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CANADA HISTORIC SITES — FORT WALSH SASKATCHEWAN

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Fort Walsh National Historic Site is part of Cypress Hills Interprovincial Park. The reconstructed fort is a living history museum where you can learn about the role of the North West Mounted Police (NWMP) in the 1870s.

Palisade surrounds Fort Walsh National Historic Site.
Palisade surrounds Fort Walsh National Historic Site.
Photo © Barb & Ron Kroll

Located south of the Trans-Canada Highway, Fort Walsh is 34 miles (55 kilometers) southwest of Maple Creek, Saskatchewan, on Hwy 271. Driving time from Maple Creek SK to Fort Walsh is 45 minutes.

Fort Walsh opening dates are May (Victoria Day weekend) to September (Labor Day weekend). A free Parks Canada bus brings you from the visitor center to the historic site. A wooden palisade surrounds the white-washed log buildings inside the fort.

Visitor Center

At the Visitor Reception Centre, you learn about the history of Fort Walsh and the NWMP. Superintendent James Morrow Walsh and 30 North West Mounted Police built the fort in 1875.

By the time Fort Walsh closed, in 1873, the NWMP had stopped illegal whisky trading and arranged peace treaties with First Nations people. (Chief Sitting Bull and 5,000 Lakota Sioux sought refuge in Canada after the defeat of Custer and the US Army at the Battle of The Little Big Horn.)

RCMP horse farm

After the Canadian Pacific Railway (CPR) arrived in Maple Creek, Saskatchewan, private ranches occupied the fort until 1942. The Royal Canadian Mounted Police (successors to the NWMP) then used Fort Walsh until 1968 to breed the black horses that perform so admirably in the RCMP Musical Ride.

Visitor Centre films depict the role of the NWMP, the story of Sitting Bull and the slaughter of buffalo herds. Exhibits include NWMP uniforms, saddles and rifles, as well as First Nations belts, moccasins and pipes.

Commissioner's Residence
Commissioner's Residence
Photo © Barb & Ron Kroll

What to see

Interpreters, wearing historic NWMP uniforms and period clothing, bring you through 1880s-furnished rooms during tours of Fort Walsh. This Parks Canada historic site housed 97 men in 1881.

A peek inside their quarters reveals rows of beds, topped with buffalo skins. In the winter, temperatures often dropped to -35 degrees C, and at other times of the year, the roof leaked.

Battle Creek, which was used for both drinking water and bathing, was polluted, resulting in frequent cases of "mountain fever." Anyone off-duty because of sickness, was docked 25 cents from their daily 75-cent wage.

Kids' activities

Dressed in NWMP uniform costumes, children can pretend they are North West Mounted Police recruits and participate in foot drills and police duties. We watched a group of kids salute as officers re-enacted a flag-lowering ceremony.

On July 1, Fort Walsh celebrates Dominion Day with cannon and musket firing. The living history museum hosts special events, ranging from games for kids to music.

Hiking trails

Self-guided walking trails bring you to the Fort Walsh town site and the civilian and NWMP cemeteries. You can also hike Fort Benton Trail, Wood Mountain Trail and a short trail to the Battle Creek picnic area.

The free shuttle bus also brings visitors to Cypress Hills Massacre National Historic Site, located 1.2 miles (two kilometers) away. The time required for combined tours of Fort Walsh and Cypress Hills Massacre National Historic Sites of Canada is three hours.


TRAVEL INFORMATION

Fort Walsh National Historic Site of Canada:
www.pc.gc.ca/eng/lhn-nhs/sk/walsh/index.aspx

Tourism Saskatchewan: www.sasktourism.com

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