The Quill Lakes is a wetland complex in East Central Saskatchewan that is home to over one million waterfowl, shorebirds and songbirds. The surrounding area is agricultural in nature and home to a number of small towns.
The Quill Lakes is a wetland complex that encompasses the endorheic basin of three distinct lake wetlands: Big Quill Lake, Middle Quill Lake and Little Quill Lake. In 1987, it was designated a wetland of international importance via the Ramsar Convention. It was the first Canadian site in the North American Waterfowl Management Plan, is a site in the International Biological Programme and Saskatchewan Heritage Marsh Program, and was designated a Western Hemisphere Shorebird Reserve Network site of International significance in 1994. The site is an important staging and breeding area for spring and fall migration of shorebirds. The site qualifies as an Important Bird Area for its globally and nationally significant migratory and breeding populations of more than a dozen species of birds. The area around the lakes is provincial Crown land administered by the Fish and Wildlife Branch of Saskatchewan Environment, while the surrounding area mostly agricultural.
The lakes were named for bird quills collected near shorelines and shipped to England for use as quill pens. Quill Lakes is Canada's largest saline lake, covering an area of about 635 km2 (245 sq mi). Salinity varies within the lakes and with their water levels, but effectively limits the floral diversity of the region. Big Quill Lake is pear-shaped and approximately 27 km (17 mi) long, measuring 18 km (11 mi) at its widest point. Middle Quill Lake, also known as Mud Lake, is the smallest of the three, about 6 km (3.7 mi) long and 3 km (1.9 mi) wide. Little Quill Lake is 24 km (15 mi) long and 11 km (6.8 mi). Islands located on Middle Quill Lake have been designated provincial wildlife refuges to protect breeding colonies of American white pelican and double-crested cormorant.
- Quill Lakes Interpretive Centre, 435 Bosworth St, Wynyard (Wynard Civic Centre), ☏ , , email@example.com. May 1 - Labour Day: Daily 9AM-5PM. Situated just off Hwy 16 in the town of Wynyard, the Quill Lakes Interpretive Centre provides information on nature viewing sites, history and folklore of the Quill Lakes area, a world-renowned birdwatching area. Maps and tourism brochures are available. Individual and group tours can be booked upon request.
- Foam Lake Visitor Centre, Highway 16, Foam Lake (near Hwy 16 & Hwy 310), ☏ , firstname.lastname@example.org. Mid May-Mid Sept: Daily 8AM-8PM.
Towns and communities
- 1 Dafoe – small hamlet located at the intersection of Highways 6 & 16
- 2 Foam Lake – home to the Foam Lake Heritage Marsh, a large staging area in the fall for thousands of geese, ducks, cranes and swans on their southward migration
- 3 Quill Lake – known as the "Goose Capital of Saskatchewan"
- 4 Wadena – located at the intersection of Highways 5 & 35
- 5 Watson – located at the intersection of Highways 5 & 6; known as the "Industrial Crossroads of Saskatchewan" for being equidistant from Regina and Saskatoon
- 6 Wynyard – located along Highway 16; the largest town in the area
Car is essential because the large, sparsely populated area. The area is boxed by four major highways, with Highways 5 and 16 running east-west, to the north and south of the lakes respectively; while Highways 6 and 35 run north-south, to the west and east of the lakes respectively.
- Foam Lake Museum and Douglas House, 113 Bray Ave W, Foam Lake (Douglas Vintage House on Hwy 16 behind tourism booth, Foam Lake.), ☏ , , email@example.com.
- Wadena & District Museum and Nature Centre (Hwy 35 south of Wadena), ☏ , firstname.lastname@example.org. May-Sept: 9AM-5PM.
- Watson and District Heritage Museum, 201 Main St, Watson, ☏ , , email@example.com. Jul 1-Aug 31: T-Sa 10AM-1PM, 2PM-5PM; other times by appointment.
- Wynyard & District Museum, 120 Avenue B East, Wynyard, ☏ . May Long Weekend-Aug 31: M-F 1-5PM; remainder of year by appointment.
- Birdwatching – Various studies have surveyed bird populations in the Quill Lakes area. The most comprehensive study conducted resulted in a count of 197,155 birds. The site is an important staging and breeding area for the endangered piping plover. Other species identified throughout the complex included 85,000 geese, 100,000 ducks, 12,000 cranes, as well as black-bellied plover, sanderlings, Hudsonian godwits, red knots, stilt sandpipers, white-rumped sandpipers, semipalmated sandpipers, long-billed dowitchers, red-necked phalaropes, and lesser yellowlegs. Additionally, several whooping cranes were observed using the area for staging during fall migration.
- Hunting – the Quill Lakes area is one of the best waterfowl hunting areas in North America.
- Foam Lake Heritage Marsh and Foam Lake Nature Centre, Foam Lake, ☏ , firstname.lastname@example.org. This segment of trail near Foam Lake is part of the Quill Lakes International Bird Area, which was established and is managed by Ducks Unlimited Canada to provide protected wetland marshes for our province’s waterfowl species. There are two main components to this protected region – the Foam Lake Nature Centre and the Foam Lake Heritage Marsh, which includes the Lure Crop, Bertdale and Johnson Viewing Areas.
The towns have a limited selection of local restaurants.
- Centennial Motel, Hwy 5, Quill Lake, ☏ , .
- Blue Willow Inn, Hwy 35, Wadena (1 km N of Wadena), ☏ , email@example.com.
- Watson Motor Inn, ☏ , firstname.lastname@example.org. Two locations in Watson
- Pacific St, 202 Pacific St, Watson (near Jct Hwy 5 & 6).
- Main St, 100 Railway Ave NE, Watson (near Hwy 5 & Main St).
- Arrowhead Motor Inn, 521 South Service Road, Hwy 16, Wynyard, ☏ , email@example.com.
- Southshore Motor Lodge, Hwy 16, Wynyard, ☏ .
|Routes through Quill Lakes|
|Saskatoon ← Lanigan ←||W E||→ Yorkton → Winnipeg|
|Saskatoon ← Humboldt ←||W E||→ Canora → Kamsack|
|Prince Albert via ← Melfort ←||N S||→ Regina → Sidney / Weyburn via|
|Nipawin ← Tisdale ←||N S||→ Fort Qu'Appelle → Weyburn|