Narrow Hills Provincial Park
FTLComm - Zeden Lake - Friday, June 17, 2011
Initially our plan was to camp at Wapiti Regional park north of Gronlid, failing that we would camp at Choiceland or Smeaton. The weather and the looks of Wapiti did not encourage us to stay there so we pushed on across the river found a nice campground but it was closed and so were the ones at Choiceland and Smeaton. That sent us up the Hanson Lake Road to a campground we found on the Internet called Little Bear Lake, it was suppose to be at 62km north of Smeaton but we found no such place and we entered the really big Narrow Hills Provincial Park.

The highways in much of Saskatchewan this year are in pretty tough shape from the spring flooding and high water table last summer but on this trip we encountered smooth highways. Highway #6 north of Melfort to the River is really outstanding and the Hanson Lake Road which I remember as one of John Diefenbaker's achievements, one of his famous "roads to resources" was freshly pave for most of the distance from Smeaton to the Park.

Now one of the things a Saskatchewan person learns early in life is that whenever things are good there is always the certainty that you will pay for that pleasure. Nice winters beget miserable summers and beautiful autumns are the harbingers of killer winters. So the silky smooth ride for the hour north of
Smeaton was to become our debt.

Now I had done some research and we were technologically loaded up. We had a GPS telling us where to go, two GPS apps in the iPad and the Internet on the iPad to keep us informed. In addition we had three clean versions of the provincial highway map, paper version of the
Provincial Parks guide, the pdf of that in the iPad, we had the Tourism Saskatchewan guide and I had done my looking about on the Internet. Was I ready for Narrow Hills Provincial Park? The Park's website is devoid of any maps of itself. I did have a pdf of the Lower Fishing Lake campground but had no idea how to get there. One of the things I missed was the little brochure called the Narrow Hills Provincial Park Visitor Guide. Had we downloaded that or found a paper version our adventure might have been very different.

At the South end of the park on the Highway there is a sign pointing to the Park Administration office. about half a kilometre north of that turn off there is a highway information sign that has been thoroughly destroyed with gunfire and even if it wasn't it does not have a map of the park. So, we took the road to the Administration office.

This is where we paid for the smooth ride up the Hanson Lake Road. for about half an hour we worked our way along a gravel road with the motorhome. The washboard was so severe that on several occasions I had to stop completely. Rarely did we get up to more than twenty kilometres an hour, it was brutal. The washboard did not have the benefit of a grader in several decades perhaps not at all in this century, it made our street in Tisdale, the worst piece of road I know look actually pretty good.

We reached the administrative office but there was no one to be seen and the sign out front had no useable information. Smeaton was the end of our 3G Internet connection so the iPad was useless, there was nothing to do but press on, so more washboard and finally we came to some intersections but there was no sign to indicate a campground or any other feature.

We found the Lower Fishing Lake campground without even knowing there was a lake nearby. We drove past an area with private cabins but did not see that either. Mainly I was trying to get over the shakes and praying, well at least sort of using various religious phrases to implore no damage to the vehicle.

The road was pretty well the main event so that we had paid little attention to the great scenery and the clear indications of being in a moraine area. The park has something like thirty-six lakes, four campgrounds a really challenging hiking trail and lots and lots of trees.

The web site
Virtual Saskatchewan has a nice article on the park and it is worth looking over. Unfortunately the scenic road is not the sort of trail we could take the motorhome on as they actually recommend a four wheel vehicle but perhaps another time we will find a way to check out more of the scenery. On this trip it was to visit Lower Fishing Lake and then we went on to spend two nights at Zeden Lake.

The bottom line is that the lack of navigation aids really makes a visit to the park frustrating and punishing. After spending the night at the Lower Fishing Lake campground we went down and interviewed the amazing lake then decided it was back to the washboard. It is almost needless to say, that a person who is reliant upon navigation aides frequently gets lost. That can be a good thing.

As we left we came across the private cabin area and we were impressed, nice place to have a cabin and nice cabins all along the
Lower Fishing Lake north shore. Then it was onward. I missed the road we came in on and in four short kilomeres of very moderate washboard we were on the Hanson Lake Road. That sign that brought us in there took us on a road that ran through the jungle parallel to the highway and with a map we could have avoided the whole damn thing.

Once on the highway we were heading home. We stopped and made lunch at the only service station in the area the set off south. The was a bit of blue sky and spirits were improved and I spotted the little sign for Zeden Lake and decided to check it out. In two kilometres we were very close to paradise. What a place! Now we had run out of water in our tanks and even though we found a perfect place to stay we needed water. So back north we went to the Caribou Creek Lodge and they gave us some water for the system. For that night and the next day we were residents of Zeden Lake.

The bottom line is, is the
Narrow Hills worth a visit? You bet. It is a remarkable park, wildlife, scenery, interesting geology, no sign of park personnel in the three days we were in the park. Of course, the roads were not good but the facilities were well maintained and we barely scratched the surface. Much to see and do and plenty of exercise just keeping the mosquitoes at bay.