Prince Albert National Park is located 200 kilometres (125 miles) north of Saskatoon, close to the centre of the Canadian Province of Saskatchewan. It is a park of 3,875 square kilometres on the southern edge of Canada’s great boreal forest.
This is a transition zone, featuring diverse plant and animal life and a landscape dominated by the effects of glaciation.
Established in 1927, its most famous resident was Grey Owl, who used the park as a home base between 1931 and 1938. Archaeological evidence and oral histories suggest that aboriginal cultures inhabited the region for at least 6,000 years.
Prince Albert’s many lakes, streams, and marshlands support abundant wildlife and are recognized as being one of the few places left in the world where timber wolves live undisturbed.
The park’s bison herd has national significance as it represents the only free-ranging population of plains bison in a Canadian national park. In the 1700s, plains bison were estimated to number in the millions. By 1870, they had been all but eliminated, primarily as a military strategy to subdue the Indians in the United States, who were dependent on them.
Glaciation has modified the landscape, leaving rolling moraines on the uplands and fine-grained lacustrine deposits in the lowland areas – eskers, the narrow sinuous ridges of gravel and sand; and drumlins, smooth egg-shaped hills created when the glacier moved up and over deposits of debris smoothing and shaping them.
The entire area was under as much as 1,600 metres (5,264 feet) of glacial ice during the three main periods of ice advance, which dug out the beds of some of such major lakes as Waskesiu, Crean, and Kingsmere. (See also Duane Duff’s book: Waskesiu: Canada’s First Frigate)
Inventories and excavations between 1971 and 1973 revealed many sites and resources that have served as the basis of park interpretation and cultural resource management programs. In 1997, thirty new sites were unearthed, dating back about 4,000 years to ancient First Nations occupations of early plains bison hunters.
One site near Waskesiu Lake appears to represent an early pre-contact Palaeo-Indian occupation that may be more than 7,500 years old. Many sites within the park represent habitation, fishing, hunting, tool and pottery making, and burial activities.
Fur-trading began in the 1700s; and the Hudson’s Bay Company built a trading post on Lake Waskesiu in 1886.
See maps of the park.
See also: National Parks of Canada.
(This page was updated in November 2012.)