Along The Narrow Hills
Have you ever been in Love? Love is a small village of fewer than 100 people in east-central Saskatchewan on Highway 55 about 95 kilometres east of Prince Albert. Love is located at the northern edge of settled Saskatchewan. To the north lie vast stretches of pine, spruce and poplar forest that reach the northern boundary of Saskatchewan and beyond. Love is commonly known as the Gateway to The Narrow Hills.
The Narrow Hills are actually one long, high ridge pushed up long ago by glacier activity and they give the Narrow Hills Provincial Park its name.
Saskatchewan (pop. Approx. 1,000,000) has an estimated 100,000 lakes and the major portion of them are in the northern half of the province. In these lakes are many species of fish, including walleye, northern pike, yellow perch and a variety of trout.
Saskatchewan is relatively young, not having reached provincial status until 1905, making 2005 our centennial year. The first settlers reached our area in the early 1920s. My mother’s family reached their homestead, which is 1 km north of my farm, in 1929. The early settlers made extra money by logging and trapping in the forest. Deer and moose were plentiful providing meat to help feed the large families that most of the early settlers had.
As a child I was involved in stooking bundles of grain, hauling the bundles to a threshing machine, logging with horses, hauling loose (unbaled) hay for our livestock and a variety of other chores related to living in one of the last frontiers.
Both of my parents’ families came to Canada from Germany in the early 1900s. My father’s family, the Thorvart family, settled on the prairies east of Saskatoon and my mother’s family, the Sager family, settled here on a homestead 1 km north of my farm. For settlers in the north, the process of building a viable farm was tough because of the dense bush that they found there. The spruce trees often reached a diameter of 1 metre or more and the pine and other species being only a little smaller.
Now, as then, logging and trapping are still important occupations for many people though grain farming and raising cattle are the main sources of income. Raising bison, elk and other exotic animals is also becoming more common, some ranchers having as many as 300 or more animals.
There are a variety of activities to entertain vacationers in our area. In summer the fishing in Tobin and Codette Lakes, located 50 km away, is excellent. There are vacation farms where you can actually help with the farm work and ride horses or All-Terrain-Vehicles or you can go canoeing on one of the many lakes and rivers in the area.
We run what we call the Esker Trail Tour. It takes about 7 or 8 hours from the time we leave until we get back again. You must keep in mind that a good portion of the time we are on a trail that is only two wheel tracks through the forest. The tour takes us up the Narrow Hills Esker Trail, stopping at a trappers cabin to see how the modern trapper lives and then on to Falling Horse Lake for a picnic lunch. We had one fellow from Austria who was sitting on a bench with a hotdog in his hand. Suddenly, a Whiskey Jack (Canada Jay) flew down and tried to take his hotdog away. Failing that, the would be thief calmly sat on the fellow’s knee and helped himself. The guy was utterly amazed! Never before had he been so near a wild creature in its natural habitat. He found it so intriguing that he fed his whole hotdog plus one or two more to the three freeloading birds that eventually arrived.
As we travel along the trail we drive through untouched stands of pine and spruce since most of the trail is in the Narrow Hills Park and the trees are protected by law. Logging or any tree cutting is illegal. This 252 square mile park, originally called the Nipawin Provincial Park, was created by an act of the Saskatchewan legislature in January, 1934.
As we near the end of the trail we reach the most spectacular scene of the whole trip. We are then on the very top of the esker itself. Far below are a series of three small lakes called Grace Lakes. There is an unobstructed view of about 25 km across the lakes and the valley that holds them. The valleys on both sides of the esker are full of small lakes created by the very glacier that made the esker so long ago. (What has been called The Narrow Hills Esker for many years is in fact a push morraine.)
There are many other things to see and do in the area. There are museums, craft shops where you can buy hand-made items and souvenirs and golfing at the Evergreen Golf Club, one of the top 100 courses in Canada. There are Bison and Elk ranches to tour and further a field you can go to Native Pow-wows or take in the many local fairs and rodeos. Nipawin, a town of about 5000, is our nearest place to shop. There you can buy anything from fishhooks to Cadillacs. The summer activities are limited only by your imagination.
In the winter things are a little more relaxed. Snowmobiling is a very popular sport as is downhill skiing. Ice-skating, snowshoeing and cross-country skiing are available. Ice fishing is good through most of the winter though you need a knowledgeable guide to find the best spots.
All these things and more are available in our area or within 200 km of here. Very few guests or visitors go away disappointed. And the peace and quiet is unbelievable. We are still close enough to our pioneer roots that most people are friendly and helpful and many can tell stories of things that happened to their pioneering parents or grandparents.
One such story is how Grace Lakes got its name. It was reportedly named after a neighbour lady of ours named Grace who was the first known white woman to swim in the lakes. When her husband, who was working in the Prince George area of B.C. was injured in a logging accident in 1955 the family moved to British Columbia.
My name is Marvin Torwalt and my wife, Deloris, and I own and operate River Trail Country Vacations. I have lived here since 1953 and know much of the history of the area
Photo by Hans-Peter Heiler – Germany