GLACIATED PLAINS (MT)
|Grasslands National Park||90,000||36,000|
|Federal (mainly BLM)||222,000||90,000|
|State / Provincial||270,000||109,000|
Grasslands National Park comprises two separate units. The western unit, with access through Val Marie, includes the broad valley of the Frenchman River, which drains into the Missouri River, and dry mixed grass uplands. The eastern unit, accessed from Killdeer, includes badlands in addition to the mixed-grass prairie.
This commercial web site gives a good summary of the park, and some good photos.
Just across the border, the Bitter Creek area of Montana connects the two units of Grasslands National Park. Most of this magnificent landscape is held by the Bureau of Land Managment, that has designated it an Area of Critical Environmental Concern. Five community pastures owned and managed by Canada’s Prairie Farm Rehabilitation Administration also maintain excellent native grassland.
Cooper et al, in their Biological Survey of a Prairie Landscape in Montana’s Glaciated Plains, give an excellent overview of the biological importance of the site.
The Nature Conservancy of Canada gives Grasslands National Park a low threat urgency rank, with loss of fire regime, exotic species and recreational use being the main concerns. The Bitter Creek section has been given a medium level of urgency due to exotic species , conversion for cropland, and loss of fire regime. This area includes 8 of the 32 Northern Plains ecological complexes. For example, Wooded-draw deciduous, Riparian-herbaceous, and badlannds all occur in this area.
Landscape - rolling grassland with some small badlands
Vegetation - intact dry mixed grass vegetation with few weed species present
Wildlife - the northern range limits of several animals, including Yellow-bellied Racers (snakes), and the only prairie dogs in Canada.
Interior tern, sage grouse, Sprague’s pipit, swift fox and black-tailed prairie dog are all species of biological concern in the region. Some of the focal species are Baird’s sparrow, chestnut-collared longspur and lark bunting.
Good road access from both the Trans Canada Highway and the United States. Val Marie, SK, is the park headquarters and has grocery store, gas station and several interpretive centres.
Hiking is encouraged throughout the park. The Trans Canada Trail is present.
Limited to the gravel roads.
“Horseback riding in Grasslands National Park” give you all the info you and your horse will need! Weed-free feed must be used, starting two days before you arrive.
The Frenchman River can sometimes be canoed but this is not a popular activity. Tubes, kayaks or even “belly boats” might be more suitable.
A driving interpretive tour and an interpretive trail orient visitors to the park. Abundant guidebooks and checklists are available at the interpretive centre and the park information centre.
Camping is available both at Val Marie and several kilometres south at The Crossing (showers included). Random camping in the park is allowed, but water must be carried.
Sitting Bull and his tribe stayed on the land now within the park during their years of exile from the United States. Tepee rings are common.
The interpretive centre, operated by the Friends of the Grasslands, often features shows of prairie-inspired art or photography.
The park has no oil or gas activity. The exploration rights were donated to conservation organizations by the oil companies, thus ensuring the long-term protection of the land.
Lead agency - Grasslands National Park
Other supportive land managers - Friends of the Grasslands (a local NGO)
Saskatchewan naturalists have fought a long and hard battle to establish this park. Support in the immediate area is not so clear, since some of the former residents left when they were bought out, and tourism has been slow to get going.
Park staff are working with nearby landowners to improve the management of the Frenchman River upstream of the park. This narrow corridor is important for wildlife because it connects the park with the Southwest Pastures site to the west.
The park includes formerly cultivated fields (quarter section size) that are currently being reseeded to native species of grasses.