whole length of the park along a shoreline. If you enjoy hiking, just plain walking, boating and water related activities this park fits the bill. Being as we left our canoe at home (we were on a job) we did an amazing amount of walking. Lots of picnic and day use areas, large modern marina with marine fuel, did I mention great fishing and a neat restaurant featuring its own dock. We are not the norm and choose not to be tied down by pets but for those who do it’s a pet friendly park as well.
This Lake I discovered played a huge roll in settling farmers into the area. In the early years for the Cree Indians it was a land of abundance providing all their necessities. Bison by the thousands roamed freely on the shores and plains, other wildlife, birds and fish provided food, clothing and shelter. I’m told that it is estimated 60 million bison roamed North America. In 1869, Issac Crowie, a clerk with the Hudson Bay Co. passed through one of the last remaining herds at the north end of Last Mountain Lake. He wrote they blackened the whole country and they travelled amongst them for several days. By 1879 the great herds were gone from Saskatchewan and by 1884 only a few remained.
In 1887 the Canadian government was urged to protect the large bird populations of nesting and migratory birds. Then it was part of the North West Territories and a bird sanctuary was created at the north end of the lake. With the dwindling fur trade in those days the railway wanted to make sure it put down tracks in settled areas for financial viability. The goal of the railway was to connect the east with British Columbia. Settlers started noticing the area was very fertile for agriculture and the government of Saskatchewan in the 1890s and 1920s created the homestead act which granted immigrants 160 acres of land if they farmed it for 3 years. This increased the population to nearly a million by 1920.
When the European settlers arrived a small town called Watertown was established near the north end of the lake sometimes referred to as Long Lake. Before the railways it was steamboats that brought supplies and people to the land. The Peterson Land Company ran a steam boat the SS QuAppelle on Last Mountain Lake to help bring settlers into the area. These boats played a big role for a number of years. Watertown was their northern port and Port Hyman was established at the south end of the lake.
A railway was eventually built and settlers took over the land. Today walking in the fields one can still find stone rings and cairns from native campsites, a reminder of the tremendous changes that have taken place in the last century. Now large farms spread out over the countryside, and a number of recreational areas developed along the shorelines. On the west side Regina Beach and Lumsden Beach were established and to the north Sunset Cove and Sundale Resort.
It’s hard to imagine as one looks out over the lake not too long ago paddle wheeler steamships provided the main transportation and supply link for the people in the area to the railhead located in Regina to the south. The boats are smaller, faster and now simply provide recreation for the 1000’s enjoying the park.
This is a great park, not our favourite but worth visiting. Remember when camping please leave the site the way you would like to find it…..happy camping and we hope to see you “down the road”.