Waskesiu Lake, my second home since I was smaller than the fish I was ornamentally holding in those classic “look, my kid is a fisherman!” photos. And, while that big jack I allegedly caught before I was old enough to understand that haircuts didn’t have to involve a bowl ended up being the pinnacle of my underwhelming fishing career, many decades later I still spend a good portion of each summer at Waskesiu.
With a comfortable 3-bedroom Waskesiu cabin (shared with the whole family), wifi and two bathrooms, we aren’t exactly roughing it. Yet the lake is literally “right there”, there are hiking trails everywhere, friends on every block and way more elk shit around than in the city. Tough to pass up.
And, of course, we didn’t always spend our summers in such luxury. My early days at the lake were spent in one of the second generation “shack tents”, which no longer had to be dismantled each fall and rebuilt each spring but were still very basic plywood structures about the size of today’s walk-in closets. There was no plumbing and only one bathroom every second street which was shared by everyone in the area (which also served as informal social halls).
Then my formative years (i.e. as a teenage idiot) were spent in the next version of cabin – noticeably bigger, with two bedrooms with actual doors but still only about 200 square feet in total and still with no bathroom (the grass out back definitely suffered during the party years).
Although we are all undeniably nostalgic for these rustic, simpler days, I don’t think any of us mind having two couches or an indoor toilet just steps from our beds.
Waskesiu Lake itself is huge and deep, roughly 70 square kilometres in size and around 25 metres (80 feet) deep in spots. Officially, Waskesiu Lake is also the name of the townsite, although most people simply refer to it as Waskesiu (or, if they are feeling especially clever, possibly Whiskey Slough). And if you happen to get the “i” and “u” mixed up (“Waskesui”), don’t worry, you have that in common with at least 50% of all visitors (and a sadly large number of long-term residents as well).
Waskesiu Lake is located in Prince Albert National Park, is one of just two national parks in Saskatchewan and offers the perfect (for us) blend of urban and wilderness. With a bustling townsite, plenty of activities and all the facilities you might need just a short hike, bike or boat from pristine natural surroundings and impressively unconcerned wildlife.
It isn’t the place to go if you’re looking for solitude, undiscovered fishing holes or unregulated backcountry. But it’s perfect if you love being outdoors during our short but spectacular Saskatchewan summers and like having restaurants, grocery stores and, you know, liquor stores nearby and aren’t interested in subsisting solely on camp noodles or second-hand bug spray.
And, while being in Prince Albert National Park certainly means Waskesiu Lake is more developed and modern than some smaller lakes around the province, there are benefits as well. Federal funding, for one. An informative Visitor Centre, for another. And even though federal oversight means lots (like, lots) of rules and regulations, that bureaucratic pickiness is also the reason none of the beaches have been privatized, there are no obnoxious jet-skis racing around the lake and the wildlife still feels comfortable enough to steal food right off your deck.
Prince Albert National Park
Located essentially where the terrain changes from the pasture and parkland of mid-Saskatchewan to the thick boreal forest and plentiful lakes of the north, Prince Albert National Park features a very extensive 3,875 square kilometres of protected wilderness area. Established way back in 1927, it was the first national park in Saskatchewan and remained the only one until Grasslands National Park was created in 1981.
In order to visit the park, you will need to purchase a Prince Albert National Park Pass on your way in. There are several variations available from day passes to annual passes to Discovery Passes that can be purchased online and cover all the national parks in Canada.
In this guide, we talk a fair bit about Elk Ridge Resort, which is less than 10 km from the Waskesiu Lake townsite but is located outside the national park, allowing them to offer some activities that Waskesiu can’t.
Waskesiu Lake Map
Click the star to save this map to your Google Maps – then find it under Saved/Maps (mobile) or Your Places/Maps (desktop)
23 Fun Things to Do at Waskesiu Lake
While it can be enough to simply enjoy the natural attractions and vibrant townsite, rest assured, there is also a long list of things to do in Waskesiu Lake to keep you busy (if that’s what you want), keep your kids occupied (in case that happens to be a challenge) and stay active (if, for some reason, the novelty has worn off drinking beer and barbequing).
