A Roadtrip to a Homegrown Saskatchewan Botanical Mystery–The Crooked Bush

The Crooked BushAfter a Saturday of yard work and back yard BBQ’s, my family of five woke up one Sunday morning ready for a different kind of adventure! The Crooked Bush near Hafford had been recommended to me by a few people (admittedly it sounded intriguing), so we packed a picnic and our best walking shoes and headed out. According to Google Maps, the trip to the Crooked Bush would take approximately an hour and a half and would be found approximately 5km southwest of Alticane. We found the estimated travel time to be quite accurate, and arrived at the natural wonder after a lovely Spring drive down Highway 16 and a zigzag beginning at Radisson.

Approaching the Crooked Bush (AKA Crooked Trees or Twisted Trees) was a bit of an adventure in itself! The last stretch of prairie road before the grove of trees was ruddy and evidently prone to muddy washouts but luckily it was no match for our minivan! Shouts of There they are, Look at those, and CREEPY arose from the back seat as we made our final approach.  The word ‘creepy’ seemed the most fitting to me. The Crooked Trees can only be described as a gnarly, deformed, tangled mess of something resembling a horror scene (Little Known Fact: The grove was actually featured in the 1957  Disney true-life adventure/fantasy film Perri)! To say my husband and I were intrigued at the sight of the trees is a bit of understatement–more, we could not keep our eyes off of them! They truly were unlike anything either of us had ever seen. Our kids enjoyed exploring the grove and running around on the boardwalk through the grove (albeit briefly), and a surprising number of cars joined us on a cool spring day to behold these one-of-a-kind Populus Tremuloides Aspen trees. There was a singular picnic table provided, and we were thankful to enjoy our picnic in such a unique location before heading home.  

Crooked BushLocal folklore purports a number of explanations  for the trees’ strange appearance including paranormal factors and soil charged by a lightning strike. Of course, none can be substantiated. However, cuttings taken from the trees and grown in Manitoba exhibited the same unusual growth pattern suggesting a genetic mutational cause, but ultimately the Crooked Bush remains a botanical mystery. It’s no wonder the cows won’t go near them…

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