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Watrous

Town, pop 1,808, located 110 km SE of Saskatoon at the junction of Hwys 2 and 365. There were only a few settlers in the district in 1903, but between 1904 and 1906 homesteaders’ sod houses and shacks began to dot the country for miles around. When the Grand Trunk Pacific Railway came through in 1906, the townsite was surveyed and named after Frank Watrous Morse, the general manager of the railway. In the period leading up to World War I, there was a great influx of settlers into the area and most of the available homestead land was occupied. Very early on, area residents discovered the mineral waters of Little Manitou Lake, about 5 km north of Watrous, which had long been known to local First Nations populations. Manitou Beach became a popular resort destination, and the town of Watrous greatly benefited over the years as throngs of tourists passed through the community en route to the lake. In 1939, Watrous became the location for the Canadian Broadcasting Company’s only broadcasting outlet between Winnipeg and Vancouver—so chosen because the minerals in the area make the soil highly conductive. Radiating from the base of the 465 foot (142 metre) tower, 120 wires each 500 feet (152 metres) long are buried under the earth grounding the system. CBK Radio station’s 50,000-watt transmitter far exceeded the expectations of providing coverage for the prairie provinces: engineers estimate that to equal the coverage of CBK, an eastern radio station would have to have four times the power. Reception has been reported from as far away as Australia. Once a popular tourist attraction with a full-time staff of 14, the CBK transmitter is now operated from Regina. Watrous remains an important service centre for the district and a major shopping centre for area farm families. It also benefits from its proximity to three potash mines, which are major employers of town residents. Agriculture, a substantial part of the area economy, includes a diverse array of crops as well as livestock production. Cattle are raised in the area’s pastures and marginal lands, and there are intensive hog and dairy operations in the district. Tourism generated by Manitou Beach adds to a diversified economy. All Saints Anglican Church in Watrous may also have the oldest stained glass window in Canada. The window, brought to Watrous in 2,000 pieces from England by the first vicar of the church, dates back to pre-Reformation times.

David McLennan

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This web site was produced with financial assistance
provided by Western Economic Diversification Canada and the Government of Saskatchewan.
University of Regina Government of Canada Government of Saskatchewan Canadian Plains Research Center
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Diversification de l'économie de l'Ouest Canada et le gouvernement de la Saskatchewan.