Relax on the Beach
Waskesiu Main Beach on a hot day in July is surely one of the busiest places in Saskatchewan. With a very impressive playground, large washrooms, a beach volleyball court, a protected swimming area and clean water that stays shallow a long way from shore, it is the hangout spot of choice whenever the weather becomes even passable.
Beyond the wide arc of Main Beach, the sand continues mostly unbroken to the north past Johnston Beach (straight down from most of the cabins and our personal name that doesn’t seem to have taken off just yet), Ski Beach (where boats are allowed to pull up), Beaver Glen Beach (closest to the campground) and, eventually Kapasiwin Beach (see our Where to Stay section below).
The great thing about Waskesiu Lake for beach lovers, though, is that there are nice stretches of sand scattered all around the lake, meaning that whatever the conditions and wind direction it is usually possible to find a warm, calm area. Other Waskesiu beaches include:
South Bay Beach
Point View Beach (3-Mile)
Birch Bay Beach
Visit Grey Owl’s Cabin
While there are many different options for backcountry camping, the iconic Prince Albert National Park adventure is to hike or canoe to Grey Owl’s Cabin. Motorboats are also allowed on Kingsmere as long as they are 40-horsepower or less. A trolley is available to transport watercraft up the Kingsmere River.
Grey Owl’s Cabin is located on tiny Ajawaan Lake just off the larger Kingsmere Lake and the trailhead and boat launch can be reached in less than an hour from Waskesiu Lake. Grey Owl was a famous conservationist – a white man pretending to be indigenous and a proud beaver owner. It’s a long story. Nonetheless, the hike is scenic and easy to follow, while the paddle across Kingsmere can be a bit dicey in high winds but very pleasant otherwise. It is around 20 km one-way to hike in, so most people stretch it out over 1 or 2 nights of camping using the several basic campgrounds along the route:
Westwind Group Campground (3 km)
Chipewyan Portage Campground (7 km)
Sandy Beach Campground (13 km)
Northend Campground (17 km)
Each campsite has tent sites, pit toilets, a firepit, firewood, a bear cache and a picnic table. There is no potable water, though, so you’ll need to carry water in or boil/purify some.
For a full description of this epic Saskatchewan adventure, check out our full guide:
Head to the Backcountry
Backcountry camping is perfect for those looking to escape the relative modernity of the Waskesiu townsite and enjoy the spectacular, intact northern Saskatchewan wilderness. Kingsmere Lake campgrounds are some of the best places to do this and if you’ve already been to Grey Owl’s Cabin or simply want to get away from the busy areas, you can check out the following spots. They have the same facilities as those on Grey Owl Trail – cleared tent sites, pit toilets, a firepit, firewood, a bear cache, a picnic table and no potable water.
Southend Campground is located at the end of the walking trail along Kingsmere River. These other three can only be reached by boat or canoe.
Another option to really get away from it all is to head to the remote campsites on enormous Crean Lake. To access it by boat, you need to launch in the first of three Hanging Heart Lakes, then make your way through all of them, including a very shallow channel leading into the southeast part of Crean Lake.
Crean Lake is huge (120 square kilometres) – even bigger than Waskesiu Lake – and a whopping 50 metres deep (160 feet). As you’d expect from a such a big lake, it can get pretty wild in bad weather so be sure to arrive well-prepared and don’t take any unnecessary risks.
There are 4 Crean Lake campgrounds, each of which is similar to those on Kingsmere, except these ones also have covered camp kitchens which come in very handy in nasty weather (or for an activity headquarters during a drunken stag party, for example). Big Island is our particular favourite, especially if you have enough people to get all 4 campsites and enjoy having the entire island to yourselves (during drunken stag parties, for example).
Crean Kitchen Campground
Moose Bay Campground
Big Island Campground
Finally, down in the south part of the park you can hike into Fish Lake and Camp Lake.
Hit the Trails
Waskesiu Lake is surrounded by outstanding forest trails, most of which offer up lake views at some point along the way. While the Grey Owl Trail stands alone as the most popular and strenuous hike around Waskesiu Lake, there are plenty of short, easy hikes in the 2 hours and under range.
7 km / 1.5-2 hrs / 40m elevation gain
My personal favourite bike loop, the very scenic Fisher Trail is also a terrific hiking path. It provides a nice mix of forest, a tiny, picturesque lake and a really beautiful ridge through the pines.
