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Town of Leader and the Great Sandhills

Town of Leader and the Great Sandhills

Location: Leader, SK

Visitor Information:
p. 306 628 3860
e. recreation.leader@sasktel.net
w. www.leader.ca 

The Town of Leader was founded in September of 1913 due to the construction of the trans-continental CPR railway.  Since then, the town has grown into a beautiful picturesque community with much to offer both its residents and visitors. Leader offers guided bus tours that take you around in a figure-eight loop around the Area which includes the Great Sandhills, the Sceptre Museum, Blumefeld Church, Sagebrush Art Studios, the Estuary Ferry and the Estuary Hutterite Colony.  They also boost, a swimming pool, a campground and the unique to Leader wildlife sculptures.

Drop by the local restaurants for a home-cooked meal while you’re in town or enjoy a quiet night’s stay at one of the fine hotel/motel accommodations with hospitality second to none.

If you are visiting the community and looking for adventure, Leader and area has plenty to offer. Check out the Great Sandhills or take a climb up the rolling Saskatchewan river hills along the river valley just a few miles away. For those who like to golf the River Ridge Golf Course has eighteen tee boxes and nine large green to make it a unique, friendly, but challenging course. Enjoy some time at their Junior Olympic-sized pool and you can’t leave Leader without visiting their newly built G3 Iceplex which accommodates an ice rink as well as a new curling rink.

With its sandbars and sandhills, river hills and golf course, the Town of Leader is truly a unique part of the prairies.

Check out their Wildlife Sculptures here.

To enjoy a full tour of the Leader and Great Sandhills Area – take one of their Guided Tours:  http://www.visitcypresshills.ca/tours/leader-tours/

Points of Interest:

THE SMITH BARNThe Smith Barn

The Smith Barn was built in 1914 by W. T. Smith, and represents his greatest achievement. Smith was a man who dreamed of building the most elaborate ranch in the world. When the barn was built, his livestock included 1,600 head of mules, 2,000 head of horses, 2,000 hogs, and 10,000 sheep.

The barn is the largest ever built in North America. Upon completion, the building stood 400′ x 128′ x 60′. Building materials totalled 875,000 board feet of fir lumber from British Columbia, one and a half train carloads of nails, 60,000 square feet of roofing and 30,000 sacks of cement. It took 100 men five months to build it, and when it was finished, people came from as far away as California for the celebration.

W. T. Smith was a living legend of the west, but died only 4 four years after achieving his goal.The barn was dismantled in 1921, however the concrete foundation remains standing today. The Smith Barn Site is now a Provincial Heritage Site. A scale model of this landmark can be found at the Leader Tourist Booth.

LEADER BIRD WATCHING Burrowing Owls. Photographer: Dean Francis

The South Saskatchewan River near Leader is one of the most outstanding natural attractions in the province. The diligent and patient bird watcher will be treated to rare species of birds that frequent the spectacular river valley.

The riparian woodlands of the Leader area are the largest of their kind in Saskatchewan, and the largest tract between the Cypress Hills and the northern forest. The cottonwood stands are home to the Pileated Woodpecker, Golden Eagle an Great Blue Heron.

The extensive grasslands in the valley attract various rare species such as the Ferruginous Hawk, Long-billed Curlew and Loggerhead Shrike, as well as the endangered Burrowing Owl.

ST. JOHN’S SCHOOLSt. John's School. Photographer: Patti Trautwein

St. John’s School is a Provincial Heritage Site, and was built in the 1920s.

The building is a shining example of the one room schoolhouses that covered the prairies for the first half of the century.

St. John’s School is completely original, and features furnishings from the period. You’ll find it 8 and a half miles/14 km south of Leader on Highway 21.

BLUMENFELD CATHOLIC CHURCHBlumenfeld Catholic Church. Photographer: Ivan Nakonechny

Blumenfeld Church is a Provincial Heritage Site and was erected in 1915. The interior of the church is one of the most beautiful in Canada. It has been carefully maintained and includes all the original furniture and fixtures.

