The Narrow Hills of Saskatchewan is part of the west shore line of Ancient Lake Agassiz. This lake covered an area from the eastern part of the province eastward to almost the Great Lakes region of Ontario. The "Narrow Hills Esker", as it was commonly called, was not a true esker. It was in fact a "pushmoraine", formed of sand and gravel, believed to have been left after the last ice age several thousands of years ago. The East Side of this ridge, being that the old lake bottom is lowland, hosts a variety of trees including Black Spruce, Tamarack, and Willow. It also has many areas of open muskeg or bogs. The West Side is mostly Jack Pine, along with several small lakes called "kettle holes," where it is believed that this is the location where many huge blocks of ice had lodged and subsequently melted. Among some of the other vegetation that blanketed these hills were White Spruce, Balsam Poplar, and Trembling Aspen, along with an under coving of many varieties of wild fruits and shrubs. The ground cover is mosses typical of lowgrowing plants.
The lakes boast of a variety of fish which include Northern Pike, Walleye, White Fish. And Suckers. Some have been stocked with numerous types of Trout. Big game animals, including Moose, Elk, Caribou, White-tailed Deer, and Black Bear also roam these areas. One may also discover Upland Game birds in the area.
This unique area, with scenery that is unrivaled in Saskatchewan, is accessible by traveling north of the Village of Love. It ends at the Lower Fishing Lake, located in the Narrow Hills Provincial Park.
The Village of Love, referred to as the "Gateway To The Narrow Hills," can supply you with all your needs. More about Love later.
Saskatchewan has a great variety of landforms, climate and vegetation ranging from the flat expanses of waving wheat fields to the thick forests and rugged, hard rock hills. We have it all !
In the area of Fishing Lake one will find some of our most beautiful scenery. Ranging from the steep rolling, densely forested hills to the flat, lake-strewn muskegs and small, sheltered lakes.
Many of the hills are narrow and winding, curling its way for miles between the lakes, rivers and muskegs. It is from these hills the area takes its traditional name, the "Narrow Hills".
Some of the area lakes, such as Shannon Lake, Baldy Lake, Calder Lake, Odell Lake, Zeden Lake and the Fishing Lakes, themselves are kettleholes; believed to be depressions left when the last embedded blocks of ice finally melted from the moraine.
Because these hills are thickly clothed with dense wooded areas and sport a variety of game and fish, this makes it a heaven for fisherman and hunter alike.
As was previously mentioned, this region of unique glacial scenery is also the home of Narrow Hills Provincial Park. The park was established in the early 1930s when Field Officer, Garry Parker, who was a trapper and fisherman, recognized the value of the area as a source of livelihood. He realized the unique scenery and plentiful wildlife should be protected for others to enjoy.
Parker commissioned his patrolman, Burns Matheson, to conduct a survey to support his park proposal. Mathesons two months of traveling the area confirmed areas that were plentiful of unique scenic attractions. As a result of his findings, the Nipawin Provincial Park was officially established in January of 1934. It was to cover an area of about two-hundred and fifty-two square miles.
There has been little permanent settlement in the Fishing Lakes region.
This is largely because the main water routes of the Churchill and Saskatchewan Rivers bypass it. However, the area, with
its abundant wildlife, has always been a rich source of livelihood for all who used it.
The first records date from the early 1900s, when as many as twenty
families from Fort A La Corne and Little Red River, located on the southern fringes of the forest belt, made annual winter
trips up to upper Fishing Lake by horse and travios. Others made their treks from the west, around East Trout Lake and
Such people as Joe and William Head, Sam Brittain and Alex Daniels used
the Narrow Hills and Fishing Lakes trails to reach the area. Once there, they camped on the Jack pine ridges to hunt, fish
and trap throughout the winter months. They know the Narrow Hills as"Elk Mountain" and it has been said that one
hundred and thirty-five Elk were taken in one winter.
These annual treks were continued until 1945. Often the men left their
families at Upper Fishing Lake and moved North to trap the Churchill River country, bringing the furs south to sell to the
traders at Fort A La Corne. These treks were not without a great price, however. One of these early trappers, a man by the
name of Sam Brittain, saw his young children die of pneumonia here. He buried them close to the east shore of Upper Fishing
Lake. The graves remained there up until 1974, when new rights of way were cleared to straighten the Hansen Lake road. The
Department of Highways moved the graves to Fort A La Corne.
During the great depression, when the lean years hit the prairies, more
people headed north to the Narrow Hills area to trap. But even by the early part of the 1920s, several white trappers
had joined the Native Indians in the area.