Red Deer North (Red)
6 km / 1.5 hrs / 50m
Not exactly sure why they couldn’t have come up with individual names for the three different Red Deer trails but they didn’t, so that’s where we’re at. This is a favourite of ours when we want something just a little bit out of town. It passes through Beaver Glen campground before circling around to an impressive lake viewpoint and back to town past Kapasiwin Beach.
Red Deer Central (Yellow)
5 km / 1.25 hrs / flat
Probably the most convenient choice for most people as it basically circles around through the trees along the outside of the townsite, meaning at some point it probably passes right by wherever you’re staying.
Red Deer South (Blue)
8 km / 1.5-2 hrs / 75m
The most interesting (and longest) of the three Red Deer trails, it passes close to Fisher Trail for awhile before crossing the highway and heading through some interesting grassy hills, then down into some boggy areas next to the lake before coming back through Prospect Point along the golf course.
2 km / 30 min/ flat
A firm favourite with families, most of the Boundary Bog trail is on nice boardwalk with lots of informational signs and some good views of the marshes and a small lake.
2.5 km / 30 min / 20m
Another family favourite, this scenic little trail goes up one side along the river on a boardwalk and back through the forest on an easy dirt trail (or vice versa).
3 km / 45 min / 45m
Laynni’s favourite Waskesiu Lake trail, this nice little loop is a bit of a drive from town but packs a surprising amount of variety into a short walk. The views from dirt ridges along the lake are particularly excellent.
2.5 km / 30 min / 15m
Another short and very scenic trail that is very popular with most of the families we know. You follow the lake for awhile, then the river, each with great views. This is one of the best places to spot wildlife.
1 km / 15 min / 35m
Short and hilly with just one real viewpoint, but Treebeard is the trail to pick if you want the best chance of having the place all to yourself.
Shady Lake – Height of Land Tower
2 km / 30-60 min / 40m
The trail is nothing to write home about but Shady Lake itself is very nice and makes a popular day trip destination. Once you’re here you may as well extend the loop to the Height of Land Tower for expansive views of the park from on high.
8.5 km / 1.5-2 hrs / 75m
Other than the trek to Grey Owl’s, this is the most strenuous hike in Waskesiu Lake. And while that still isn’t saying much, if you push the pace you can definitely get your heart rate up. There are a couple of decent viewpoints and the trail has been improved a lot in recent years. This is where we go when we need to sweat out previous night’s excesses.
3.5 km / 45-60 min / 30m (return)
A very nice, very interesting hike that follows the trolley along the Kingsmere River to the campground at Southend. Many people combine it with a “Lazy River Float” (see below).
Hit the Links
Waskesiu is a premier golf destination, with 2 of the top courses in Saskatchewan located within 10 minutes of each other. In fact, both the classic Lobstick course in Waskesiu (1935) and relatively new Elk Ridge Resort course (1993) have occasionally been included among the top 100 courses in Canada (Waskesiu is ranked #83 on ScoreGolf’s latest Top 100).
Ask 100 avid Waskesiu golfers which one is their favourite and you’ll likely end up with a 50/50 split. Although both are carved right out of the natural northern forest, they are very different courses offering very different challenges and scenery.
Known as “The Lobstick” because of the Lobstick tree in the middle of the first hole, this classic Stanley Thompson course is my favourite golf course. Period. Of course, having grown up playing here I’m probably a bit biased, but I’d still put it up against the al best mountain courses for unique terrain, tremendous scenery and tricky lies.
Even though the course isn’t particularly long and the fairways are quite wide, the tall, ominous banks of pine trees regularly get in golfer’s heads and if you do find the bush, don’t expect many lucky breaks.
The course is lush, hilly and strategic, with some truly shocking slopes on the greens – the kind of place where local knowledge makes a big difference.
With 27 holes carved out of more mixed forest than Waskesiu, Elk Ridge offers a more traditional challenge. Longer holes (many of which don’t offer much roll), narrower fairways, more hazards (both water and sand) and some interesting risk/reward decisions make Elk Ridge a tough task for any newcomer. Keep it in play, though, and you should get some opportunities on the relatively straightforward greens.
