If you grew up in Saskatoon you likely visited the Beaver Creek Conservation Area at some point in your childhood. If you’re like me, however, you probably haven’t made it back since your fourth grade field trip.
I joined my three-year-old niece, Lucy, and my mom on an afternoon visit to Beaver Creek. Conveniently located 13km south of Saskatoon on Highway 219, it's a great way to fill a few free hours. This Meewasin Valley microcosm consists of an interpretive centre and over 6km of trails through the grasslands, above the South Saskatchewan River and along the small creek that feeds into it.
As soon as we climbed out of the car you could see the excitement growing on Lucy’s face. She was eagerly taking in her surroundings; full of anticipation for what was next. We started down the first trail with our picnic lunch in tow and she quickly ran ahead calling out “this is fun!” as she went (you can’t make this stuff up).
One of our first stop was a lookout point over the creek and river. Lucy loved looking down at the water and trees below. “Woah, we’re so high up,” and indeed the vantage point was impressive!
Continuing along the path after lunch, Lucy discovered new things every direction she turned. From grasshoppers and pretty flowers to vole holes and trees chewed down by beavers, there was an endless supply of nature to explore.
Next we visited the interpretive centre to have some fun in the SaskEnergy Beaver Pond. There we learned how beavers build their homes and help create a unique habitat for an array of wildlife in the process. The centre is complete with puzzles, animal displays and a puppet theatre to help children learn through play. We met another family here and their little boy was enthusiastic to teach us how to work the different features.
On our way back to the trails we grabbed a handful of birdseed to feed to the chickadees that build their nests in the trees along the creek. Lucy’s attention, however, went immediately to the chipmunks scurrying across the paths in search for food. We watched them munch on sunflower seeds as Lucy attempted to inch closer and closer before they ran away.
After the chipmunks we crossed a bridge over the creek and spotted footprints from various wildlife in the mud. It amazed me to see such a vast ecosystem so close to the city.
Finally, as if saving the best for last, we began to spot the chickadees in the trees overhead. Grandma taught Lucy how to hold her hand out with seeds and we waited for the birds to drop by for a snack.
It didn’t take long for the first chickadee to make it’s move, and though a little hesitant at first, Lucy loved having them perch on her hand and eat the seeds. After each one flew away she would look up at as giggling. “It took the seed!” she said and then quickly asked for more.
The longer we stayed the more chickadees came around. There were so many that Lucy could barely keep up! A school group passed by us on the path and the kids quickly held out their hands full of seeds, catching on that we had found a hot spot.
At last, our pockets ran dry and we walked back to the car, chickadees tweeting alongside us hoping for a few more bites. As excited as Lucy was to get home and tell mom and dad all about her adventure, she was fast asleep before we even made it out of the park gate. It was clearly an eventful afternoon for a toddler, but driving home even her grandmother couldn't stop talking about what a great day it had been.
If you would like to make a visit to the Beaver Creek Conservation Area it is open weekdays from 9am to 5pm.