Hiking is a favourite pastime in our family and used to be reserved for when we travelled away from home. Over the years we’ve been intentionally shifting our mindset to explore and appreciate our local area and develop a sense of place. Typically the South East corner of our province is one that is labelled “exceedingly flat”. The type of flat where you can watch your dog run away for miles. When we really start to observe, we’ve found that Estevan has a unique landscape that actually offers many interesting areas of elevation. Being someone who loves the mountains I am often seeking that coveted bird’s eye view and we’ve found quite a few right around Estevan.
Near Woodlawn Regional Park (on the North side of the Souris River) you’ll find several bluffs that provide an excellent bird’s eye view of the surrounding area. One is parallel (North) to the dog park and the other is across the highway and kitty-corner to the dog park.
These are a gentle climb and are a fantastic addition to your running route as well. At the top, you’ll find yourself with a delightful 360-degree view of the surrounding area. To the north, the city sits atop its own higher plain and to the south, you’re able to see the river meander through the woods hugging both its sides. These bluffs are less than a 5-minute drive from my house and so they are my go-to destination for several specific nature phenomena.
Changing Seasons – the shifting colours of a seasonal transition are a thrill to observe from anywhere but they are even more appreciated from a view from the top. Fall creates an especially splendid picture with miles of golden trees winding along the river. With the first snow, it’s worth climbing up to see our area calm and blanketed in white.
Sunsets/Sunrise – to be honest, I’ve never caught a sunrise from up here because I am not a morning person but it’s on my bucket list. The sunsets however are another story. With these shortening days I find myself timing my daily hikes for that golden hour so that I can watch the sunset from these vantage points. It’s absolutely breathtaking and never ceases to amaze. It’s also worth noting that watching the sun set and rise has been shown in research to reduce cortisol levels (stress hormone) and promote the reduction of inflammation in the body. Win-win.
Hoar Frost – If a fog rolls in overnight and we wake up to hoar frost (or rime ice) my kids know to get dressed immediately because we’re heading out to hike in it before the sun melts it all away. Climbing these bluffs to view the frost laden woods and valley is my absolute favourite reason to hike. Everything appears to be covered in glittering diamonds as far as the eye can see and it’s mesmerizing. If you see that frost on the trees in the morning, drop everything and go. You won’t regret it.
Diverse Vegetation and Geology – erosion has left a geological picture in the layers of exposed rock and it’s beautiful. Also, keep your eyes peeled for the cacti that grow in this special place.
It wasn’t until we organized a homeschool field trip to do the local Energy Tour that I learned the reason reclaimed land was left in spill piles resulting in the hilly landscape. It was explained that the hills provide a better habitat for the animals of the area and so the land is geared for that. In exploring these areas with my family it’s easy to see the wisdom in that as we come across so much wildlife. There are areas for shelter, areas to hide, the hills drain water into the low spots which create small ponds and even lakes that attract even more animals.
One of our favourite reclaimed areas to hike is several minutes down highway 18 towards Torquay. If you’re leaving Estevan you’ll go past Hidden Valley (but don’t go as far as Boulder Bend) and on the South side of the highway you’ll see a large hill with a SaskPower sign that says “Hiking on foot and bow hunting permitted”. Pull off the road there (all the way so you’re not obstructing traffic in any way) and head up and over the hill.
Once you reach the top you’re going to feel like you’re in another world. It’s that drastic! Before you is a massive area of hills upon hills with pools of water collected at the bottom. This area is a blast to explore as you climb up and down the hills and weave along ridges. There’s interesting vegetation and a brilliant array of rocks that have been unearthed through the surface mining process.
* A quick note – it’s important to leave these geological features and interesting rocks where they lay rather than taking them home to your gardens and yards so that they can be enjoyed by everyone for years to come. Let’s let nature be nature and not strip it bare.
This area is more of a moderate hike and most of the hills are fairly steep so consider your fitness level and wear proper footwear. I was surprised to check my health app and realize that in just under 3km of hiking we had climbed around 80 metres of elevation (and down it as well).
Be sure to observe posted signs and warnings when exploring other reclaimed lands. SaskPower has signs posted when hiking is not permitted and when the ground is unstable. Take heed – nobody wants to fall into a sink hole. It’s also worth noting that along the most southern edge of this particular area where the ridge seems mostly comprised of clay there are deep crevices so explore with caution. Also, stay back from the water’s edge as it’s quite boggy.
Roche Percee Rocks
Located near the town of Roche Percee these rocks are an old favourite. What you might not know is that if you continue hiking east past the rocks you’ll find more limestone features as well as find yourself with another great bird’s eye view of the surrounding valley. Weaving through the woods and up the hills is a wonderful way to spend a weekend afternoon.
We hope you’re able to make the time to get outdoors and take in the unique bird’s eye views that our area has to offer. If you do, be sure to share pictures and tag @experienceestevan. You can also use the hashtags #thisisestevan and #estevanelevation to share!