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SASKATCHEWAN There’s no better place to explore the connection between Saskatoon and its river

It’s an early spring morning in Saskatoon. A shroud of mist hangs above the surface of the water, disguising how powerfully swift the South Saskatchewan River can be during runoff from the mountains. The calm is broken by the echo of honking geese announcing their presence to a crew of rowers. There’s also the rhythmic patter of small groups of runners on the river’s edge pathway. Cyclists are out too, chatting among themselves. A lone soul strolls by every few minutes.

The city may be just waking, but River Landing is already alive with activity.

The river valley is a defining feature of Saskatoon’s identity, and there’s no better way to explore the connection between the Prairie city and the river than starting at this recreational and cultural public space, found at the bottom of Second Avenue in south downtown.

Here, you can ease into the day by strolling along your choice of more than 100 kilometres of river trails; at times, it doesn’t seem as if you’re in the largest city in Saskatchewan. Later in the day, small groups of walkers, some with dogs, will be out in force. Families, many pushing strollers, will join them. It’s a perfect spot for a picnic.

Renowned Canadian architect Raymond Moriyama, who designed the area, called the project “my cathedral.”

In 1978, he was asked to develop a 100-year conceptual master plan for the South Saskatchewan River valley in and around Saskatoon. What he envisioned resembles River Landing, but the reality is more grand, more ambitious. It speaks to how the city has embraced the South Saskatchewan River over time.

There’s a concrete amphitheatre and performance area, an ideal setting to watch an outdoor citizenship ceremony or holiday fireworks display. Sometimes kids scramble over the seats and, when it’s hot, play in the splash pad. Others just stand at the railing with their parents and watch the flowing river. The water eventually reaches Hudson Bay.

Backstopping the landing is the Remai Modern art gallery. Between exhibit levels, the floor-to-ceiling glass windows offer a spectacular view. Persephone Theatre, celebrating 50 years of professional regional theatre, is part of the same complex.

River Landing sits along a system of wide pathways that reach north and south on both sides of the river. Collectively, they knit together the river valley and the urban landscape.

The walkway heading south follows the lower, more subdued west bank to Victoria Park. There’s always been a socioeconomic divide between Saskatoon’s east and west sides, and the promenade seeks to bring citizens together.

North from River Landing, the pathway winds past a series of bridges. The Traffic Bridge, a replica of one built here in the early 1900s, retains some of its predecessor’s charm. Before the bridge sits an imposing sculpture of Dakota Chief Whitecap advising Methodist minister John Lake where to place his Temperance Colony (the future Saskatoon). A statue of Métis hunter and military leader Gabriel Dumont, astride a horse, is nearby.

Keep walking north toward Broadway Bridge, a Great Depression make-work


River Landing is found at the bottom of Second Avenue in south downtown Saskatoon. The Remai Modern is open Wednesdays through Sundays, pay-what-you-can entrance. This month, a new exhibition brings together the print work of William Kentridge and Pablo Picasso.


At the Delta Hotels Bessborough, ask for a river view. Rooms from $180 a night.

project featuring graceful, scenic arches that stretch roughly 350 metres across the river.

The walkway continues behind the Bessborough, a grand chateau-style railway hotel that’s popularly known today as Saskatoon’s “Castle on the River.” Another two kilometres north, beyond the University Bridge, there’s a viewing area to watch pelicans feeding at a weir across the river.

Visitors should also cross any one of the bridges to explore the riverbank on the much higher east side. It’s steeper and more treed, but still bisected with pathways among the ravines to explore and escape city life.

Looking down across the water to River Landing, it’s easy to understand why Moriyama likened the river valley to a cathedral, and why he too rose early to walk the river’s edge, “listening to the whispers.”





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