Prince Albert National Park covers an area or 3,874 km² (1,496 sq mi), which makes it larger than Cornwall in the UK. It is 200 km (120 mi) north of Saskatoon, and 80 km (50 mi) north of the city for which it is named, Prince Albert.
The park is open all year but the most visited period is from May to September.
The park ranges in elevation from 488 metres (1,601 ft) on the western side to 724 metres (2,375 ft) on the eastern side.
The hamlet Waskesiu Lake is the only settlement within the park. It is on the southern shore of Waskesiu Lake, and offers facilities and services.
- Park office, ☏ , toll-free: , ✉ firstname.lastname@example.org.
It was created in the 1930s to represent the transition from the prairies (open grasslands) through aspen parklands (popular and other deciduous trees with open spaces between clumps) and boreal forest (coniferous trees, lakes, beaches).
The park is perhaps most famous for its association with pioneer conservationist Grey Owl (Archibald Belaney), who was British but posed as Ojibwa (this fake was exposed after his death and tarnished his reputation) and lived his final years in a cabin with a beaver lodge at Lake Ajawaan. He is buried, along with his Mohawk wife Anahareo and his daughter, beside his cabin, restored more than once.
The landscape varies from open plains where buffalo (bison) roam wild to northern lakes with dense forest cover and many lakes. The main townsite is on Waskesiu Lake and is called Waskesiu. It has many fine sandy beaches accessible by automobile, with picnic grounds with public tables where a fire may be lit and food cooked. Other lakes easily accessed are Sandy Lake - which has a camping ground on the shore and a nice sand beach; Namekus Lake - same as Sandy L, but smaller; Trappers Lake - smaller still, no beach; the Hanging Heart Lakes - 3 small lakes which lead into the park's largest lake (Crean), these lakes are usually accessed for fishing only; Crean Lake - takes a boat ride to get to, it has beaches, but these are little used.
Flora and fauna
The main trees in the park are trembling aspen, paper birch, black spruce, white spruce, jack pine and balsam fir. Most travellers to the park will see elk (wapiti - different than European elk), white-tailed deer, much water fowl (ducks and geese) and many birds. Those who hike even short distances off highways may see foxes, black bears, moose (often standing in water, eating), and more rarely wolves and bison (buffalo). The lakes have many fish, and can be caught with a rod and reel - a National Parks fishing license is required. The types of fish often caught are northern pike (locally called "jackfish"), walleye (locally called "pickeral), white perch, whitefish. The park also has a restricted zone for travel at Lake Lavalee on the northern border where white pelicans breed. Most travellers would not venture "into the bush" by canoe and wet trail to make the restrictions important.
Summers are generally warm but not excessively hot. Days in June and July may achieve more than 30 °C. May and August are often warm, but may also have daytime temperatures some years as low as 5-10 °C, and near freezing overnight. The townsite accommodations at Waskesiu Lake are often heavily booked from about June 15 to about August 20 because of being almost certain to have fine sunny weather. The park is open in winter for cross country skiing and other adventures, but little used.
- Highway 2 runs north-south through Saskatchewan, passing through Moose Jaw and Prince Albert. From Prince Albert, Highway 2 proceeds north along the eastern side of the park, with Highway 264 being the main connector.
- Highway 11 starts in Regina (capital of the Province of Saskatchewan), proceeds north through Saskatoon and Prince Albert; travelers can then connect with Highway 2 in Prince Albert. Most travelers will either fly into Saskatoon and rent a car, or drive north from the Trans-Canada Highway (Highway 1) which passes through Regina, or the Yellowhead Highway (Highway 16, another Trans-Canada route through Saskatoon; west to Edmonton and east to Winnipeg).
- Passenger bus service is available into the townsite of Waskesiu, which may please those who are interested in a resort village and beaches and don't need to travel out far.
Fees and permits
A national park pass or daily fee for entry applies. Special fishing licences are required.
Daily fees for 2018:
- Adult $7.80
- Senior $6.80
- Youth and children under 18 free
- Family/group $15.70
Annual pas (early bird pass available Dec 1-Mar 31) (2018):
- Adult $ 39.20 ($ 31.40)
- Senior $ 34.30 ($ 27.40)
- Youth and children under 18 free
- Family/group $ 78.50 ($ 78.50)
Fishing permits (2018):
- Daily $ 9.80
- Annual $ 34.30
Parks Canada Passes
The Discovery Pass provides unlimited admission for a full year at over 80 Parks Canada places that charge a daily entrance fee. It provides faster entry and is valid for 12 months from date of purchase. Prices for 2020 (taxes included):
- Family/group (up to 7 people in a vehicle): $136.40
- Children and youth (0-17): free
- Adult (18-64): $67.70
- Senior (65+): $57.90
The Cultural Access Pass: people who have received their Canadian citizenship in the past year can qualify for free entry to some sites.
