Difficulty- Moderate to Advanced
Distance - 22km
All photography and information provided by Christoper L. Istace
ROCANVILLE TO TANTALLON - SCISSORS CREEK HIKE
This Saskatchewan hiking location was explored by Christopher L. Istace - an avid hiker and blogger in western Canada. You can find more about him by clicking here. if you have a location you wish to share reach out to SaskHiker and share it with the community!
Escaping into the wild in Southeast Saskatchewan can be difficult considering the ubiquitous patchwork of pasture and farmland here. However, The Eastern Qu'Appelle River watershed does provide some respite.
Established with the Trans Canada Trail movement in the 1990s, the Scissors Creek Trail runs in a north-northwest direction 22 kilometres between Rocanville and Tantallon, Sask. It follows the abandoned Canadian Pacific Railroad bed that closed more than three decades ago, a line that once ran from Rocanville to Neudorf more than 120 kilometres to the northwest.
Today, the ties and rails are gone, replaced by a six-foot wide dirt, gravel and cinder trail established by ATV enthusiasts in the region. Nevertheless, rail spikes and rail braces can still be found embedded in the trail, or kicked up with a footfall.
Although mostly used by dirt bike, ATV and snowmobile riders, the Scissors Creek coulee is now a provincial wildlife area allowing free access to all types of outdoor enthusiasts, including hikers, mountain bikers, cross-country skiers and snowshoers.
After seeing the world's largest oilcan near the main entrance to Rocanville along Highway 8, park your vehicle near the community's business district then walk a block south where the former rail bed lays adjacent to the highway until it crosses Highway 601 and runs two kilometre across pastureland before dipping into the tip of the ravine containing Scissors Creek. Wear waterproof footwear, as one must walk through the stream on occasion along the way, beginning at this point.
The trail gently declines into the ravine over the next 10 kilometres. The creek, meanwhile, meanders back and forth through culverts below the rail bed until it widens and establishes itself fully to your left. About five kilometres into the hike, walkers are provided with beautiful vistas of the Scissors Creek in the valley below and coulees entering the ravine on both sides.
In fact, the walk is a lesson in how the watershed works. In the spring, streams of water spilling off of the farm fields above meet the creek until it ultimately flows into the Qu'Appelle River about 10 kilometres east of Tantallon. After the extremely high precipitation levels of 2014, ground water can be seen seeping from springs in the dirt and clay where the grass cover has slid away from the hills above.
As you travel, the Aspen Parkland forest begins to thicken below you, providing coverage for many different species of wildlife; white-tail and mule deer, elk, moose, bear, cougar, coyote, ducks, geese, ruffed grouse, beaver and more. Recently, even timber wolf and lynx have been seen in the region.
At the midway point of the Rocanville-to-Tantallon trek is a steep drop to the ravine floor and the creek where it meets Logan Coulee. This was once the location of a CPR wood-trestle bridge that spanned the valley carrying trains since the age of the steam engine. The bridge is gone, leaving a sandy washout where trail users meet to rest and rehydrate. Only a few wood pilings and a 75-yard long concrete culvert remain. The culvert provides a cool, shady respite from the blazing sun on hotter days.
From here, hikers can return to Rocanville or continue towards Tantallon by walking across the foot-deep waters of Scissors Creek. After climbing a steep grade on the other side, you are back on the historic rail bed where the trail provides an easy, level walk outside of a few slight detours where the rail bed has collapsed into the valley below. Piles that once held the bed in place are now exposed, gravity, water and soil pushing the wood poles askew.
Here, one can begin to see the broad opening of the Scissors Creek ravine as it drops into the Qu'Appelle Valley floodplain.
About six kilometres later, you have reached Bear Creek road, where you can either be picked up and returned to Rocanville or carry on across Bear Creek and towards Tantallon five kilometres further up the rail bed. Once in town, enjoy a beverage at the Valley View Hotel Bar where most Scissors Creek Trail enthusiasts close out the day.
Carry plenty of water for the hike. Although the trail lines the Aspen woodland, there is little shade coverage on the trail itself until you reach the mid-point, which is also an incredible place to have a light lunch or small-fire wiener roast on the dry, sandy creek bed.
At Moosomin, Sask., turn north off of the Trans Canada Highway onto Highway 8 and travel 25 kilometres to Rocanville.
Parking is available in the town's business district or on a nearby residential street. Walk across the highway where the rail bed lies parallel until it veers in a northwesterly direction.
There is no trail map, but it is easy to follow. Bring a GPS if you have one to track distances.