Among the earliest ones to come to the area was a young Norwegian, Named
Olaf Hansen. Hansen arrived via British Columbia and Ontario to trap between White Gull Lake and Candle Lake over the 1919
In 1923, he helped build Gilmor Cabin, located on the Torch River,
between Snowden and Choiceland. It served as headquarters for the Federal Departments of the Interior through the late
1920s. This cabin was later destroyed in a fire in 1939.
In the fall of1924, Hansen left the service and settled on the Little
Bear Lake. He became the first person to commercially fish the lake. He remained there for several years, trapping and
fishing with partners. In 1928, he moved to Big Sandy Lake to pioneer the commercial fishing industry there. He was to move
again the following winter to try his luck on Deschambault Lake and Jan Lake.
For many years after this Olaf Hansen worked as a diamond driller out of
Flin Flon, Manitoba before his retirement to Prince Albert. It was Hansen who located the route of the road which was to be
named after him the Hansen Lake road.
Frank Clark was another early trapper. Clark and Hansen worked together
as what was called then, "Rover Game Guardians" in the early 1920s. In 1929, Clark also settled on the north
shore of Little Bear Lake. He was to live there for the next thirty-three years, until his death in 1962. He died of a heart
attack near his cabin.
Clark was remembered as a kind, friendly man who welcomed visitors. He
trapped and fished commercially during the winter months while guiding angers and hunters as well as tending to a productive
flower and vegetable garden during the summer months.
Frank Clark survived many incidents involving bears and wolves. He is
said to have even survived a cougar who appeared on his cabin roof one morning. He always wore a muskrat hat and swore it
once saved his hide from an angry mother bear.
Clarks grave can still be found close to the site of his cabin.
Clark Bay, near the second narrows on the Little Bear Lake, was named after him.
In 1930, Edward Beatty moved his family north from Kinistino,
Saskatchewan to Caribou Creek. The following year they moved again, this time to the west shore of Big Sandy Lake. It was
here they lived until their home was destroyed by a forest fire in the late1940s. After this, they settled on the
north shore of Big Sandy an area still trapped by the Beatty sons, Oliver, Oscar, and John.
Edward Beatty was one tough man. His son, Oliver, recalls his father
packing one hundred pounds of flour for several miles, and he would often run for about ten miles behind a dog team without
Another man, who was to figure prominately in the area, arrived in the
late1920s. Born in Quebec, Henry Fournier moved to Saskatchewan in 1917 and began fishing and trapping in the Montreal
Lake area in 1920. In 1925, he settled on the West Side of Little Bear Lake. Here he trapped and fished before taking a job
as Fire Patrolman during the summer months.
Fournier was well known for raising and training sled dogs, which he
supplied to the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, among others. His own black lead-dog, "Nipper", was part wolf.
By 1938,Fournier was working seasonally for the department of Highways in
the winter and Resources in the summer. This was in addition to his regular trapping. In 1949, he moved to Montreal Lake.
Here he started a sawmill and store. Four years later, he sold his trap-line to Bert Lien, finally leaving in 1961 for a
sawmill job in Williams Lake, B.C.
In 1920sand 1930s saw the coming and going of various partnership combinations. Most of them had moved north to homestead the forest fringes, turning to trapping in order to supplement their meagre incomes.
The roll call presented men like Jack Forrester, Melvin Johnson, Joe Johnson, Garry Parker, Ben Griffiths, Ted Brown, Martin Lumen, Nels Martenson, Mels Perrson, Henry Millar and Ted Updike. These men spent years trapping, hunting, and fishing around the Fishing Lakes with many different partners over the years. Some of these, like Melvin and Joe Johnson, Gary Parker, Ben Griffiths and Ted Updike also worked for the Federal and Provincial Governments as Game Guardians, Forest Rangers or Fire Patrolman.
By the mid 1920s, travel into the Narrow Hills was becoming
more frequent and a well defined network of trails had developed. First broken by the trappers travelling on foot, horseback
or dogteam, the trails were widened to allow wagons to pass.
During these years, as there was an increase of fisherman and trappers
who came to reap the rich harvest, freighting trips became necessary to haul supplies in as well as the fish and furs out.
