Southern Saskatchewan Road Trip

Brandon Manitoba to Big Muddy Saskatchewan

After two days of driving from Southern Ontario through Northwestern Ontario and across to Manitoba, we embarked on our Southern Saskatchewan diversion. Last year we drove west through Saskatchewan on the TransCanada Highway, on the way to Alberta – and then returned home on another route, a little further north to see a different part of Alberta and Saskatchewan. On the recommendation of Margaret from A Prairie Perspective, we happily took the Southern Saskatchewan route this time around. Please visit Margaret’s site!

It’s true that the fastest way to drive across Canada is to jump on the TransCanada highway. As Margaret says, the drive through Saskatchewan gives you the impression that Saskatchewan is completely flat! It’s not – but there’s nothing wrong with flat by the way – the horizon is breathtaking, you can see forever, and there is no “bigger sky”!. Read and enjoy – A Prairie Perspective – https://margaretghanna.wordpress.com/2021/10/28/saskatchewan-is-not-flat/

No Planning, a good GPS and a Rental Car

When we set out to travel west this year as usual we did little planning. That’s not my husband’s way, he relies on me to make a plan and give directions. I’m all about the journey, and so happy to go a little (or a lot off course). This time we spent a day or two making our decision to go west, and then just loaded up the rental car and headed out. Fortunately this car had a great GPS in it. Now that we rely on GPS devices and phones with GPS, we often find ourselves in situations where we lose satellite GPS signals in the middle of nowhere. I find this humorous, but the humour is not always appreciated at the time!

Brandon Manitoba to the Saskatchewan Border

Brandon Manitoba to Big Muddy Badlands
Brandon Manitoba to Big Muddy Badlands

From Brandon Manitoba we proceeded along the TransCanada Highway (1), and turned left at Griswold on Manitoba Highway 21.

This took us straight south through Ralston Manitoba, and then west along Highway 2/21 along Findlay Pass, south of Oak and Plum Lakes, to Pipestone at the Manitoba/Saskatchewan border.

In addition to our own preference to keep socially distant during our trip, Manitoba still required travelers to isolate if visiting from out of province but are permitted to travel straight through – and so we did!



Eagle Redcoat Trail Highway 13 Ghost Town Trail
Another Eagle sighting

The Redcoat Trail

We diverted from the TransCanada Highway to the Redcoat trail.  The Redcoat Trail is a series of highways through Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba which approximate the path of the North West Mounted Police in their 1874 journey west. They marched 1300 kilometers from Fort Dufferin (at the Manitoba Canada border with the U.S.) to Fort Whoop Up (near Lethbridge Alberta) to protect and facilitate the settlement of the western frontier, and to deal with “desperadoes” or whiskey traders at Fort Whoop Up before dispersing to form police posts along the route.

 At the border of Manitoba and Saskatchewan, there is a statue of a Redcoat. (Redvers Saskatchewan)
Redcoat Trail Highway 13 Ghost Town Trail
Redcoat statue

At the border of Manitoba and Saskatchewan, there is a statue of a Redcoat or North West Mounted Police Officer. (Redvers Saskatchewan). The Redcoat Trail is Highway 13 in Saskatchewan.

Henri Julien - depiction of North West Mounted Police preparing to leave Fort Dufferin
Henri Julien – depiction of North West Mounted Police preparing to leave Fort Dufferin
Following the rainbow to Southern Saskatchewan Redcoat Trail Highway 13 Ghost Town Trail
Following the rainbow to Southern Saskatchewan near Arcola

We took the Redcoat Trail directly west through the small towns of Carlyle, Arcola, Stoughton, Weyburn, Trossachs and Ogema Saskatchewan. Then we headed directly South on Highway 34, through Bengough and meeting up with Highway 18 at Big Beaver, where we headed eastward again for a little while.

White farmhouse and silos highway 13 (Norton 69 - Forget) Saskatchewan Ghost Town
White farmhouse and silos highway 13

Highway 13 is also known as the Ghost Town Trail, as there are supposed to be 32 Ghost Towns (or dissolved townships) along the length of the highway. We did notice a few seemingly abandoned farmhouses along the way, The area is very sparsely populated, but there were a lot of large pieces of farming machinery at work in the fields. We read that there is a lot of farm consolidation of smaller farms into large.

Empty roads and this truck has the right of way outside of Ogema Saskatchewan.
Redcoat Trail Highway 13 Ghost Town Trail
Empty roads – this truck definitely has the right of way outside of Ogema Saskatchewan

This detour was also an easy drive, and we had very little traffic to deal with on the two lane highway, just a few pick up trucks who knew where they were going and were happy to pass us.

I enjoyed reading about the naming of Ogema Saskatchewan. Ogema was settled in 1908. It was to be called Omega, which means end of the line (Greek), to signify the end of the rail line at the time. When it was time to register the name, another town had already used the name – so they switched the letters around. In Ojibwe, Ogema means Chief – so I think the Ogema townspeople picked the better name.

Shallow ponds dot the landscape with waterfowl - Southern Saskatchewan
Shallow ponds dot the landscape with waterfowl – Southern Saskatchewan
This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is 20210825_100853-2.jpg
Hwy 13 Redcoat Trail after Glasneven
We stopped to photograph the Sunflowers growing wild along the roadside -
We stopped to photograph the Sunflowers growing wild along the roadside – all along our way.

South on Saskatchewan Highway 34

After Glasneven Saskatchewan, we headed south on Highway 34.

