I float about in slow motion like an astronaut in outer space. It is impossible to sink! My mood is as buoyant as the mineral-laden water my husband Rick and I partake in at
Manitou Springs Resort & Mineral Spa, piped into this sizable pool from Little Lake Manitou. The mineral concentration of this lake is astounding and only found in a few other places in the world: Karlovy Vary in the Czech Republic and the Dead Sea of Israel. This 22km (14m) long by 1.6km (1m) wide lake with waters 10 times as salty as the sea is minutes away from the town of Watrous, Saskatchewan located between the cities of Regina and Saskatoon.
We gleefully move between the pool sections with temperatures from a pleasant 34°C (93°F) to toasty 39°C (103°F), and from wading depth to 2.7m (9ft). In the deep end we hilariously find a slow peddling movement raises our bodies a third out of the water! A lady floats by on her back reading a newspaper. "Can't beat this," I call out, "Fun and therapeutic too!"
A legend is told by First Nations people about how the
healing powers of Little Lake Manitou were first discovered. During the devastating small pox scourge of 1837, a Cree tribe was travelling across the land when some of their tribesmen became afflicted and could not go on. Left in shelters to spend their last days, they crawled to the nearby lake to drink and lie in the cool water. Instead of dying they were cured and within days caught up to the rest of the tribe, whose medicine men believed the miraculous powers of the lake was a gift from Manitou, the Great Spirit. Word spread and many tribes began to come to Little Lake Manitou, finding its waters beneficial for healing wounds and other maladies, such as relief from arthritic pain.
In the scientific vein, studies reveal phenomenally high levels of magnesium, potassium and calcium, giving the shimmering waters a slight bronze hue. These components are reported as being salubrious for various skin conditions, and the easy movement in a weightless environment having positive effects on joint inflammation and circulation, as well as body tensions melting away in the water's rejuvenating levity.
This magical buoyancy was eons in the making. The lake was carved out by glaciers into a dish-shaped basin fed by springs and rain with no surface drainage other than evaporation which over the millennia resulted in this heavy mineral content.
During the 1920's and 30's
Manitou Beach flourished. Watrous was the division stop on the Canadian National Railway line across the prairies, with special trains running from major prairie cities. During the summers passengers spilled out of rail cars took taxi shuttles to Manitou to float in the lake and spa pools, intermixed with shopping, dining (and yes, brothels and bootleg whiskey). The history of Manitou Beach from then till now is most interesting.
Between dips in the pool and a "Manitou Mud Wrap" treatment at the resort's Serenity Spa, we soak up the village atmosphere with regular stops for cappuccino-fixes at the Village Perk Café and delicious nosh at Sam's Steak House. We sit by the shore and watch people bob like corks in the lake, kayakers paddle by and further out a few sailboats. Our walk takes us to a nine-hole golf course, mini-golf and Drive-In theatre.
At the opposite edge of the village
Danceland time-warps us back to the 1930's, continuing to be "the place" to glide around its 5,000 sq ft dance floor to the strains of a live orchestra.
In autumn birders rally at the nearby
Last Mountain Lake Bird Sanctuary which is a stop-over spot for thousands of Sandhill Cranes, geese and ducks. This awesome spectacle repeats itself in the spring.
Little Lake Manitou, in the midst of wheat fields, grain elevators and under a canopy of endless prairie sky is a wonderful anomaly. We left as delighted as on our first visit here a few years ago, and know it will not be our last.
Manitou Beach is 110 km southeast of Saskatoon and 175 km northwest of Regina
Driving from Saskatoon: southeast on Hwy 16 (the Yellowhead Route) and Hwy 365 to Manitou Beach, five minutes north of Watrous.
Driving from Regina: northwest on Hwy 11, and then north on Hwy 2 to Hwy 365, which passes through Watrous and Manitou Beach.
Bus: Schedules on Saskatchewan Transportation Company:
Irene Butler is an award winning writer and author of
"Trekking the Globe with Mostly Gentle Footsteps" on Kindle. Her articles have appeared in national and international publications. She and her husband Rick explore the world for six or more months of every year.
Sailboat & man texting & lady floating in lake: Courtesy of Manitou Springs Resort