Get Out on the Water
Waskesiu Lake and the many smaller (and some larger) lakes nearby are terrific places for boating, canoeing, kayaking, paddleboarding and even windsurfing. Rentals are available at all three of the marinas and the Grey Owl Center in the centre of town.
Waskesiu Marina – pontoon boats, fishing boats, canoes, kayaks, paddleboards
Hanging Heart Lakes Marina – fishing boats, canoes, kayaks
Narrows Marina – canoes, kayaks, paddleboards
Grey Owl Center – canoes, kayaks, paddleboards
Experience a Multi-Day Canoe Trip
On the opposite side of Kingsmere Lake from the Grey Owl Trail you can experience some outstanding canoeing and kayaking through a series of small lakes, getting completely away from it all in the process. The entire Bagwa Canoe Route involves up to 10 hours of paddling and a short portage, plus you need to drive to the Kingsmere River and transport your vessel to Kingsmere Lake by trolley so it is best to spend at least one night in the backcountry. We’ve only ever spent a single night but I know people who routinely spend 3-4 nights out there just soaking up the peace and serenity of these gorgeous little off-the-beaten-path lakes.
The paddle starts at the Southend Campground and passes three more campsites along the way. You could also add any of the Grey Owl campgrounds to your route and maybe even include a visit to the iconic campground itself.
Do Some Fishing
I’m not going to pretend I have any inside knowledge about the best places to drop a line or when to head out for the most success. Fishing has always bored me (yet somehow I have no problem watching a 4-hour baseball game – no accounting for tastes) but I do know quite a few people who regularly have success in the area.
Waskesiu Lake itself has never been considered the best place in the park to fish, although you can certainly do well in spots and at certain times of year. Most of the fishermen I know spend the bulk of their time either in the Hanging Heart Lakes or on Namekus Lake. Your best chance of landing a big one is probably on Crean (evidenced by the 20-lb jack my friend once caught then made the mistake of letting me completely botch the filleting…)
Have a Picnic in a Camp Kitchen
There are several of these large, covered picnic areas set just back from the town beaches, plus in some of the backcountry campsites. They generally have two picnic tables and a fireplace and not much else, but they do provide shade and shelter from the rain. The one directly behind Main Beach is completely enclosed – the best choice during really nasty weather.
You can’t book them ahead and the ones in town can get claimed early during busy times. On weekdays, chances are you can find one up until late morning or noon but on the weekend you’ll probably need to send someone down to claim a spot by 9 am.
Gaze at a Beautiful Waskesiu Sunset
The sun sets directly across the lake from the townsite, making for some pretty spectacular scenes. Because Waskesiu Lake is quite far north, the sun doesn’t actually go down until after 10 pm in June. However, the long days also mean the sunsets are especially gradual, giving you even more time to enjoy them.
Watch for Wildlife
There are very few places we’ve been that can compare to the amount of visible wildlife you’ll find in Prince Albert National Park. Elk, deer, foxes, fishers, pine martens and squirrels can be spotted anywhere, at any given time. And once you head a bit out of town it isn’t unusual to see bears, wolves, moose and bald eagles.
The park provides plenty of information (i.e. a pamphlet) on dealing with wildlife but the important thing is to use common sense. In general, the animals around Waskesiu Lake are used to people and not dangerous as long as you don’t try to approach them, feed them or do anything else that might piss them off. That’s what the zoom setting on your camera is for.
Learn More About the Park at the Nature Centre
A big family favourite, the Prince Albert National Park Nature Centre has loads of info about the park with a particular focus on the wildlife. It is very visual and interactive (i.e. the animal dung display) with lots of things to keep kids interested and occupied. They also have a geocaching game that you can play around town.
Get Active at the Recreation Centre
The Recreation Centre (also called the Rec Centre or Chamber of Commerce) and its tennis courts and lawn bowling green have been around for decades. In fact, my first job in Waskesiu Lake was cutting the grass on the lawn bowling green every morning when I was 14.
However, recently the entire complex has been impressively expanded and improved. In addition to the original attractions, there is now a very cool (although perhaps overpriced) mini-golf course, plus more economical basketball, pickleball, beach volleyball, ping pong, shuffleboard, foosball, horseshoes, an outdoor gym, giant chess and spike ball. The sport court can also be used for floor hockey, futsal and dodgeball.