Saskatchewan farm -  travelling South on Hwy 34 after Bengough
Saskatchewan farm – travelling South on Hwy 34 after Bengough

The landscape began to get more “rolling” in nature along Highway 34. We were heading straight for Montana, but we couldn’t go there this time. The border was closed to Canadians. Do you think there is a “Wall” on the Saskatchewan/Montana border? Probably not….

Sunflowers - roadside Highway 34 - and rolling landscape
Sunflowers – roadside Highway 34 – and rolling landscape
Sunflowers - roadside highway 34 Saskatchewan
Sunflowers – roadside highway 34 Saskatchewan

We chose this route – travelling towards Montana, because I remembered driving up through the Dakotas and Montana in 1973. I remember spectacular badlands and canyons, and I was hoping to show my husband some of this without crossing the border. We headed towards Big Muddy Valley Saskatchewan.

Big Muddy Valley

Entering Big Muddy Valley Saskatchewan - Highway 34
Entering Big Muddy Valley
Big Muddy Valley
Big Muddy Valley
Big Muddy Valley
Big Muddy Valley

We took a right turn at Big Muddy Creek. It was confusing, because there were a few ranches and a sign. Where was the park entrance? The gift shop?

Big Muddy Badlands
Big Muddy Badlands
Big Muddy Creek Badlands Saskatchewan
Big Muddy Creek Badlands Saskatchewan

We headed further down the road into the Big Muddy Creek Valley. At a wire farm gate, we thought we were entering private property. There were still no signs to tell us we were in a park. The scenery was wonderful though.

We reached a wire farm gate and a dirt road and thought we must be in the wrong place. - Big Muddy Saskatchewan
We reached a wire farm gate and a dirt road and thought we must be in the wrong place.
Inside the gates of Big Muddy
Inside the gates of Big Muddy

At the gates, we turned around and headed back down the way we came to the highway. There were no signs or people to ask, but we didn’t want to tresspass. There was no cell phone service – so we waited until we got to the top of a rise – and SHOCKINGLY – there was cellular and internet. I googled Big Muddy and came up with a number for Tourism Saskatchewan. The lady kindly told me – “No dear – just go straight in – yes there are ranches on either side of the road – just drive straight through, the road is Crown Land. Just don’t bother the cattle or litter – keep driving to Castle Butte”. We turned around and headed back into the Big Muddy.

Big Muddy Saskatchewan
Big Muddy Saskatchewan
mule deer and silver sage big muddy
Mule deer (or as my husband says Mulies!) and silver sage
Big Muddy cattle
We didn’t bother the local cattle

Castle Butte

We headed further down the gravel and dirt road to Castle Butte – our destination. The Big Muddy Badlands are a 55km valley of badlands along Big Muddy Creek, which extends from Saskatchewan into Montana. We were at the northern end of the “outlaw trail”.  The outlaws, Henry Borne, his brother Coyote Pete, Sam Kelly, the Pigeon Toed Kid, and the famous Sundance Kid were known to have evaded the authorities in the area. It wasn’t difficult in the spectacular and desolate scenery to imagine ourselves in that time.

Castle Butte - Big Muddy Saskatchewan
Castle Butte – Big Muddy Saskatchewan

We drove our car directly up to Castle Butte and parked next to it. Castle Butte is a 70 metre high land formation with crumbly sandstone and crevices all around.

Now at every other scenic point in North America I would expect to see a few hundred other tourists, but on this pleasant August afternoon, we saw nobody! Now there were no snackbars or bathrooms either but that’s OK. It was nice just to walk around the butte and admire it by ourselves. We were only interrupted by Prairie Dogs, (local ground squirrels) that were not at all concerned about us.

Castle Butte closeup
Castle Butte closeup
The view from Castle Butte
Castle Butte Big Muddy Saskatchewan
The view from Castle Butte
The view from Castle Butte
Big Muddy Valley
Big Muddy Valley

After a few hours of piece and quiet, we hit the road and moseyed back on our trail towards Calgary. Our diversion to Southern Saskatchewan was worth the drive. I hate to use the term “bucket-list”, but the Big Muddy definitely fits the bill!

Even though the cellphone signal frequently absent, I had just plugged Castle Butte into the car’s GPS and it actually took us there. Lucky thing, because I don’t think our phones with google maps would have worked!

Southern Saskatchewan was the perfect place to visit during this pandemic road trip – we saw spectacular landscape, imagined the history of the region, had a very easy 4 1/2 hour drive – and stayed completely socially isolated!

6 thoughts on “Southern Saskatchewan Road Trip

  1. Glad to hear you enjoyed your “side”-trip. The Big Muddy is one of those magical places where you can “see” (in your mind) the history that surrounds you. I climbed to the top of Castle Butte 50 years ago (I can’t believe it was that long ago) and found a juniper desperately clinging to life up there on the top. Was it still there? (p.s. thanks for the plug to my blog.)

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi Margaret, thank you and we REALLY did. It was very interesting, and we do love thinking about the history of places we visit. We like “Westerns” as well, so the outlaw part was fun. I did not climb to the top of Castle Butte – sorry – 50 years ago I would have climbed with you though!! It was very quiet there all by ourselves, and we could see the sandstone would crumble away when we touched it – so we weren’t so sure about the climbing part (that’s my excuse!). There was vegetation along the sides, but I can’t say I saw the juniper.

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  2. So how many total miles did you drive here and how any hours did you drive each day? My wife and I are trying to reset the timing of our American road trips?

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