Exploration Trails

Early exploration trails in southern Saskatchewan (formerly the North-West Territories) were largely established by scientists and observers hired by the Dominion government. These people took a natural inventory of the region to determine whether it was suitable for agricultural settlement. Although several explorations were conducted, some of the more notable ones were completed by John Palliser, Henry Youle Hind and John Macoun. John Palliser first explored the region from 1857 to 1870; his exploration trails originated near Roche Percee and continued north to Fort Qu’Appelle, west to Moose Jaw Creek, and north across the South Saskatchewan River. Palliser’s initial exploration led to further expeditions by Henry Youle Hind (1857–58) and John Macoun (1879–81) (see Palliser and Hind Expeditions). Palliser and Hind concluded that the region extending along the 49th parallel between 100°W and 114°W longitude, with its apex at 52°N, was unfit for agricultural settlement; Macoun disagreed, claiming that the region represented great agricultural potential.

Exploration trails in northern Saskatchewan were primarily conducted by geologists and surveyors, who reported to the Geological Survey of Canada (GSC). This agency, created in 1842, was responsible for obtaining scientific data on the country’s natural resources. Among the first such surveyors were Joseph Tyrrell, William McIness and Frank Crean. Tyrrell assessed the geologic potential of the Wollaston, Cree, and Reindeer lake regions of northern Saskatchewan from the late 1880s to the early 1890s. William McIness, a survey geologist, explored geological formations from the Churchill River basin to Manitoba from 1907 to 1910. Frank Crean, a civil engineer, was hired by the Department of the Interior to assess the agricultural potential of land in Saskatchewan’s north-central region; he conducted explorations from Prince Albert towards present-day Prince Albert National Park, and northwest to La Loche in 1908 and 1909.

James Winkel