They rent out or provide all the gear you need for a variety of prices. The annual family passes are a particularly good deal if you’re planning a longer visit.
Play Some Disc Golf
The main park features a nice disc golf course that meanders among the trees and camp kitchens. If you have your own discs or frisbees you can simply show up and play, or you can rent a set of specialized discs from the Rec Centre.
Float Down the Lazy River
One of the fastest growing family activities in Waskesiu is the “Lazy River Float” down the Kingsmere River. Just a short drive from the Waskesiu Lake townsite you reach the Kingsmere River boat launch. From the parking area, it is about a 10-minute walk for you and the kids to haul your floaties, tubes and dinghies to the start of the Kingsmere trolley, where you can hop into the river and enjoy a leisurely 15-minute float back to the parking lot. Repeat.
There is also a longer (but slightly sketchier) version that starts from the far end of the trolley. You can read our full guide here:
Catch a Movie
The classic old Twin Pine Cinema has been treating Waskesiu Lake visitors to nightly entertainment since 1958. And even though the seats were recently replaced and a few other improvements have been made here and there, it still feels every bit as old as its 60+ years. But, hey, that musty smell is an important part of the charm.
There are two theatres (large and small), each with two showings per night and occasionally a rainy day matinee. They tend to get all the big blockbusters, just a little bit later than the city, and there is a definite focus on kid and superhero movies.
Take in an Evening Lakefront Stroll with some Ice Cream
The evening constitutional is a firm tradition on warm summer nights, when seemingly everyone in town heads out for an aimless amble. Unsurprisingly, the ice cream shops (Big Olaf, The Scoop, The Shack) do brisk business right around then. In my experience, nothing gives purpose to casual strolling like two-scoops of rocky road in a regular cone. Feel free to mix and match, however.
Rent Some Wheels at the Grey Owl Center
With more options on offer every year, the very central Grey Owl Center is the go-to place to gear up for outdoor adventure activities. Their most popular rentals are the quadracycles – half bike, half go-kart contraptions that families love but are the bane of drivers trying to navigate the roads for the purposes they were intended. Tone aside, these are a fun way to entertain kids in 20-minute intervals. They also rent out bikes, scooters, canoes, kayaks, paddleboards, etc.
Now, how they can share a parking lot with a Canadian national park visitor centre and still use the American spelling of their name, well, that’s a whole different issue.
Do Some Shopping
As you could probably guess, a small summer resort in northern Saskatchewan isn’t necessarily going to offer the most variety or the most affordable prices when it comes to shopping. But it has become very apparent over the years that people with time on their hands love to buy stuff. And you can certainly do that in Waskesiu Lake.
From kitschy souvenirs and timely Waskesiu-emblazoned items to outdoor clothing and camping gear, there are at least 5 or 6 popular shops to browse once you’ve finished that ice cream and can’t face another stint on the quadracycle.
Browse the Local Art
Additional options for shoppers, but also of interest to browsing art lovers, are the local art galleries. All in the Wild Gallery and Black Spruce Gallery feature unique paintings, photography and other projects, much of them nature-themed and produced by local artists.
Relax at the Spa
Along with the golf course, a permanent community and a hotel, Elk Ridge Resort features Drift Spa, where you can enjoy a variety of massages, facials and pedicures. A welcome change for your skin after long days roasting on the beach or slathered in bug spray while hiking in the bush.
Adventure at Treeosix
Another popular Elk Ridge destination is Treeosix Adventure Park. This family-oriented multi-activity adventure park features ziplines, swings, a climbing wall, fatbike rentals and disc golf winding through and around the golf course. The name is a pithy take on Saskatchewan’s 306 area code. Cool.
Visit the Waskesiu Heritage Museum
If you want to see what the original canvas-roofed shack tents were like, head to the Waskesiu Heritage Museum where you can see an authentic re-creation, plus a series of exhibits illustrating the history of the park all the way back to 1928.
In the early days, the shack tents had to be dismantled and stored every fall, then rebuilt each spring. According to my grandparents, May long weekend (Victoria Day) became one giant street party – full of drinking, smoking and Brylcreem – each year when everyone showed up to erect their shack tent for the season. In fairness, all of my grandparents’ stories and photos heavily featured drinking, smoking and Brylcreem, so I guess this wasn’t necessarily special.
