A trip from the Fred Heal canoe launch (near Beaver Creek) to Saskatoon makes an easy and leisurely day trip. Bring a lunch and stop for a break on a sandbar along the way. A word of caution, the wind can be channeled through the river valley and can make progress difficult if it's a head wind. Due to the slow nature of the river, a head wind can readily discount the aid of the current. The current on the South Saskatchewan is quite variable depending upon the time of year and the amount of water being released from the Diefenbaker Reservoir. As such, the current can be quite forceful when the meltwater reaches this area in late June. In addition, the sandbars are constantly shifting and the current unpredictable. Take care, wear your lifejacket and keep a close watch on kids. Dress appropriately, be aware of the potential for sudden thunderstorms or strong winds. If you have a tail wind, you may wish to make use of a small sail or an airfoil kite.
Leaving the Fred Heal canoe launch, you will travel in a Eastern direction until you round the corner at Beaver Creek and the river travels generally North from here to Saskatoon. After a few km you will pass the Cranberry Flats area on river right. Use discretion when bird-watching with binoculars in this area as the southern sandbars of Cranberry Flats are an unofficial nude beach. Between Cranberry Flats and Poplar Bluffs on river left, is Hershall (sp?) Island. Depending upon the water level, the river right channel around the island may be too shallow and choked with sandbars to be easily navigable. The majority of the current goes to the west of the island so this tends to be the best route.
Approximately 1 km beyond Hershall Island you will pass the large clubhouse for a golf course sitting atop the river valley on river right. Shortly past the golfcourse is Chief Whitecap off-leash dog walking area. The off-leash area extends well over a km long. Near the North end of the off-leash area is Yarrow Island on river left. The shear sand banks of the island are excellent habitat for cliff swallows and you will see their many nests as holes in the side of the bank. At many places along the river you will see dozens of swallows feeding over the water, catching insects from the air.
As you come around the North corner of Yarrow Island, you will see the city loom, with the Queen Elizabeth Power Station on river left. You will also pass under several transmission lines that lead from the power plant so if you have been using a kite to pull you along, now would be a good time to reel it in. Shortly you will pass under the railway bridge and Diefenbaker Park will be on river right and Holiday Park golf course will be seen on river left. Once in the city you can proceed to wherever you have arranged for a vehicle to be left or where you are to be picked up. On river right Gabrielle Dumont Park and Rotary Park both make good egress points. On river left Victoria Park and the boathouse docks make a good point to come ashore.
There is a parking lot at the Fred Heal Canoe Launch and a path that leads to the water. The carry can be short or long depending on water levels. Unfortunately the signage to find the canoe launch is completely absent.
Take Highway #219 South of Saskatoon. Just past the Beaver Creek Conservation Area take gravel road to the right (West). Along this road at the bottom of the hill is an intersection with another gravel road, turn right (North) and follow this road to the parking lot of the Fred Heal Canoe Launch. Alternate starting points would be the Berry Barn (stop for Sunday brunch first!) or the Poplar Bluffs Conservation Area.
The Meewasin Valley Authority has published a series of maps covering the S. Sask River from Gardiner Dam to the Forks. The maps are divided into short day trips and provide some information about local history as well as describing access and egress points, hazards, etc.
- Trip Duration: Day Trip
- Sport/Activity: Kayaking, Canoeing
- Skill Level: Beginner
- Water Type: River/Creek (Up to Class II)