If you are like me, you sometimes get this uncontrollable itch to be out in nature. Unfortunatley, in our busy lives we sometimes just can't get away from the city more than we would like. That is why I am glad that Saskatoon has the Meewasin Valley Authority who work endlessly to keep nature accessible to everyone in Saskatoon.
Meewasin manages over 80km of trails in and around the city of Saskatoon and just recently finished another trail that now allows you to walk or bike from the Circle South Bridge to Chief Whitecap Park. It is another great addition to an already outstanding asset in Saskatoon that I feel we take for granted. Saskatoon's commitment to keeping its river valley a beacon for the natural world is something a lot of communities don't have.
The trails, tree groves and the wildlife along the South Saskatchewan River bank are what make Saskatoon a special city. The connection to nature is so intertwined that many don't even realize the potential that is there. However, if you are willing to do a bit of exploring in your own backyard you will be amazed on what you might find!
Cranes taking off at Chief Whitecap Park
Meewasin's goal is to maintain a healthy and vibrant river valley. To ensure they meet this goal they manage a couple parks outside of the city such as Beaver Creek Conservation Area and Cranberry Flats. These natural areas are both less than 15 minutes south of Saskatoon and accesible to anyone. I visit these areas quite often as the views they offer of the South Saskatchewan River are nothing short of breath-taking. These are the perfect place to spend an afternoon regardless of the season.
I'll take jaw dropping views for $1,000
While you might be familiar with the well-groomed paths that run along the west and east sides of the river inside the city - did you know that if you venture off the beaten path you will find a network of trails that carve their way through the dense brush? I enjoy taking walks with my dogs on these trails, where you are immediately transported from city life to something quite unexpected.
This experience only 10 minutes from your house
I often speak to people in Saskatoon about these hidden trails – and I am surprised to find that many do not even know they exist. They are so well hidden in the bush that if you aren’t willing to go looking for them you will walk right past them.
They are quite easy to find – all you need to do is go to the foot of either the University, Circle Drive North or Train Bridge on the east side of the river. From this vantage point the trails will appear to you. Once here start exploring, as you walk or bike you will see trails that offshoot into different areas, you'll stumble upon wildlife such as beavers calmly swimming in the river. (There is usually a family that hangs out across the river from the Bez) From this vantage point you just might see Saskatoon a little differently.
In the Spring the geese and ducks will be busy taking care of their chicks and you can get up close and personal to their little families as they take breaks along the shore line. Many of of the paths bring you right down to the water edge.
Get a different look at downtown
There are also biking trails – if you are brave enough - that are located north of the Sutherland Dog park where you will be forced to really test your mettle as you weave and bob through tight corners and fast descents. I have had a couple good falls on these biking trails but they always have be going back for more.
I wasn't kidding about the falls on my bike - they hurt!
If you really want to get close to wildlife than I suggest you spend some time in the the Northeast Swale, an ecological preserve adjacent to the Silverspring neighbourhood where it stretches, surprisingly, northeast out of the city.
This area is a corridor for all sorts of prairie animals; quite often you will see deer enjoying their lunch as they cautiously watch you walk past. You can also find foxes, coyotes, rabbits and snakes in the area that all make a home inside the city limits.
Ever feel like you are being led somewhere?
Saskatoon has the nickname “City of Bridges” and while I agree that these are great features I believe that the city’s strength comes from its connection to nature. I challenge anyone who is a resident or a visitor to Saskatoon to spend some time exploring the natural side of things. You might be surprised by what you find!
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Who do you think likes the Meewasin trails more? Me or them?