Along with the shack tent, there is a replica camp kitchen, a classic “doghouse” (shed), canoe railcart, washing equipment and fire tower cupola.
When to Go: Waskesiu Lake Weather
Summers at the lakes of northern Saskatchewan are short but hot and festive. Waskesiu Lake booms in summer from a permanent population of a few hundred people, mostly national park employees and hotel workers, to as many as 10,000 people on the Canada Day weekend. So summer is definitely the most popular time of year.
Businesses and restaurants start opening up at the beginning of May, the plumbing turns on in the cabins around then and the golf courses usually open as well. However, the ice usually isn’t completely off the lake until around the Victoria Day weekend (the last Monday before May 25 because May 24 was the queen’s birthday) and most trails will still have some snow at that time (or, at best, mud).
From the May long weekend until the Labour Day weekend (first Monday of September) you can expect the best weather and the most options. After Labour Day, many businesses start reducing hours or packing up entirely. Seasonal cabins shut down in October.
As for weather, July and August are generally warm (20-30C) and pleasant. May has its moments but, in general, tends to be cool and windy. Every September gets a warm week or so – that is my absolute favourite time to be at Waskesiu Lake. The town has quieted down, the leaves are changing and the elk are in rut (i.e. making a lot of noise and, presumably, getting it on with regularity). Unfortunately, it is almost impossible to tell which week that will be, and the rest of September is usually bleak and sometimes surprisingly frigid.
In my opinion, June is the best time to visit. Consistently warm and things have greened up but the town is still only busy on weekends and the mosquitoes (usually) aren’t too bad yet.
Winter is an entirely different proposition, but many people love the peaceful snow-covered ambience. There is excellent cross-country skiing throughout the park and ice fishing is also popular. Snowmobiles are not allowed inside the park but can be enjoyed around Elk Ridge.
Where to Stay: Waskesiu Cabins and Hotels
When it comes to Waskesiu accommodations you have some excellent options. The first decision is if you want to stay in one of the Waskesiu hotels or prefer a more traditional Waskesiu cabin. And whether you’re camping or staying in a cabin or hotel you may have use for the laundromat (open 7 days a week) which is located just behind the Market at Baker’s.
The Hawood Inn Waskesiu has long been one of the most popular hotels and it is the closest to the Main Beach. There is a rooftop hot tub and at least half of my Waskesiu friends worked there at one time or another, although that second thing probably won’t be of quite as much interest to you.
Elk Ridge on the Lake, formerly known as the Waskesiu Lake Lodge, is a comfortable hotel next to Pete’s Terrace that was recently purchased by the new owners of Elk Ridge Resort.
The Lakeview Hotel used to house the only bar in Waskesiu, which had a long and, at times, sordid history. Many of my least proud moments took place there over the years. Alas, the old bar and squalid hotel are long gone, torn to the ground and replaced with this luxurious new version. 12 beautiful suites with lake views and heated underground parking. Oh, how times have changed.
Waskesiu Resorts / The Wharf / Cedar Village Cottages are a diverse collection of chalets and rooms located just a block back from the beach, exquisitely close to the liquor store.
Armstrong Hillcrest Cabins are just up the street as well, offering over 50 basic little cabins, as well as some motel-style rooms.
Chateau Park Chalets are tucked in behind Park Centre Café, with 11 full-equipped units.
The Suites at Waskesiu are also very central, sitting kitty-corner from the Hawood Inn. Originally called the Pleasant Inn (and colloquially the “Unpleasant Inn” when many of our friends were living there in the 90’s), it was completely rebuilt in 2002 and now offers a nice collection of modern suites. Plus, the Big Olaf ice cream shop is attached to the hotel.
Baker’s Bungalows are located at the far north end of the townsite across from the Red Deer Campground and very close to Ski Beach.
Lost Creek Resort offers a nice mix of nature and convenience. Located about a 2-minute drive or 10-minute walk from downtown Waskesiu, they have a collection of nice, fully-equipped cabins.