These trips, undertaken by men such as Zac (Jack Pine) Anderson, who brought supplies in for the Narrows Hills Fire Tower in
1938,required even better routes, so many improvements were made. Wagon trips were tiring, often taking days to cover the
route from Snowden to little Bear Lake. It also required the building of corduroy crossing at the many mud holes they
encountered along the way. Later, tractors would replace the horses at the head of the wagon train and the trails were
gradually improved to a standard that would allow car travel. Four main routes were developed. Two from the south into the
Fishing Lakes area and two branching north from these.
The Fishing Lake Trail, later to be following by the southern stretch of
the Hansen Lake road, Originated north of Choiceland and ran to Caribou Creek. From there it ran east to meet the Narrow
Hills Trail at the point near the latter side of the Narrow Hills Fire Tower. This trail was bulldozed in the late
1940s to allow travel capabilities for all sorts of vehicles.
Some miles east the Narrow Hills Trail pushed north of the Village of
Love, winding its scenic way along the high "hogs back"formed by the Narrow Hills Esker to its rendezvous
with the Fishing Lake Trail. For many years this was the most frequently used trail and was the first to bring a car into
part of the north.
Les Lee and Jack Forrester of Choiceland made several trips by car in
the 1930s. The trip would take up to four days, per trip! On one occasion, Lee had to walk miles to White Fox for
parts for the 1924 Chevrolet Coupe in order to get home.
Early travelers on this trail, named hills and bends after incidents or
things they found there. This led to such names as"Stovepipe Hill", "Bull Hill", "HairpinHill",
and "Potato Hill".
A third trail known as the "Big Bear Road", ran north from the
Junction of the Fishing Lakes and Narrow Hills Trails, to Big Sandy Lake. This trail was sometimes referred to as the
"CPR" or "Hudson Bay" Trail, since it was cleared in the early 1900s by surveyors from the
Canadian Pacific Railroad and the Hudson Bay Company.
The two companies were trying to establish a railroad route that would
run from Prince Albert through to Port Churchill, Manitoba. The Hudson Bay planned to build a big trading post along the way
at Big Sandy Lake, which at that time was known as Big Bear Lake. The plan failed, however, when engineers encountered large
muskegs at the south end of Big Sandy. They were forced to transfer their efforts to a new route farther east, but the
clearing of the trail created access to the area for trapping and fishing.
Old-timers relate stories of the hardships and tragedy which befell the
surveyors when storms and dwindling supplies caused the loss of many of their horses. Broken boards and harnesses can still
be found to this day in the bogs south of Big Sandy.
The fourth major trail, known as the Cub Lake Trail, branched off the
Fishing Lake Trail, just to the north of Lower Fishing Lake. This trail was located by Henry Fournier in 1930. It lead to
the site of the Cub Lake Fire Tower, which was built by Fournier in 1932.
One other trail, the Bear Lake Trail, ran thirty-two miles north of Lower
Fishing Lake and connected to Little Bear Lake. It was constructed in 1943 by the Nipawin Fish and Game Association to allow
more anglers access to the choice Lake Trout in Little Bear Lake.
Many other trails, long since overgrown, can be located by following the blaze marks on the trees.
The first Fire tower in the area was constructed, as was
noted, by Henry Fournier in the summer of 1932 and was located at the north end of Cub Lake Trail, two miles east of Sealy
Lake. It was the only observation point in the region and boosted a DNR radio. Fournier worked as a Fire Patrolman from the
site, which happened to be in sight of his own cabin. At night, Fournier and his wife would send signals back and forth with
powerful flashlights, signaling that all was well.
During the next two summers, a second cabin and a log
stable were constructed at the site. The tower served as an important radio, weather and observation station until 1938.
Today, the old site is still accessible. However, the tower is no longer standing, but the cabins are still intact.
In 1938 the Cub Mountain Tower was replaced by a sixty-foot
pole tower and a sixteen by twenty foot cabin at the new site located near the approximately three miles southeast of Lower
Some twelve years later, the wooden Narrow Hills Tower, which had originally been constructed for a total outlay of $155.00, including the cabin, was replaced by a ninety-foot steel tower. A new log cabin serves as an important observation point during the summer months.
There were no mineral deposits of any sort ever located in the Narrow Hills, despite any rumors of gold.
In the 1930s, two men from Codette dug shafts near a place called, "Deadmans Camp". It was named that in memory of a trapper who had committed suicide there. It was located on McDougal Creek. The men found "Diorite",a rock that is usually associated with gold. As a result of this they found themselves very eagerly searching for the precious metal. Their shafts yielded nothing, however.
