We hopped in the van on Saturday morning and headed east on the Yellowhead from Saskatoon to the harried sounds of Kid 2 singing loudly, “This is a song that never ends, it goes on and on my friends…” interspersed with the even louder shouts of “STOP SINGING!” coming from our oldest son. My husband and I were silently thankful for the short commute (just over an hour) to Watrous where we stopped for a quick bite at Watrous Bakery & Coffee Shop. I was even more thankful for the first-class latte and fresh apple fritter served to me by friendly mom & pop owners, Marla and Ray Suik. The kids had their fill in this vintage-charm cafe and we were on our way!
The Resort Village of Manitou Beach is just a hop, skip, and a 5-minute jump from Watrous, and the view of Little Manitou Lake as you enter the town is not too shabby! Some cool facts about this unique ecosystem which can be easily gathered from the signage around town:
- Little Manitou Lake was formed by receding glaciers during the most recent ice age
- the lake is fed by underground springs and precipitation
- it is a what’s known as a ‘terminal lake’, meaning that there is no outflow to external bodies of water. Drainage, therefore, only occurs through evaporation or seepage
- these qualities all work to create a unique ecosystem known as an Endorheic basin
- the water in Little Manitou is high in (salty) minerals such as sodium, magnesium, and potassium which have given rise to its nickname, ‘The Dead Sea of Saskatchewan’
- since the 19th century, natives to the area have come to Little Manitou for the healing power and health benefits of the waters
The main attraction in the village during the winter season is definitely the Manitou Springs Resort & Mineral Spa which can be easily found by following the road signs. The kids were excited for the swim we’d promised them, so we rushed in, got into our suits, and they eagerly ran to the pool. THIS is where the usual harried pace of our family holiday changed. Imagine that swimming area where you take your kids for a swim on the weekend—the splashing sounds, the smell of chlorine, the intermittent crashes that come from the bottom of the waterslide, the high-decibel din of children’s screams and laughter—now imagine that same place minus the chemical smell and waterslide, with clean, warm waters and the blissful sound of QUIET! Hello Relaxation! I don’t know if it’s the minerals or the fact that pools range in heavenly temperature from 94 to 102, but my husband and I couldn’t stop talking about how blissfully QUIET the place was—our noisy brood included!
Manitou Springs Resort & Mineral Spa is an award-winning facility that has several shallower pools (from 0 depth to 3ft) which all interconnect to the deepest at 9ft. There are a few kiddy items including floaties, noodles, and a (very) small slide in one of the shallow areas. Information on the mineral content and the waters, sourced from Little Manitou Lake, are posted on the walls, but the highlight for our family was definitely the buoyancy of the waters!! Imagine the weight of your body and limbs suspended in warm, relaxing waters! BLISS! It is still vital to stay near weak swimmers, but our kids relished the ease of floating about on their backs in the pool, as did I.
We finished up in the pool and had a late lunch at the Water’s Edge Restaurant and Lounge which offers stunning views over Little Manitou Lake. Our kids, presumably still subdued from the waters, were wonderfully behaved in the restaurant, and enjoyed items off the kid’s menu while my husband and I dined on what I would describe as standard fare, well-prepared! The staff brought a complimentary white chocolate chai dessert to my husband for his birthday, and we left satiated and ready for an afternoon of exploration!
Immediately in front of the spa is the lake itself and we chose one of the several walking paths where we cooled off with an afternoon of exploring the area on foot. At present, there are a number of buildings below water level thanks to a string of high-precipitation years which made for some interesting sight-seeing! Otherwise, the area around Little Manitou is a beautiful, prairie-meets-hilly landscape reminiscent of a more gentle Qu’Appelle Valley. Our kids relished this chance to get a breath of fresh (salty!) air and to use some of that boundless energy!
The journey home was quiet to the point of eerie until we noticed the three snoozing bodies in the back of our van! Apparently, the waters are also famous for their powers to bring tranquil sleep to those who bathe in them! We relished the peace and welcome-change relaxation and found ourselves wishing we’d stayed the night! Oh well! Next time we look forward to maybe checking out the summer attractions, going for a dip in the lake, or maybe even pampering ourselves with a massage at the spa!