Robsart – The Nearly Ghost Town

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There is something interesting about going to ghost towns and here in southwest Saskatchewan, we have plenty of them.

Now, Robsart is not quite a ghost town, since it does have about 14 residents, but taking a trip around Robsart, you will see plenty of old buildings from a long-gone prosperous past. Located 68 kilometres south of Maple Creek, and about 40 kilometres to the west of Eastend, it is easy to find this hamlet. Robsart was once a village but after Jan. 1, 2002, it became a hamlet under the RM of Reno.

The hamlet popped up in 1910 when the CPR purchased a quarter section of land in the area. Named for Amy Robsart from the book Kenilworth, the first settlers began to arrive in the community three years later. Eventually, there would be over 30 businesses including a dentist, jeweller and a surgeon.

During the boom years from 1910 to the mid-1920s, the village became known as the Town with the Bright Future. Many new businesses came in and by 1920, there were 350 people in the town.

In 1918, the Robsart Hospital was built, which still stands and is one of the oldest examples of a prairie hospital in Western Canada.

The decline of Robsart began in 1929 when the grain elevator burned down. In 1930, a blaze wiped out a large section of the business core. With the Great Depression, the decline of Robsart continued.

In the 1980s, the town only had a few residents but those residents came together to restore the community hall, which still stands.

Today, it is a unique glimpse into a prairie past.

View our video tour of Robsart HERE

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Pine Cree Regional Park

PineCree8As we walked through Pine Cree Park, we passed a man walking his dog who mentioned that we were now in a slice of B.C.

He couldn’t have been more right.

Pine Cree Regional Park, located just east of Eastend is an amazing spot on the prairie. Nestled in the hills, you would believe that you are in British Columbia with the trees and beautiful landscape around you.

A popular camping area, the park is often full of campers throughout the season. With three main hiking trails, you can get a good workout and see some of the vegetation in the park. We took one trail that took us up a hill that overlooks the park. We would have spent more time there but a thunderstorm was moving in.

Historic markers give you a clear understanding about how this park came to be and what makes it so popular. Recently, talking with a resident from Eastend, she remarked that Pine Cree Park was her favourite place to go in Saskatchewan and it is easy to see why.

Campsites aplenty here, along with some shelters, make it a great place to spend a weekend.

While you are here, why not take a trip over the Hermit’s Cave. Located up some steps along a trail in the park, it is a cute cave that many have left their mark on.

Cost to get in the park is $10

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Geocaching in the Southwest

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Layla finds a geocache in Tompkins

Before this past weekend, we had never been out geocaching. We had a general idea of what it was, but had never actually tried it.

So, after downloading a cheap geocaching app onto my phone, I discovered that in our small town of Gull Lake there were three geocaches alone! A quick search outside of town and I discovered the area was teeming with geocaches.

We were well on our way, beginning with a geocache south of Maple Creek. It was a relatively easy find. I won’t give any details so I don’t ruin anything for other geocachers but a quick walk around the roadside and we had found it.

Our next stop was at the Maple Creek Cemetery where we had our first failure. This was a really interesting geocache. Once we were at the right location, we had to find a grave of an RCMP officer, which then gave us four digits to use to find the exact location of the geocache. Unfortunately, I did not know how to punch in co-ordinates on my phone and we were unable to find the cache. It was fun to look though!

Our next cache was at a rest stop on the Trans Canada but once again we had no luck and we began to think someone actually stole this cache.

After one find and two failures, we hoped our trip to Tompkins would be better. There are two caches in Tompkins and they were great finds. One helped us learn some of the local history of Tompkins, and the other gave us a tour of the town.

We found one more in Carmichael and learned more about the history of that town.

Our next geocache was south of Gull Lake near the wind turbines and this was a great find. It is a quiet side road and we spent some time just enjoying the landscape and looking at the massive turbines spinning behind us.

The next two were in Webb and this is where we found our favourite cache. We cannot give any details on it except to say that it is called Oh What A Webb We Weave and it is a fantastic hiding spot. Spend the time to find this one, it was wonderful.

We found two more along the TransCanada and two in Gull Lake. There is still one we can’t find in Gull Lake but we are going to keep trying.

Overall, geocaching is a great way to break up a road trip, get out and stretch your legs and become a detective of sorts. The app was only $10 and geocaching.com will show you ever cache in your area. Even in southwest Saskatchewan, there are hundreds.

It is also a great way to learn about history, the landscape and more.

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Roaring Into History

Layla and ScottyWhen you think of dinosaurs, you think of the GobiDesert, of the Badlands of Alberta and the dinosaur finds in Montana. You generally don’t think of Eastend, Saskatchewan.

Well, you should.

It was in 1991 when a very special fossil was found near Eastend. It was of a T-Rex and it would turn out to be the most complete skeleton of a T-Rex ever found in Canada. The history of the T-Rex Discovery Centre began earlier than that. It was in 1988, after a number of fossils had been discovered, that the Town of Eastend created the Eastend Tourism Board. The board members came up with the idea of having a Paleontological Centre in town. Three years later, Scotty, as the T-Rex is known, was discovered.

Today, the T-Rex Discovery Centre is 16,000 square feet in size, with a number of amazing fossils and interactive displays.

During our visit to Eastend on a very windy day this April, we found that we had most of the museum to The Discovery Centreourselves since it is still technically the winter season for them. With no admission fee, we went right in and began looking around at the many displays. These displays included a Triceritops skull, a full T-Rex skeleton replica, a place to test your strength against a T-Rex and the actual skeleton of Scotty, albiet behind glass.

How did a T-Rex turn up in Saskatchewan, well 70 million years ago or so, Eastend, Saskatchewan was located around where Athabasca Lake is now, at 58 degrees latitude. During that time, the weather was very warm and the seasons were light. There is even evidence of palm trees growing in Saskatchewan, or what would one day be Saskatchewan.

There was also a Ptilodus skeleton on display. Found near Estevan, it is one of the earliest known Tertiary mammal skeletons in the world.

Overall, the Discovery Centre is a great way to spend an hour or two, learning about the far distant past and about how much the region has changed. No visit of course is complete without a picture with the huge T-Rex skeleton on display, and don’t forget to test your strength against Scotty!

Directions:

EastendMapComing down from Highway 1, go through Gull Lake and Shauanvon until you come to the Eastend turnoff. Follow Highway 13 to Eastend, about 30 km from Shauanvon. Once in Shaunavon, drive to the west end of town and take the turnoff to the T-Rex Discovery Centre. Drive up a small hill and you will see it on your right hand side.

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