Who knew? Pelicans on a man-made lake smack dab in the middle of Regina. We almost fell into cold Wascana Lake, slack-jawed at the sight of the big-billed birds lounging near a man-made waterfall. As if the stiff wind wasn’t likely to do that anyway.
The American White Pelicans who greeted us at Wascana Lake were more than a mild surprise. They migrate each summer to waterways within the boreal forest.
Sadly, Saskatchewan was one of the three provinces we only achieved one paddle in during our 30-day, 10,000-kilometre celebration of Canada’s 150th birthday.
And it was a memorable, if short, piece of prairie paddling led by Kristal McBain of Queen City SUP. Kristal, a SUP and yoga instructor, gave it a family feel with sons Anden, 6, and Jasper, 4 onboard.
Kristal McBain of Queen City SUP takes son Jasper on a paddle that passed in front of the Saskatchewan legislature. It’s a popular SUP spot and she offers lessons and yoga on the boards there.
Wascana Lake, which was first created in 1903, is a popular SUP spot because it is central to the provincial capital. In fact, you can paddle right up to the Saskatchewan legislature, but beware the oratorical gusts. The legislators likely favour a rowing club on the lake due to its political posture, sitting on one’s butt and going backwards.
Anyway, back to the American White Pelicans, the species we paddled around. Turns out about a fifth of this population is found in the waterways associated with boreal forests. So they migrate to Saskatchewan and Alberta as well as northern U.S. states. They mingled with cormorants on Wascana Lake, which underwent what was known as the Big Dig 15 years ago.
The $18-million project took the average depth of the lake to 5.5 metres with some places dug to 7.5 metres to encourage a fish habitat.
The second surprise was little Anden scooting along so fast on his racing board we had trouble staying with him. He looked born to a board with precise form that sliced through the wind. Meantime, Jasper sat at his mother’s feet, enjoying the ride.
Anden soon left us in his wake. He looked born to board as he powered his race board across the lake.
But it was cold for him, so Kristal took them ashore while we made a futile effort to paddle up to the legislative building. The wind drove us back and down to our knees, almost into the canoe club’s docks, where we rested and decided it was a day for the elements, not us.
Canada geese watched curiously as John dropped to his knees with the wind pushing us into the rowing club docks.
We had to imagine the lake on a warm summer day, sharing space with kayaks and canoes and paddling around the six islands created by the project.
Kristal and partner Chris Bailey, a Paddle Canada advanced flat water instructor, do most of their programming for Queen City SUP on the lake with a combination of SUP training, SUP yoga and on-water fitness classes. They also lead free evening group paddles for folks with their own boards and offer $10 board rentals as well as full moon paddles with $20 rentals.
John and Kristal pose as we say goodbyes with Alberta in our sights.
Queen City SUP also organizes Float weekend retreats featuring paddling, yoga, vegetarian fare and cabin accommodation on Lake Katepwa in a setting that allows participants to connect, relax and rejuvenate.
That sounded like exactly what we needed, but there were two provinces and more cold reality before we would hit the finish line on Vancouver Island.
Feature photo: The dome of the provincial legislature rises out of the fall foliage as we head out to tackle windblown Wascana Lake in Regina.