Along the same lines, Kapasiwin Bungalows can be found in the other direction, about a 15-minute walk north of town along the old highway (now an overgrown, atmospheric path with just a bit of asphalt left). Or you can drive 5 minutes on the new, fully functional highway. While Kapasiwin has been around for decades, they recently tore all the old cabins down and replaced them with brand new, fully loaded ones. There is a small beach right in front and they have lots of water gear for guest use.
Elk Ridge Resort is outside the park, a 10-minute drive from Waskesiu Lake, and has a wide mix of options, from hotel rooms to townhouses, condos and cabins. Staying out of town has its downsides but you are very close to the golf course and other Elk Ridge attractions.
Waskesiu Lake Camping
There are several excellent Waskesiu Lake campgrounds a variety of distances from the townsite. The two main Waskesiu camping choices are Beaver Glen and Red Deer, which are right next to town and can be reserved online through Parks Canada. Which is handy, except it also means they fill up fast for peak summer times.
These well-equipped campgrounds give you that back to nature feel with most of the amenities of home and very close proximity to all the services of the townsite. They also tend to foster a very social and communal atmosphere, especially among the long-term RV crowd.
The rest of the campgrounds are all first come, first served so if you show up early you should be able to get a spot.
Beaver Glen Campground
200 sites – electricity, flush toilets, hot showers, potable water, sani dump, fire pits
This is the main Waskesiu Lake campground for tenting, although it also has spots for small RVs and trailers. It is entirely enclosed in trees which means a nice, forest feel, lots of shade and plenty of wildlife (including mosquitoes). Located just at the north end of town, there is easy access to Beaver Glen Beach (as you might expect) and the store at Baker’s Bungalows. The main downtown core is still only a 15-minute walk as well.
For those looking to mix comfort and nature, Beaver Glen Campground also offers 10 oTENTik cabins. Actually, they are not quite cabins, not quite tents, but they come with real beds, actual furniture, heaters, an open deck and a screened-in seating tent. There are outside electrical outlets and no plumbing or potable water on-site but you have access to the regular Beaver Glen bathrooms, showers and water taps just like everybody else.
There is also a very basic “overflow” section of Beaver Glen Campground for when things get really full, located on the south side of the highway when coming into town.
Red Deer Campground
161 sites – electricity, sewer and water, flush toilets, hot showers, potable water, use sani dump in Beaver Glen, no open fires (propane is fine)
Located a few hundred metres south of Beaver Glen right on the edge of the seasonal cabins, Red Deer Campground only allows RVs and trailers (max 35 ft). While there are trees, it is much more open than Beaver Glen and the spots are set up in orderly rows that don’t offer much privacy. There are a few sites up in the southeastern section that feel a bit more secluded.
The Narrows Campground
85 sites –flush/pit toilets, potable water, sani dump, fire pits, no showers, no electricity
Very close to the Narrows Marina in the far southwestern corner of Waskesiu Lake, the Narrows Campground is a good choice for those looking for something a little less urban but with easy access to the lake. They accept both tents and RVs.
Namekus Lake Campground
20 sites – pit toilets, fire pits, no showers, no potable water, no electricity, no sani dump
Quietly a favourite spot among many of our friends and family, especially those big into fishing, Namekus Lake is the perfect peaceful getaway. Motorized boats are not allowed on this calm little lake, making it perfect for canoeing and kayaking. It is located on the old highway (#263) around 10 km south of the Waskesiu Lake townsite.
Sandy Lake Campground
31 sites – pit toilets, fire pits, no showers, no potable water, no electricity, no sani dump
A little bit farther from town (35 km / 30 min drive) but with a pretty location and a very serene vibe, Sandy Lake is a great alternative choice. The fishing is good, I hear, and even though there isn’t any potable water in the campground, you can fill up at the Meridian sani dump, just 3 km south at the park gate (or you can use the one in Beaver Glen).
Where to Eat: Waskesiu Lake Restaurants
Nobody walks away from one of the Waskesiu restaurants (or shop) saying “wow, that sure was cheap”. But at least there is a lot of good food to be had, not to mention plenty of atmosphere, from “casual lake deep-fried” to “air-conditioned, wear your best polo and khakis”.
