Waskesiu Lake is located in Saskatchewan’s Prince Albert National Park. This beautiful area is an outdoorsperson’s dream. Water, wildlife and 21 trails around the lake—but boating on Waskesiu is a local favourite. Visitors are especially encouraged to paddle their canoes and kayaks along the shore to catch a close-up of the local wildlife from a safe distance: elk, moose, deer and bears.
Just west of the park, visitors will find the small town of Big River. This town, like the neighbouring park, is criss-crossed with trails.
ATVing near Big River
Bill Gerow, president of Timber Trails ATV Cooperative in Big River, has lived in the area his whole life. He rides the local trails year-round: on his snowmobile in the winter and with his quad when the snow melts. He even rides the trails with horses from time to time.
Bill Gerow, President of the Timber Trails ATV Cooperative in Big River. — Photo courtesy Bill Gerow
“I like the quality and quantity of the trails,” Gerow said, “and the diversity of them.” With over 200 kilometres of trails under the care of the Timber Trails ATV Cooperative, there’s a lot of space to explore. They also vary from dry and covered by boreal forest to wetlands with plenty of mud to play in. “You can’t cover all the trails in one year! It’s a good problem,” he said.
The story of Timberlost
In 1939, the government asked people to move to the town of Timberlost, just west of Big River. In return, they offered lots of land to settle on. Unfortunately, the area was not sustainable for the community, so the town was abandoned 20 years later. “They left everything there when they left,” said Gerow. “There are old homesteads that have fallen down and the old trails.” A couple years later, the government replanted trees in the fields. “Now we have forest with trails running through all of it.”
It’s a beautiful area with a handful of quiet lakes only accessible by quad, but it can be dangerous because of the remote location. The area is so vast that Gerow and the rest of the Timber Trails ATV Cooperative request that any riders adventuring to Timberlost let club members know where they will be and their expected time of return. There is no cell phone service, and the area is so large that a quad could run out of fuel. “We will come looking for you that night,” Gerow said.
Some club members love to ride in the swampy areas around Big River. The more mud, the better! — Photo courtesy Mackenzie Bergen
Camping and fishing on family-friendly trails
On the east side of town, adjacent to Prince Albert National Park, riders will find the more family-friendly trails. This is also where riders spot a lot of wildlife, including the largest wild buffalo herd in Western Canada. “You see them quite often in the meadows,” said Gerow.
These eastern trails are along lakes full of fish. Riders tow their boats into the bush, choose a lake and find a wilderness camp spot to spend the night. “We have 40 lakes within 40 kilometres of Big River,” said Gerow. Bring your poles to catch trout, pickerel, pike, perch—all kinds of fish. Plus, it’s quiet. “You might run into others, but usually you don’t,” he said.
Just north of here, local riders explore the logging trails—a sign of the town’s logging history. If visitors want to see more history, there are interpretive displays scattered around town, and old tugboats ply the lake.
Detailed trail maps are found in front of the visitor centre in Big River, or Gerow encourages visitors to reach out to the ATV club for digital copies. If you like remote escapes, add the trails near Big River, Prince Albert National Park and Waskesiu Wilderness Region to your bucket list. No matter what direction you ride in, Saskatchewan promises an adventure.
Timber Trails ATV Cooperative’s Spring Rally
Big River’s local ATV club encourages visitors to reach out for trail maps and information on local accommodations and to attend their Spring event. Participate in the 65-kilometre trail ride to win cash prizes at the draw at the end of the day. Join the other riders for breakfast and enjoy lunch on the trails.
Event: Spring ATV Rally
Date: May 12
Registration: 8 a.m. to 1 p.m.
Where: Ski Timber Ridge Lodge, Big River, Saskatchewan
Cost: $20 per person
Contact: Vera Connolly at 306-469-4938 or president Bill Gerow at 306-469-7677