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  • Writer's pictureKarl Koerber

Saskatchewan Road Trip, Part 5: Even Badder Badlands and the little Wood River

Day 8: On our last day in Assiniboia, we headed southwest to the East Block of Grasslands Park. It was a cool day, and a howling wind, with gusts approaching the 100 kph range, had the tumbleweeds racing across the road as we drove. They enjoyed their freedom until they came up against a fence, where progress was impeded, for a while anyway, bringing to mind the song “Don’t Fence Me In.”

The East Block of the park is quite remote, and there are few amenities: an office with a few staff, a campground that also includes some “glamping” chalets and an equestrian campground for horseback riders.

There are several hiking/riding trails in this part of the park, and I would have gone for a short hike but for the wind. It was so strong that it almost blew us over a few times, so we settled for driving the “Badlands Parkway,” a road along the scarp overlooking the Rock Creek valley with a number of viewpoints along the way. The pink chairs, strategically scattered throughout the park, are a neat feature.

I was blown away, (figuratively) by the spectacular beauty of the landforms in the valley below us and beyond. It felt more like Arizona, or even Mars, than Saskatchewan. At every stop along the parkway we bundled up as best we could and walked out to the viewpoint, leaning into the wind, to drink in the raw beauty of this remarkable corner of our country.

Despite being desolate and barren or, perhaps, because of it, this area has some interesting history.

When we’d finished our tour along the parkway, we headed northwest on some back roads, planning to return to Assiniboia by a different route.

During the course of this trip, I came to appreciate the ways that wildlife has (or hasn’t) adapted to humans occupying and modifying such huge swaths of their territory. Some, like the bison, prairie dog, swift fox and others, require intervention to maintain viable populations, while others have incorporated the agricultural areas into their habitat. Millions of migrating birds rely on leftovers in the grain stubble, coyotes and foxes prey on the rodents that also feed on grain, while deer and pronghorn seem also able to make a living among the vast farms that have replaced the native ecosystems over time.

We were nearby, relatively, so we made a mini-pilgrimage to the inspiration for Connie Kaldor’s song “Wood River,” just because we could.

“O won’t you come with me, where the Wood River flows?

We’ll watch it meander slowly…”

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