Pete’s Terrace, commonly known by its original name of Pizza Pete’s, is a Waskesiu institution. They have, unsurprisingly, fantastic pizzas (the “pep-mush” is my personal favourite pizza of all-time, just saying) and a casual feel, with sports on TV and beer on tap. They also occasionally have live music, making it the closest thing you’ll find to night life in Waskesiu.
A few years back, the former owner of Pete’s moved on to open his passion project, Restaurant Pietro. Outstanding food. It ain’t cheap, but it’s tough to beat legitimate fine dining at the lake.
Evergreen Coffee is, as you might expect, a popular café.
Stanley’s Pub & Grill is still mostly referred to as The Clubhouse, and the place I spent one memorable summer as a solidly below-average dishwasher. It is the Waskesiu Golf Course restaurant, and they have a great deck for post-round beer.
The Hawood Inn is a Waskesiu Lake classic and they’ve recently added some fun outdoor sidewalk seating.
The 10th Hole is on the Waskesiu Golf Course at the furthest point from the clubhouse. They usually have very good baked goods and generally passable hot dogs.
The Patio Café (formerly Park Centre Café) is another basic burgers and fries kind of place. The Scoop ice cream shop is attached (and usually more crowded).
The Shack is a brand new option in the building that used to house the Waskesiu Trading Company grocery store, right across the street from the Main Beach. They specialize in burgers and the kind of quick, deep-fried comfort food people are looking for when they get hungry on the beach.
Asian Station offers something a little different once you’ve had your fill of pizza, burgers and fish and chips.
Another alternative option is Hechoen, a Mexican food truck serving up excellent tacos and the like.
The Big Olaf ice cream shop is located in the Suites at Waskesiu and is famous for their waffle cones.
Fredrich and The Wyld are nice options at Elk Ridge Resort. Fredrich is located inside the lodge and is a bit more upscale, while The Wyld is connected to the pro shop, is more casual and has a nice patio that also works well for after-round beers. So I’m told.
There are only two self-catering options in town, although you can usually find more than you might expect in the tiny little lake shops. Waskesiu Trading Company (also called Archer’s because, you know, it is owned by the Archer family) is the larger of the two and is found directly across from the Main Beach.
There is a smaller grocery store at Baker’s Bungalows (officially called The Market) that is convenient for people staying in the campgrounds. They used to have the best ice cream deals in town but have put that particular service on hiatus for the time being. Don’t get me started.
Not strictly a place to eat, but often essential nonetheless, is the Waskesiu Liquor Store. And, yes, that’s the official name. No need to confuse people.
How to Get to Waskesiu Lake
Well, the bad news is, there is really only one way to get to Waskesiu Lake. Drive. The good news, though, is that makes it really simple. Distances from the main centres and popular nearby lakes are as follows:
Emma Lake to Waskesiu Lake: 60 km / 45 min
Prince Albert to Waskesiu Lake: 90 km / 1 hr
Candle Lake to Waskesiu Lake: 115 km / 1.25 hrs
Saskatoon to Waskesiu Lake: 230 km / 2.25 hrs
There used to be a daily bus service but Saskatchewan discontinued that a couple years ago, province-wide, because, you know, public transportation is so old-fashioned. Or something. I don’t know for sure, but we’ve travelled to a LOT of places around the world and our home province is one of the only places we’ve ever been that doesn’t have some form of public transportation from town to town. And it isn’t necessarily ideal to be lumped in with the far western steppes of Mongolia. At least not in this context.
Waskesiu Lake Summary
We are so used to writing about places we’ve just visited for the first time, usually with fresh, easily impressed eyes, that it feels very strange to write about a place we know so well. Having spent large chunks of time in Waskesiu Lake every summer of my life, it is amazing how many things you take for granted and never really think about.
I was genuinely surprised at how long our list of Things to Do in Waskesiu Lake ended up (with very little effort) and how many different places there are to camp (we settled on our favourites years ago and rarely waver these days).
It was also noticeable how many times I had to say “formerly known as”, making us realize just how many businesses and hotels have evolved over the years. Now I’m wondering if the previous names are of any relevance to people reading this but, hey, at least these footnotes can serve as helpful reminders for us personally when our memories start to fade in the future (even more than they already have, I mean).
Bottom line: familiar or not, Waskesiu Lake is an amazing place. You should definitely come for a visit.
Other useful articles you may want to check out: