The town of Waskesiu is 91 years old in 2019. A leisurely three hour drive from Saskatoon and 11/2 hours from Prince Albert, it was once a long meandering 4 hour route from Prince Albert until the creation of the Prince Albert National Park. The National Park park was proposed in 1926, designed in 1927, and opened with fanfare in 1928 by Prime Minister William Lyon Mackenzie King. The town of Waskesiu (Cree for “red deer”) was chosen as the Park’s hub on opening day.
Before 1928, First Nations and Métis people lived in the area, and shared the area with commercial logging, and eventually because of its myriad types of northern trees such as spruce and pine, and its clear lakes and long beaches, the area got the attention of the creators of the PANP and naturally, the park and its unique natural habitat were chosen as Saskatchewan’s first national park. Relief workers were brought into the town in the 1930s and paid 20 cents a day to build roads, the golf course and the unique architectural historical buildings that are still standing today, such as the golf clubhouse, the museum, Waskesiu Nature Centre, Community Hall and the Superintendent’s Building Residence.
Still prominent today, the Nature Centre is now a nationally recognized federal heritage building. Its character is so inherent to the town history of the park, that Parks Canada experts in log restoration and stone masonry were called upon to restore weakened sections. The additional upgrades included the creation and installation of new exhibits on the natural and cultural history of the area, and Parks Canada also worked with an Indigenous advisory group to display Indigenous history of the area, dating back 8,000 years.
The halls – Community Hall and, Terrace Gardens (Assembly Hall), were also built during the depression, are on the Canadian Register of Historic Places, and are available for weddings, reunions, conferences, festivals, concerts and other events from May long weekend to Thanksgiving. The Community Hall is particularly spectacular with its vaulted ceilings and log construction.
Famously, Waskesiu was also the favourite place of Mr. Hockey, Gordie Howe. The Waskesiu Golf Course displays the Gordie Howe tribute sign the “Waskeisu Golf Course,” where Howe worked and played and won the Lobstick trophy in 1954, adding his name to a total of six trophies. The town also had the honour of being former Toronto Maple Leaf’s Johnny Bower’s summer home, who hailed from Prince Albert and operated a hamburger restaurant in Waskesiu.
Today, the modern town of Waskesiu is well known for its long clean beach, swimming, motor boats and canoes, cabins, marina, shops, hotels, motels, bungalows, restaurants, and theatre, and now, the fantastic new mini-golf course called ‘Little Al’s Mini Golf” opening summer of 2019 which was designed to mirror and resonate Waskesiu and Prince Albert National Park. The mini-golf course reflects natural, historic and cultural themes, and intrinsic treasures found only in Wakesiu: hole #1 deals with a recognizable rise and Lobstick tree in the middle, while further examples are loons laughing on hole #5 and canoe chaos on hole #11.
There is also the 210-site Beaver Glen campground (which includes ten oTENTiks, a cross between a tent and a rustic cabin) and 161-site full-service Red Deer campground. There are also a number of campgrounds throughout the park, both providing reservable and first-come, first-serve options for visitors. The range of services at these campgrounds provide the perfect camping experience whether it be in the backcountry or in the town of Waskesiu.
Waskesiu also holds numerous events and activities throughout the summer including various music, art, film and childrens’s festivals.
Those wanting to support the unique Waskesiu experience can donate to the Waskesiu Foundation – “Enhancing the Waskesiu Experience”. The Waskesiu Foundation is a charitable organization that supports recreational, social, cultural and environmental activities. By donating, you can do something positive to enhance the Waskesiu experience on behalf of your family, your business or your estate.Your gift will make a difference right now...and for future generations. Every dollar raised stays right in Waskesiu. For information about the Waskesiu Foundation, visit www.waskesiufoundation.ca