Hiking, walking, driving, boating, canoeing will all be your travel methods. You may also rent a bicycle (expensive).
Most people spend at least some time lying on the sandy beaches and swimming. Often, even at busy summer weekends, it is possible to find a beach all to yourself at a picnic site or with a walk away from tourist areas.
Wildlife watching is very easy. You will have to be blind not to see elk and deer, and with a little looking will also see other animals. There are many short trails with written guides to help you understand what to look for. There is a park nature centre and park office to help you plan such adventures. There are also guided naturalist walks for small fees.
- 1 Grey Owl's Cabin (Beaverlodge), Ajawaan Lake. A trail, 2.75 km around the western edge of the lake, leads to the two cabins on the north shore: the principal at the water's edge, where beavers had built a lodge partly inside, and a second up the hill behind, built for his wife Anahereo, who disliked living around beavers. The graves of Grey Owl, Anahereo and daughter Shirley Dawn are west of the upper cabin. Parks Canada has several times restored both cabins; the beaver lodge in the lower cabin is a partial reconstruction.
Swim in the lake, sun on the beach, shop in town, drive the roads to remote beaches, walk trails. There is movie theatre with 2 screens. In cold and rainy weather, they will put on extra shows for the wet and cold tourists.
- 1 Waskesiu Golf Course (The Lobstick), 500 Kingsmere Dr, Waskesiu, ☏ . A highly rated golf course, with club and cart rental, in the bush among many animals.
- 2 Nature Centre, Lakeview Drive, Waskesiu.
- Hiking - day hikes: These trails are less than 2 kilometres in length. They each have descriptive guided brochures which help to identify the natural sights along the way.
- Boundary Bog Trail, Mud Creek Trail, Treebeard Trail, Waskesiu River Trail, Kingsmere River Trail, Amiskowan Trail, Ice-Push Ridge Trail, Narrows Peninsula Trail, Spruce River Highlands Tower Trail
- Hiking - longer hikes: There are longer trails for the backpacker and hiker which vary from 13 km in length and to 54 km (return).
- Kingfisher Trail, Grey Owl Trail, Freight Trail, Kinowa Trail, Elk Trail, Fish Trail, Hunters Trail, Spruce River Highlands Trail
- Swimming: Surrounding Waskesiu Lake there are several beaches to take in swimming during the hot summer months. There are also good beaches at the south end of Kingsmere Lake (boat or trail access), Namekus Lake, and Sandy Lake.
- Canoeing: Bagwa Canoe Route and Bladebone Canoe Route are two canoe routes of varying lengths. The park offers a multitude of lakes which are amenable to the canoe enthusiast, including Amiskowan, Shady, Heart, Kingsmere and Waskesiu lakes.
- Boating: Power boats are only permitted on some Prince Albert National Park lakes. Motor boats are allowed on Waskesiu, Crean, Kingsmere, Sandy and the Hanging Heart Lakes. There is a limit of 40 horse power motors on Kingsmere. The Waskesiu Marina, Heart Lakes Marina and the Narrows have boat launches (permit and fee required) and docks. Boat, canoe and kayak rentals are available at all three, by the hour or by the day. The Waskesiu Marina has a concrete breakwater. A permit is required to use boat launch facilities. Personal watercraft are not allowed on any lakes. Canoes, kayaks and sail boats are allowed on all waters.
- Fishing: for northern pike, walleye, lake trout, whitefish, or yellow perch. The park requires purchase of its own licences to fish in the park. Limits and seasons are different from those of the province of Saskatchewan. Some areas, e.g., spawning grounds, are closed to fishing.
- Bird watching: Flycatchers, Tennessee warblers, red-necked grebe, brown creepers, nuthatches, three-toed woodpeckers, bald eagle, osprey, great blue herons, common loon are just a few of the many bird species to be seen in the park.
- Wildlife watching: Elk, black bear, fox, moose, beaver, deer, otter are a sampling of wild life of the park area. Although most people visit the park in summer, the best wildlife watching is often in the winter. Wolves often travel on the frozen lakes and along the ploughed roads, and elk and deer are common right in the town of Waskesiu. Open water at the Narrows on Waskesiu Lake and where the Waskesiu River exits from the lake makes otter sightings very reliable. Foxes, including the red, cross and silver colour phases, are frequent sightings in winter too.
