For more than a century, Last Mountain Lake National Wildlife Area (NWA) has been officially recognized as a special place for wildlife. This area was first protected in 1887, when 1025 hectares (ha) of land at the north end of Last Mountain Lake were set aside as breeding grounds for wild fowl, becoming the first federal bird sanctuary in North America. Two main factors contribute to attracting such a wealth of birdlife to the area: its good habitats, as one of the most productive lakes in southern Saskatchewan; and its strategic location in the heart of the central flyway of North America. Spectacular populations of migrating ducks, geese, Sandhill Cranes and other birds use the area as they travel across the Great Plains, between their northern breeding grounds and southern wintering grounds.
Over 280 species of birds have been recorded at Last Mountain Lake NWA during migration. Up to 50,000 cranes, 450,000 geese and several hundred thousand ducks can be observed when migration peaks. Although less conspicuous, scores of songbirds, shorebirds and birds of prey spend from a few days to a few weeks every year in the area. Birds travelling through at least 25 different countries, from arctic Canada to Argentina, use Last Mountain Lake’s rich habitats. The NWA is also an important breeding ground for at least 100 species of birds, many of which are unique to the prairie region. More than 9 species of shorebirds, 43 species of songbirds and 13 species of ducks nest within the limits of the NWA. Some of the most spectacular breeders include the Western Grebe, the American White Pelican, the American Avocet and the Wilson’s Phalarope.
Besides its values as a migratory stopover and a breeding area, Last Mountain Lake NWA provides appropriate habitat for 9 of Canada’s 36 species of vulnerable, threatened and endangered birds, as classified by the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada (COSEWIC) in 1993. They include the Peregrine Falcon, the Piping Plover, the Whooping Crane, the Burrowing Owl, the Ferruginous Hawk, the Loggerhead Shrike, the Baird’s Sparrow, the Caspian Tern, and the Cooper’s Hawk.Colonial nesters such as Pelicans,Cormorants, Gulls, Terns and Grebes are also particularly dependent upon the statutory protection afforded by the NWA. These birds nest in mixed colonies on several islands on the lake or on floating platforms in the marsh and are very sensitive to disturbance during the breeding season.
Whether you wish to take a driving tour with interpretive stops, explore some walking trails or get a birds-eye view of extensive wetlands and prairies from an observation tower, Last Mountain Lake NWA has something for everyone. For the more adventurous, check out the opportunities for fishing, hunting, canoeing, kayaking, hiking, bird-watching, wildlife photography, and nature study in this beautiful NWA. Don’t forget to take in the sight of the tens of thousands of migrating geese, ducks, swans and cranes that stop by to rest and replenish on their long journeys.
Public facilities: self-service information kiosk, washrooms (located near information kiosk), self-interpretive trails (with floating dock and bird blind), parking lot and observation tower.
For more information on what is permitted in NWAs, consult the NWA Management and Activities page on our website. www.canada.ca/en/environment-climate-change/services/migratory-bird-sanctuaries/locations/last-mountain-lake.html
Directions: The administration building and visitor centre are both located at the main access point south of Highway 15.From Regina and Saskatoon:Take Highway 2 to Highway 15. Go east on Highway 15 for 14.4 kilometers where you’ll see a headquarters sign for the NWA. Turn south (right) and travel 3.2 km to the headquarters office. GPS: 51.416929, -105.239036.
More information on access and permitting for Last Mountain Lake NWA can be obtained by contacting the Environment and Climate Change Canada regional office. Tel. (306) 836-2022.