Behind the church is a Grotto made of prairie stones, where members of the Catholic religion gather once a year to enjoy a church service which is called “Pilgrimage.”

Tours are available in the summer on Sundays from 2:00 – 4:00 p.m. The church is located 10 miles/16 km south of Leader on Highway 21. Turn east when you come to the sign, then travel another 4 miles/6.4 km.

 ESTUARY HUTTERITE COLONYEstuary Hutterite Colony. Photographer: Patti Trautwein

The Estuary Hutterite Colony has been settled beside the Saskatchewan River since 1958. Entering the Colony is comparable to visiting another world. The Hutterites have preserved their culture, their language, their way of life, and their religion.

The Estuary Colony is up by 7 in the morning and always hard at work. They are very active people, yet they will always make time for visitors. They love to share their culture, and visitors are always impressed by their quietness and friendliness.

To arrange a visit to the Colony, please call 306-628-4116. You will be provided with a tour guide who will show you the area and answer all your questions. The Estuary Colony is 10 miles/16 km west of Leader on Highway 741. Turn right on 635 for 3 miles/4.8 km and then left for 1 mile/1.6 km.

 CHECKERBOARD HILLCheckerboard Hill. Photographer: Dean Francis

Checkerboard Hill is one of the most scenic locations in the province of Saskatchewan. The imagery changes with the season, and it’s also the vantage point for many of the historical sites that you will find in the Leader area.

From the top of Checkerboard Hill there is an unforgettable view of the river and the land that surrounds it. There are markers located at the top which provide visitors with a background to the area.

To visit Checkerboard Hill, drive 4 miles/6.4 km west of Leader on Highway 741. Turn north for 4 miles/6.4 km, then turn west again. Here you will see “The Checkerboard”.

THE GREAT SANDHILLSThe Great Sandhills. Photographer: Kerry Wrishko

The Great Sandhills encompass 1900 sq. km of Southwest Saskatchewan and are one of the largest in the country. The view from the top of the hills is breathtaking, and visitors to the area consider it a once in a lifetime experience. The largest sand dunes are 25 meters in height and cover several hectares of land.

Only a fraction of the Sandhills are actually exposed sand dunes. The remainder of the area is covered with native grass which help bind the sand together. The dunes are fringed by small clumps of trees which include aspen, birch and willow, and by rose bushes, sagebrush and chokecherry. As they are subject to strong winds from the northwest, the sand dunes move east at a rate of almost four meters per year.

To visit the Great Sandhills, travel 12 miles/19.3 km east of Leader to Sceptre. Take the grid road on the east side of Sceptre. Follow the road south 6 miles/9.6 km from Highway 21, then follow the curve west for 1 mile/1.6 km before turning south again for 6 miles/9.6 km. This road is an all season access, and is privately leased by local ranchers who use the land as summer pasture for their cattle. All fires and camping are prohibited in the Sandhills. Parking is allowed only in designated areas. Please remember to respect the environment; take only pictures, leave only footprints.
GPS: N50°41.611′  W109°16.899′

GREAT SANDHILLS MUSEUM & INTERPRETIVE CENTRE

Great Sandhills Museum. Photographer: Mooseworld Inc.IMG_4291-small

Located in Sceptre just minutes down the road from Leader, the Great Sandhills Museum & Interpretive Centre is a great place to start your adventure in the Great Sandhills. Museum staff will be pleased to tell you everything you need to know before starting out for the dunes.

Take a walk down memory lane and stroll the wooden boardwalks of the interior exhibits. Eleven room displays each depict a different theme.

The grounds feature a historical village with barn, church, antique machinery and wildflower gardens.

The Great Sandhills Museum & Interpretive Centre is located along Highway 32 in the Village of Sceptre and is open seasonally May to September. For information visit www.greatsandhillsmuseum.com or call 306-623-4345.