Two Saskatchewan road trips that celebrate the diversity of Grasslands National Park
Grasslands National Park, located in southwest Saskatchewan, is the province's second national park. It is the only park in Canada that preserves mixed-prairie grassland and has some of the darkest skies in Canada, which makes it a haven for star gazers. The park is divided into the ecologically and geographically distinct West and East Blocks. The West Block houses part of the Frenchman River Valley and is home to a number of endangered species. The fossil-rich badlands of Rock Creek make up Grasslands National Park's East Block. Here are two road trips that showcase the incredible diversity of this rare and fragile ecosystem and are among Saskatchewan's best scenic drives.
Ecotour scenic drive, Grasslands National Park (West Block)
Pick up a self-guided driving brochure from the Visitor Centre located in Val Marie, the gateway village to the west side of the park. This 80-kilometre loop takes you through a black-tailed prairie dog colony, the park's resident bison herds, old ranching homesteads, archeological sites, and stunning views of the valley, coulees, and buttes. Information panels along the road interpret the area. This block is home to burrowing owls, black-footed ferrets, greater short-horned lizards, plains bison, and black-tailed prairie dogs. Keep your eyes peeled for these endangered species.
Badlands Parkway, Grasslands National Park (East Block)
This 11-kilometre road opened in 2019 and it's easy to see why it was quickly recognized as one of Saskatchewan's best scenic drives. The drive has been carefully considered and invites you to experience the land while protecting the fragile surrounding habitat. The paved trail rises and falls along an escarpment, much of it a historic route that takes you into the otherworldly experience of the badlands at Rock Creek. These badlands are the richest source for dinosaur fossils in Canada (and among the richest in the world). In fact, the first fossils in North America were discovered here. The parkway is open during daylight hours from mid-May to mid-October.
Things to know:
This park is very remote and has limited services nearby. Be sure to have all the food you need and fill up your vehicle before heading south of Highway 13.