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YOUTH BEAT

Seeing a Canadian Park Where Grey Owl Once Roamed

July 30, 1989|LUCY IZON | Izon is a Canadian travel journalist covering youth budget routes.

PRINCE ALBERT NATIONAL PARK, Canada — Prince Albert National Park is an area packed with lakes and loons, moose, deer, beaver and bear.

It is heaven for adventurous travelers who enjoy hiking trails, biking and canoeing. It also houses a comfortable youth hostel to use as a base in the central section of Saskatchewan province.

For seven years, Prince Albert National Park was the home of Grey Owl, one of this century's most interesting naturalists.

Grey Owl earned international fame in the 1930s when he made the change from fur trapper to conservationist, native spokesman and author.

Dressed in buckskin and feathers, he traveled through North America and England lecturing on the importance of preserving the wildlife and wilderness. Even King George VI was impressed by his message.

When he wasn't spreading the word, he returned to the wilderness to write. He spent seven years in a one-room cabin on the shore of this park's Ajawaan Lake, which he shared with his Indian wife and two beavers.

The beavers, which were said to have constructed part of the lodge inside the cabin, were adopted and studied. Eventually his wife moved to a second cabin several hundred yards away.

The day after his death in 1938, Grey Owl was exposed as a fake. Word spread through the international press that he was, in fact, Archibald Belaney, who had been born in Britain, abandoned by his parents and raised by his two aunts in Hastings.

Today, feelings about him have mellowed and he is recognized for his valuable work.

Visitors to the park, which is 143 miles from Saskatoon, use Waskesiu as a base. Waskesiu is a tourist center with hotels, boat and bike rentals, campgrounds, a sandy beach and even a golf course.

Two years ago three of the park buildings in Waskesiu were turned over to the Canadian Hostelling Assn.

The hostel provides semiprivate accommodations for 60 people. Members of the International Youth Hostel Federation are charged $8.50 and non-members are welcome for $12 a night. It's open from May 1 to Oct. 15.

Canoe Rentals

The staff offers hiking information and rents canoes for $13 a day. Contact the hostel at (306) 663-5450 for more information.

At Waskesiu's information center you can get details on the park's 90 miles of hiking trails, buy fishing licenses and arrange camping permits. Although back-country camping is free, guests must register before heading out and must check in on return.

At the park's nature center are wildlife displays and a variety of films, including a documentary of Grey Owl's life that was shot at his home in the park. Daily nature center interpretive programs include free two-hour guided hikes.

Each year about 1,200 people make the journey to the Grey Owl cabin and grave at Ajawaan Lake. It requires effort but offers the opportunity for a genuine wilderness experience.

From Waskesiu, drive or find a ride 12 miles to Kingsmere River, where the hike is about 13 miles around Kingsmere Lake. Or visitors to the park can canoe for about 3 1/2 hours across the lake and hike two miles to the cabin site. Three back-country campgrounds are along the route.

The route offers opportunities for viewing a variety of wildlife. This also is bear country, so be careful storing food.

For more park information, contact the Superintendent, Prince Albert National Park, P.O. Box 100, Waskesiu Lake, Sask. S0J 2Y0, Canada, or call (306) 663-5322.

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