- Aurora watching: Due to the park's northern latitude, Auroras are very common on dark nights even with low solar activity. There is usually a display once every three nights.
The town of Waskesiu has the only stores. There are two small grocery stores (supermarkets), 4 or 5 clothes stores (mostly beach wear and women's clothes), dry goods (camping equipment and basic necessities), government liquor store (well stocked). This is not a shopping destination, but most necessary things are available, and the prices may be better than the cities to the south especially late in the summer season.
There are maybe 8 places to eat where you sit down at a table with waiters. There are 3 fast food outlets, one of which is the Mr. Submarine sandwich chain store.
- 1 Third & Main, 300 Main St, Big River, ☏ .
- 2 Mackenzie's Dining Room (The Hawood Inn), Waskesiu Lake, ☏ .
The sit down restaurants all serve alcohol drinks. The age to drink is 19 in Saskatchewan, but this is not enforced except in the restaurants or if you are making a noisy party in the campground etc.
There are cabins for rent from ~$85-200, and rooms in a hotel may be about the same. Many of these are good value if you have a larger group and share the costs. Campground fees may be $15 for a campsite (up to 6 people) with no electric or water hookups, to may be $30 for a caravan (trailer) with all hook-ups (electric, water, sewer). You may camp at sites with outhouses (drop septic latrines), toilets with cold water, and others with hot and cold water shower and toilet houses. You may also hike to wilderness camp grounds which have no services, no lights except for stars and moon and animals for neighbours! You must pay a small fee for these also.
Hotels, drive up motels, cabins, camping grounds. Book ahead for all is possible and recommended to avoid having no place to sleep in June, July and August.
- 2 Beaver Glen. The major camp ground at Waskesiu, which is good for tents, trailers which want electricity (only service there). It has hot and cold showers and flush toilets. You must walk to the lake and to the town or drive. You may have campfires if you buy a fire permit for $1 per day.
There is a trailer park for caravans and motor homes and RVs with hook-ups next to the Beaver Glen campground. No fires are allowed there
The Narrows is 30 minutes drive from Waskesiu and it is on the lakeshore. It was flush toilets, cold water there and no showers. No services for the trailers. Fires with fire permit.
Two self-register campgrounds are at two lakes south of Waskesiu. These are at Sandy and Namekus lakes. Many boaters and fishers like to camp here. There is one other small camp ground at Trapper's Lake which has 5 or 6 sites only.
Camping per night mid-June to early Sept/shoulder season (2018):
- Red Deer Campground - Water, sewer, and electrical $ 35.30/$ 29.40
- Beaver Glen - Electrical, toilets and showers $ 29.40/$ 23.50
- Sandy Lake, Namekus Lake - Primitive $ 15.70/$ 12.70
Narrows Campground, unserviced, toilets only:
- per night $ 21.50
- weekly $ 127.50
- monthly $ 471.00
oTENTik (tent with beds on a platform), per night $ 120.00
- Per permit $ 8.80
- Narrows campsite, weekly/monthly permit $ 44.10/$ 109.90
Accessible by hiking, bicycle, and canoe. You may camp after registering and getting a permit. A particularly popular trip to from Waskesiu to the Kingsmere River Portage which has a railcar you can put a small boat or canoe on and take to Kingsmere Lake (free). Then you can canoe 12 km to the north end and walk to Ajawaan Lake where Grey Owl's cabins still stand. If you prefer to hike to the cabin, a trail is on the eastern side. You will need to get an early start to hike almost 30 km and spend time at the cabins also. Grey Owl has one cabin half in the water with a beaver lodge (house) taking up half the cabin. His wife lived in the cabin up the hill!
There are many good bicycle trails and hiking trails. The terrain is mostly through bush country and to see lakes.
Backcountry use and camping permit per person (2018):
- Overnight $ 9.80
- Annual $ 68.70
- Winter Overnight $ 4.90
It is quite safe from people. Leaving automobiles locked will be safe everywhere. Putting things out of sight of others will help ensure this. It is normal to ask others to watch your things even if you just met them, e.g. in a campground or on the beach.
The most risky thing is to leave any food or scraps, even garbage out. The bears will smell it and then tear up your campsite to find more. It is illegal to feed any animals at all, even if they are cute, for this reason. Also, never get too close to a deer or elk, which may run at you. Bear and other animal attacks are rare, and will not happen if you follow the instructions you will be given.
|Routes through Prince Albert National Park|
|END ← La Ronge ←||N S||→ Prince Albert → Moose Jaw / Saskatoon via|