A few years later, Les Lee and Jack Forrester, of Choiceland, made several adventure-packed expeditions into the hills. One of them was in 1940, in search of black sand, otherwise known as "magnite" deposits, which had been noted two years prior by some fire fighters in the Bear Hills. Black sand is also often associated with gold. The men spent about a month exploring on foot. They used a dip needle to try and locate the sand. They were forced to live on a diet of rabbit for two weeks after their supplies ran out. Their efforts did not prove to be any more successful. Several other expeditions were made by Lee, Forrester and others, each proving just as fruitless as the others.
Until the year 1931, forestry in Saskatchewan was
administered by the Federal Department of the Interior, while Game and Wildlife came under the jurisdiction of the
Provincial Government. In the late 1920s, the Narrow Hills area was officially called District #5, under the care of
Dominion Forest Ranger, Melvin Johnson and his assistant, Garry Parker. You will remember that they operated from their
headquarters at Gilmore Cabin on the Torch River, reporting to the Game Commissioner, Andy Holmes, in Prince Albert.
Another early Game Guardian was a man by the name of Don
Frechette, who was head quartered at Meath Park, but spent much ofhis time at Gilmore Cabin after 1922. He later was to
become a DNR Field Officer, serving another 30 years.
On January 1, 1931, the Province of Saskatchewan took over
the responsibility for Forestry as well as Game under the new Department of Natural Resources. District #5 was divided and
its boundaries redefined to form the Grassy Lake and Candle Lake districts. Their headquarters were located thirteen miles
north of the Village of Love. A small office was maintained at Smeaton.
Garry Parker became the first DNR Field Officer of the
Grassy Lakes District and served there until 1941. One ofGarrys trademarks that brought him fame was his wearing of a
large Stetson hat. He claimed it would him to get closer to a fire than anyone else. Parkers senior Patrolman was
Burns Matheson, who had been with the Forest Service as a fire fighter since 1929. You will recall that Parker and Matheson
worked together back in the early part of the 1930s to develop the Nipawin Provincial Park.
In 1941, after five years as a Field Officer at Beaver
House in the Fort A La Corne Forest, Matheson replaced Parker in the Grassy Lake District up until 1945. From 1948 to 1964,
he served as superintendent of the DNRs Northern Region, transferring to the Southern Region for a year before his
retirement in 1965.
In the spring of 1940, Matheson directed his Patrolman,
Ansger Aschim to conduct a Beaver census in the Little Bear Lake area. The census was secret and Aschim was known simply as
a fur Patrolman, staying with Frank Clark. His work resulted in a beautifully hand-drawn map that detailed cabins,
timberlines, beaver houses and other landmarks.
In the late 1940s, the Grassy Lake District was
divided into the Smeaton, White Fox and Grassy Lake Districts. The Narrow Hills fell into the Smeaton District.
On July 18, 1946, an agreement was signed between the
Federal and Provincial Governments. This set up fur conservation blocks north of the 53rd Parallel. Each block
had its own council to act as a contact between the trappers and the DNR. The objective was to re-establish beaver, which
according to Aschim' census had shown a depletion in many areas. This could have been caused by several factors, among
which were uncontrolled trapping, poaching and disease. Beaver were being trapped live in places where they were plentiful
and moved to depleted areas.
On April 1, 1973, the Administration of Northern Saskatchewan was assigned to the newly created Department of Northern Saskatchewan. The boundaries of the Smeaton Resources District were enlarged to run from mile 28 to mile 108 on the Hanson Lake road. On July 1, 1996, it was renamed the Fishing Lake District. Resources in the area are still administered from Smeaton for the convenience of the telephone and other services,although this office is actually outside the District.
By the 1950s, routes into the area were well established. Government organization of the resources were well under control and the trapping, fishing and hunting industries were as good as ever. Many trappers remained from the depression, including Herb and Walter Brown. They started trapping the south half of Big Sandy in 1929 and are there to the present day. The Beatty family are on the north end of Big Sandy. Others who stayed well in the 1950sincluded Gene Madlener, Henry Miller, Walter Kratz and Nels Matenson.
Bert Lien, who bought Henry Fourniers trap line west of Little Bear in 1953, built some new cabins at Little Bear in 1955. He also built some at Berliens Lake in 1959. He also continued using the Cub Mountain cabin until 1967.
Lien trapped and prospected alone, backpacking all his supplies and using homemade skies to travel about 1200 miles every winter. "Although it was a free and interesting life", admitted Lien, "it was tough at times". Lien sold his trap line in 1967 and moved out to British Columbia.
