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Exploring Saskatchewan Ghost Towns, a guide

May 18, 2010

A ghost town is a completely abandoned town or city. The term is sometimes used in a deprecated sense to include cities, towns, and neighborhoods which, while still populated, are significantly less so than in years past.

Ghost towns are towns that once had a considerable population, that have since dwindled in numbers causing some or all its business to close, either due to the rerouting of a highway, train tracks being pulled, or exhaustion of a natural resource. In the province of Saskatchewan, these are communities that no longer exist or former Villages/Towns that have become unincorporated hamlets.

Source: Wikipedia

Arelee, Saskatchewan

We had an incredible time this past weekend exploring the rural areas. We also learned a lot and wanted to share our new-found wealth of knowledge with anyone else who wants to ghost-town-it-up-a-notch. It’s a Bise-en-Scene recommended activity!

Here’s a step-by-step guide for you guys:

1) Buy or print a detailed map of Saskatchewan and decide which direction you want to head. You’ll find places in any direction, literally, so just “Pick a place in Saskatchewan you’ve never been before and go!”

2) Start driving, but keep checking the map. The places on the map with the smallest font and dot size, indicating the smallest population, are the ghost towns. Especially if they’re not located on a major highway and extra especially if they’re located on a railway line. Scads of communities popped up along railroad tracks and then faded into obscurity as rail transit decreased. Some of these small-font-and-dot places are still thriving, or at least existing, but not many. You can usually find a deserted building or two in any of these places. They’re not too far apart, so you can hit quite a few in a day.

3) If and when you find abandoned homes, businesses and other structures, explore them!

And that’s all there is to it, so do it!

Kinley, Saskatchewan

Environ, Saskatchewan

Here’s a list of observations that will make your journey easier:

–> Saskatchewan rural maps are hilariously incorrect and misleading. They even have a label for “gravel highways.” Now that‘s an oxymoron! There’s tons of roads that don’t have names or designations and those that do never have any signs. Also, not to sound cliche, but everything looks the same. Roads that end on the map don’t usually end in reality and there’s tons of roads that aren’t even listed. It’s a gong show trying to follow these maps, so have a good attitude and expect to get lost.

–> I’m not sure, but I think the maps have to list every single town/village/hamlet that EVER existed, because lots of the small-font-and-dot locations aren’t there anymore. At all. Nothing left. The strange thing we noticed is that there was a token “old abandoned farmhouse” in almost every place. But just one. A few of the places were occupied farms, with or without crumbling buildings on the property. A few were actual towns, but with a mixture of occupied and abandoned structures. We never went to a small-font-and-dot location that was a normal, non-ghosted town. (But… the town that I grew up in is one, so we know they exist.) It really is a gamble whether or not you’ll find anything, but that’s part of the fun!

–> As anyone from Saskatchewan knows, there’s abandoned buildings all over the countryside, not just in the ghost towns. Feel free to explore any of them, on a whim! Barns and sheds are a dime-a-dozen, but the old houses are fantastic!

–> Lots of structures are on other people’s property, or next door to an occupied place. Be tactful, but explore them anyway! You could always ask for permission, say that you’re exploring old buildings and would you mind if I took a look, please. If you’re carrying a camera, most people don’t mind. We had one gentleman yell at us from the road asking why we were on his property, but once we told him we were just snapping some pictures, he was fine with it. He just wanted to make sure we weren’t starting a fire! We played it by ear. Some places we drove past, some we looked at from the outside, and some we went right on in. Basically, if it’s abandoned and no one’s around, just go in. If someone is around, ask them. But be sure it’s actually abandoned, okay guys? We don’t need to be sending any frightened old ladies to an early grave.

–> Be careful! If you’re not 110% sure that the structure is safe, don’t walk on it. This is some obvious common sense but I had to say it anyways. I don’t want to be reading anything in the Saskatoon Star Phoenix about some adventurous young soul who fell to an early grave through the floor of an abandoned farmhouse. Be careful. I will be so mad at you if you die like that. Also, wild animals live in these places. So make lots of noise on your way in to scare them out. I don’t want to read about any badger attacks either. Or skunk. Raccoons, maybe.

–> Be respectful. A lot of places have been previously trashed by partiers and the like, but that doesn’t mean you should. These places were once people’s homes and livelihoods and deserve to be tread on lightly. Some places are filled with old junk, and I suppose one could take a memento if they did it with respect. We didn’t though. LET’S BE EXPLORERS AND NOT THIEVES AND VANDALS, OKAY GUYS?

–> Do be sure to stop in some of the “bigger” towns on your way through. Eat at the small town restaurants, including the Chinese restaurant that every town seems to have. Shop at the small town thrift and book stores. You’ll find some surprising and interesting items and people in the local businesses. LIKE MY AWESOME 200-YEAR-OLD POETRY BOOK THAT I LOVE.

–> These are things you should bring with you, THAT WE DIDN’T, and will make your life much easier:

- tick-proof pants AKA tuck-your-pants-into-your-socks (ugh. gag. shudder.)

- hand sanitizer (because some of the stuff you touch… ugh. gag. shudder.)

- a flashlight (NOT for nighttime exploration, because that would be dangerous and scarier-than-anything-ever! A lot of the collapsed places have dark nooks, crannies and basements that a good flashlight could illuminate for you.)

- a GPS (Damn, did we wish we had an iPhone on this trip, more than usual! A GPS with google maps, or its equivalent, will keep you from getting so lost AND you can say things like: “The map says I’m in Romance*, Saskatchewan, but there’s NOTHING here!”) (*a real name, I swear. There’s also ghost towns called Expanse, Fertile, Tiny, Feudal, Robinhood, Landscape, Forward, Sandwich and Wolverine. I kid you not, the names!)

–> We’ll be posting some final thoughts about our ghost town trip, along with some picture albums, soon. Until then, this is your sometimes-friendly tour guide wishing you a safe and exciting ghost town hunt! If you have any questions or comments, drop us a line.

Argo, Saskatchewan

Catherwood, Saskatchewan

The Bise-en-Scene Ghost Town Destinations

<3 Bise-en-Scene

to read our final thoughts on ghost towning, go HERE

to see the SK ghost town photo series, go HERE

to find more information on SK ghost towns, go HERE

to read a poem about these SK ghost towns, go HERE

30 Comments leave one →
  1. May 18, 2010 11:28 am

    So awesome.

    Also, as I was reading I thought – oh man it would be pretty awesome to die by falling through the floor of an abandoned farmhouse but then i read that you would be mad at me, so, um, check.

  2. June 4, 2010 1:16 pm

    I love these photos. All of them. But Environ is my fav.

  3. Greg Ewart permalink
    June 8, 2010 2:15 pm

    Love the names.
    My fiend Fawne is from Biggar and Blaine is from Climax!

    • June 8, 2010 9:03 pm

      We stayed at the Biggar Hotel! Interesting place… a server at the bar called us “exotic” for ordering a club soda and buying red stripe beer from the offsale.

  4. Ashley Graff permalink
    June 27, 2010 2:50 pm

    Reading this makes me want to get in the car right now! Approximately how long was traveling time to closer-ish ghost towns?

    • June 27, 2010 3:13 pm

      All the places we went to were between 15 minutes and 1.5 hours away. You should totally get in your car right now! Bring a camera!

  5. Jack Cunningham permalink
    January 28, 2011 1:50 pm

    In the 1920’s I was a very young boy in Landscape, SK. It is mentioned in your web page. Do you know exactly where it is? – say on a map. There is nothing there now as far as I can tell but I would like to locate it at least.

    • January 28, 2011 4:46 pm

      I found an old 1925 map that has Landscape on it. Go to this webpage:

      http://www.rootsweb.ancestry.com/~canmaps/1925Waghorn/BC-SK/

      It’s a big map, scroll to the very bottom and find #11. Follow the line up from #11, about 6 squares, and there’s Landscape!
      If you go to Google maps, the towns of Viceroy and Verwood still exist. Landscape was directly between the two, along the railroad. If you wanted to visit the location, you could go to one of those towns and follow the railway tracks until you find it.
      All the best!

  6. April 22, 2011 6:51 pm

    Are you guys going to put up anymore pictures any time soon? I did a little exploring myself today. Found some cool stuff.

  7. April 22, 2011 7:38 pm

    Hey sorry, I just found all your pictures now. I thought the only pones were the ones on this page. Great job, it looks like you seen some cool stuff.

  8. August 7, 2011 11:37 am

    Love these photographs. Beautiful. I am working on my family tree, and most of my ancestors are from Sask, so I stumbled on this site while surfing around. Makes me wonder if any of my family were once there!

  9. January 22, 2012 8:40 pm

    The economy has picked up and there’s more interest in people buying and selling these days. This seems to be the trend in Calgary. Like this site. Looking for ideas for my website to improve it myself.

  10. Donna Douglas permalink
    February 6, 2012 9:31 pm

    I had relatives that were from Alaski, Saskatchewan. I can’t find anything on it. Do you know if it is listed on your map as a ghost town. They lived there in 1920.

  11. Dave Potiuk permalink
    June 30, 2012 8:20 pm

    Beautiful photos, guys. Saskatchewan is so awesome!

  12. July 24, 2012 9:16 am

    The gov’t of Sask. should realize the tourism potential of it’s special old places and come up
    with a comprehensive map of the super- interesting old ghost towns, I’m sure it would
    increase tourism and the economy in many small existing towns close to the ghost towns.
    Having maps like these in tourism booths throughout the Province would be a great asset.
    Might even be a good project and money maker for a very enterprising person, or group.
    Bryon Kernaghan – Wasa, B. C.

  13. Elaine Reaper permalink
    August 4, 2012 1:01 pm

    My cousin and I are heading out on our second ghost town trip. The first one was a 10 day trip through eastern and southern Alberta and into the Kootenay’s in BC. It was amazing! This time we’re heading to Saskatchewan. We were thinking of sticking to the West from Llloydminster and then South on Hwy 13. Does that sound like a good plan?
    Elaine Reaper, Spruce Grove AB

  14. julie permalink
    August 14, 2012 1:07 am

    Kinley picture is a keeper, as that building is gone!

  15. Lynda permalink
    September 20, 2013 9:25 am

    I love this site, Thank you!!! I spend many hours wandering the south east, exploring the countryside. My camera is always ready as you must be prepared to encounter the many ever changing marvels of nature. As of late, I feel drawn to the abandoned, falling structures and rusting old tractors. You have given a lot of information that will be useful to me, I love the photos. My first two ghost towns will be ; Renown + Zena

  16. Nick permalink
    December 16, 2013 11:57 pm

    Being from the country, I’ve been doing this my whole life (mostly on snowmobile) and a word of advice for all you future adventurers, there’s not a single abandoned farm house in Saskatchewan that does not have a well outside. these wells are usually dry and not covered properly so watch where you step. Depending on the diameter, they can be up to 300 feet deep I kid you not. Be careful!

Trackbacks

  1. Maybe the Ghosts Will Live Again! « Namaste, Aum Kleem
  2. The stories these buildlings could tell | Saskatchewan Ghost Towns | Jennifer Blake Photography | Blog
  3. The stories these buildlings could tell | Saskatchewan Ghost Towns « Jennifer Blake Photography | Blog
  4. Finding and Exploring Canadian Ghost Towns » Green Living History
  5. Plot Bunnies – Day 27 | R J Davies Mornix

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