Grasslands National Park, Saskatchewan

Coyote trying to get a Prairie Dog

I loved this Park. I honestly thought it was going to be a boring, flat, “nothing to see here” kind of park. Boy was I wrong. We had spent 4-5 months traveling across the US and home through Canada. We saw more wildlife in this park than we did the whole trip…. and we were also in Alaska and Yukon so go figure.

Grasslands National Park is in the province of Saskatchewan (Canada) near the village of Val Marie on the Canada USA Border. It is one of 38 National Parks in the country, along with 10 National Park Reserves and one National Urban Park. I do love our National Parks and we have been to 22 of the National Parks, 1 Park Reserve and the one and only Urban Park. I would like to go to them all, it would be awesome to travel and spend time at every park.

The park is open year round but the Visitor Centre is open from late May to mid October and is located in Val Marie. This gives you access to the West Block of the park. The East Block is via Hwy 18, south of Wood Mountain. We had bought a National Parks pass but if you don’t have one, it’s about $6.00 per person per day to enter; camping fees are extra. The National Parks pass for Canada is about $140.00 for a family. It is not cheaper to pay per adult if you are a couple. We camped at the Frenchman’s River Valley campground, right in the Park,so we could stay a couple of days. It is not a big campground and there are no facilities, except washrooms. There are only about 20 sites with electrical and some tent sites. The campground is fenced in as there is a herd of buffalo roaming around.

You can see a couple of trailers and a couple of Yurts

The bison were all over the place, here is a herd off in the distance.

Little dots of bisons !

There is only a gravel road through the Park and it took us about 40 minutes to get to the campground from the Visitor Centre. It was, I may add, not the smoothest road.

There are a few old buildings and such in the area. There are also active farms, not many though.

We drove the Ecotour Scenic Drive which is about 20 kms (80 km round trip to Val Marie) There are hiking trails and other places to stop at and we stopped a lot. There were coyotes, deer, Pronghorn deer, hawks and more. We stopped to watch a coyote chase a prairie dog across the road and then circle the prairie dog’s home to try to figure out a way in! He didn’t find it but he was so persistent.

I think he gave up

We also watched a hawk with a prairie dog in his mouth. There are so many of those little critters running around, they are the number one food source. Below he is resting on a pole, the poor little dog is in his claws.

Flying off to find more little dogs to eat

There were lots of deer…

We spotted on old car abandoned, well obviously! No one is driving that baby home lol

Old wreck of a car

So many Prairie Dog towns in this park. They are super cute and it was entertaining to watch them. The only places in Canada where the Black Tailed Prairie Dogs exist in their natural habitat are here (and neighbouring lands.) They are also considered a species at risk, which is quite sad. Their entire mating season is only one hour long and their vocabulary is more advanced than any other animal language that’s been decoded. For more interesting facts, click this link.

We went out a couple of times a day for drives while we were there. There were always things to see.

I like Magpies, we don’t have them in Ontario so it’s always great to see them.

This bunny was adorable but yet another food source for someone.

There are a couple of Prairie Dog Towns and at one of them, there were also a bunch of Burrowing Owls. These owls are really small and they hang out with the prairie dogs. They hang out there as the grass is shorter and their predators have other options(prairie dogs) besides the owls to eat. And they will also take over the underground burrows for themselves. In the photo below, you can see another owl in behind this one. They are not very big, only about 19-20 cm tall.

You can see a Prairie Dog in behind this owl.

We saw only one fox but he had the most beautiful tail. Probably looking for that bunny.

We also don’t have any Pronghorn deer in the province where I live. They are very interesting looking. And did you know they are the second fastest land animal in the world? Well they are, hitting speeds of up to 98 kph (60 mph)

Pronghorn Deer
Pronghorn, didn’t want his photo taken

It was unbelievable how many hawks we saw. These two were just sitting on top of a knoll looking around. They were there quite a long time. We passed one field and there must have been 20-30 hawks all just sitting there. The farmers had cut the field so I feel like they were waiting for mice and voles, etc to come pick up the grains and then they would nab them for lunch.

It was a unique landscape, it could be flat and dry, green with trees or like below.

They have lots of trails to hike and if you like, back country and trailer camping. But be warned, there are rattlesnakes so be alert! Also the bison can be aggressive so keep your distance.

All in all, it was an enjoyable park and I would definitely go back and spend a bit more time.

Until next time….

Foot Note: Someone asked me where Trum was! My husband told me I should have put a photo of Trum in the Grasslands but I didn’t. My mistake! So here he is….

He is sitting in one of Canada’s National Parks famous Red Chairs that they have throughout all their National Parks.

We also traveled with another “little friend” that year. (Not sure why I put that in quotes) and his name is Digby because he was made in Digby, Nova Scotia, he was made for Canada’s 150th birthday, which happened the year we traveled to the Grasslands (2017). The company, at that time, was called Monkeys and More but has since been renamed to Maritime Tartan.

So here is Trum and Digby looking over the Grasslands. Yup we’re a little odd…….