The Hanson Lake road was constructed during the
1950s and 1960s. This finally provided a more direct route between Prince Albert, Saskatchewan and Flin Flon,
Manitoba. Original plans had involved a route from Nipawin to Beaver Lake, but when the right-of-way was bulldozed in 1956,
it proved too low and never was completed. The clearing is still referred to by the locals as the "old road" and
is under water in many places.
Olaf Hanson, trapper and Forest Ranger, had experience in
locating roads under low lying conditions and suggested to the authorities that they locate the road further west. He
pointed out that this would have the added advantage of better fishing lakes along the way.
Hanson began locating his proposed route on maps in 1958
and construction started from Creighten, Saskatchewan the following year. Hanson was out on foot to direct the engineer, Ray
The road was completed in 1942, forming the most northerly
road link between Saskatchewan and Manitoba. Amonument and plaque in honor of Hanson stands at mile 175, by Gillingham Lake
Over the years the standard of the road has improved. Now,
with easier access, the Fishing Lakes area is fast becoming attractive to tourists. Many camp overnight, or picnic at one of
the many scenic sites along the road. Others set up more permanent camps or stay at one of the fine Resort Camps to enjoy
some fine sport fishing.
Large fires in 1977 were responsible for destroying about
200,000 acres of forest in the Fishing Lakes area. It took with it some of the old cabins and historical sites, not to say a
good of commercial timber as well. This was the first time this had happened, however. The year's 1929 and 1937 saw some bad
fire seasons for the Narrow Hills.
DNS Resources Branch maintains an office at Lower Fishing
Lake during the summer months. Five Resources Officers are based in the District, while the summer a fire standby crew, as
well as cooks and students are there to add to the staff. A Park Superintendant is also stationed at Lower Fishing
The Fishing Lakes area see about thirty year-round
residents, while sawmill and road construction workers may spend a few months at a time in temorary camps.
Today, the area surrounding the Fishing Lakes and Little
Bear Lake lends itself to such activities as backpacking and cross-country skiing. Many of the interesting points of
interest associated with the old-timer mentioned here are accesable only by trails, which provide interesting hiking along
with a closer look at our heritage.
Unique scenery, good fishing, and facinating history all form several great reasons to spend some time touring the Narrow Hills.
They say that there is no better place one can be, than to be in Love. We who live here tend to agree whole-heartedly. Let's look at a few of the reasons why we think that any tour of this area is not complete unless it includes a stop over in Love.
Although there are many colorful versions how the Village came by it's name, we tend to believe it was named in honor of the first C.P.R. conductor, Tom Love.
In the 1940's, when lumber was king, our Village population reached a booming 250 people. As the mighty White Spruce disappeared, so did our population. The lumber industry was gradually replaced with mixed farming.
During the years, when Love was in her prime, we had many businesses on Main Street. Today, however, there can still be found a garage, hotel, gift shop and church.
Today our population ranges around 80 or so warm, friendly folk. Their family histories reflect origins from the British Isles, Europe, Russia, China, Japan and many other countries that, when blended, produce a true Canadian mosaic spirit.
As was mentioned, Love takes pride in being known as the "Gateway to the Narrow Hills". For anyone wishing to view nature at its best, we recommend you to take a trip through the Narrow Hills. The Tourism Committee has been very busy the past two years improving the trail so anyone can enjoy the untouched beauty the nature Esker has to offer. Upon reaching the top of this Esker, you will truly feel on top of the world. While driving the thirty mile trail there are many sights to see and lakes to stop at perhaps cast for that trophy Northern Pike, Walleye or Trout. In the winter months the trail provides the snowmobiler and cross-country skier with some exciting, challenging and breath-taking trails.
Our Tourism Committee has just recently completed a campsite located in the Village of Love. A lovely camp kitchen, playground area, outside toilets, and water make this a place worth stopping at for a little while before carrying on to the Narrow Hills. It is free of charge, too!
We have many requests to construct a "Chapel of Love" for those wishing to seal their vows in Love. Although we are not able to complete such a project as yet, one never knows what the future might hold. There is a church in Love that will accommodate that for now.
There is a special note about Love, however. We are pleased to present, thanks to Canada Post, our very own Cancellation Stamp in honor of our namesake and our Village symbol.
This stamp has caught the attention of people as far away as Japan. With the wonderful success we have had with the T-shirts, we are anticipating that a larger assortment of souvenirs will soon be available.
For more information onhow you can get your letters
stamped with this unique, and cuddly creature, or the purchase of the T-shirt, contact: