A peak experience at Buffalo Pound
Many Canadians, I think, perceive Saskatchewan to be one billiard table-flat, never-ending field of wheat. Not so. To prove my point, I recently made a second visit to a property at Buffalo Pound Lake, where the Nature Conservancy Canada (NCC) is closing in on its fundraising goal to purchase 866 hectares (2,140 acres) and seven kilometres of shoreline.
On my first visit I followed a trail likely used by the farmer who had pastured livestock on the property. This time I hiked to the rim of the valley overlooking the lake, which an NCC mapping expert informed me was about 100 metres above the lake level. So, maybe not what you could describe as a peak experience, but still, you can see a long way in any direction from the rim of the valley, and I have photos to prove it.
There are several reasons why I value visiting properties like Buffalo Pound. I live smack dab in the middle of the saucer-flat Regina Plains, but within an hour’s drive I can experience the sights and sounds of Saskatchewan’s native grasslands at places like Buffalo Pound. While the grasslands might seem plentiful, the reality is that less than 20 per cent remains from what once existed in the province. All the more reason to conserve and protect a relatively large parcel of wildlife habitat where species at risk, such as Baird’s sparrow, American badger, Sprague’s pipit and northern leopard frog, might be found.
Mysterious animal-dug holes (Photo by Bill Armstrong)
During this particular hike, I dodged what may have been badger holes, and sighted what I suspect was the same deer, watching me from four different vantage points. And I inhaled the pungent, spicy smell of sagebrush, which unfortunately, no photo or video can reproduce. I can only assure you it is a memorable part of the grassland experience.
Over the years I’ve participated in NCC’s Conservation Volunteers events, and I have come to look forward to them as part of my round of summer outdoor activities.
The coneflowers and others had congregated in a low spot along the trail, where water would be more plentiful. (Photo by Bill Armstrong)
During the weeks of staying at home during the pandemic, I realized that I missed the opportunity to connect with NCC staff members and like-minded volunteers at these events. Hiking alone is not the same, but it is a welcome alternative, and at a property like Buffalo Pound, keeping the proper physical distance is easy.
The final reason for protecting areas like Buffalo Pound is to conserve habitat like this from development. On the opposite side of the highway that marks the eastern edge of the property, resort developments are starting to appear. These resorts feature oversize lots with what a friend describes as “starter castles” strung along the water’s edge. While I can’t imagine large houses with manicured lawns, paved roads and boat launches winding through the Buffalo Pound property, others might. That is why — although I am already a monthly donor to NCC — I decided to make a specific donation, matched by the Maple Cross Fund, to complete the fundraising effort for Buffalo Pound. You can learn more about how to support the campaign at conservegrasslands.ca.