Envisioning a city in harmony with nature
Preserving Urban Prairie Landscapes: Exploring One of Saskatoon’s Natural Treasures
Welcome to the Swales – Saskatoon’s ribbons of green
The Northeast and Small Swales are ribbons of native prairie and natural wetlands that offer gifts of resilience and hope to the city of Saskatoon. These life-sustaining landscapes were formed thousands of years ago by ancient meanders of the South Saskatchewan River. Today, the Swales are home to an amazing diversity of life, including more than two dozen species at risk, 200 kinds of native plants, at least 175 species of birds, and many other types of wildlife. If you are longing to hear the lilting trill of the meadowlark or the haunting song of coyotes, the Swales are the place for you!
The Swales are also a refuge for the people of Saskatoon. They are zones of quiet and refreshment, offering a respite from the hubbub of urban life. At no extra cost, these natural grasslands and wetlands also provide valuable services by purifying water, storing carbon, cooling the air, and standing ready to mitigate the worst extremes of climate change. Yet the threat of aggressive development is now bearing down on the Swales, and these vital places need our protection and support.
Summer blooms at the Northeast Swale.
Where are the Northeast and Small Swales?
The Northeast Swale is a corridor of wetlands and grasslands that begins at Crocus Prairie on the east bank of the South Saskatchewan River, and flows north and east for almost twenty-six kilometers before rejoining the river at Clark’s Crossing. This connected landscape represents one of the largest surviving fragments of native prairie in our part of the province. The first four or five kilometers of the Northeast Swale (about 360 hectares or 880 acres) are inside Saskatoon’s city limits, just north of the Forest Grove, Evergreen, and Aspen Ridge neighbourhoods.
The Small Swale, covering approximately 90 hectares (222 acres), lies entirely within the City of Saskatoon. It originates along the river just south of Chief Mistawasis Bridge and runs northeast until it joins the river again, directly across from Wanuskewin Heritage Park. The Small Swale contains some of the best quality fragments of natural prairie anywhere in the province.
Northeast Swale Directions
Small Swale Directions
Did you know…
A Swale is “a low or hollow place, especially a marshy depression between ridges.” The Northeast and Small Swales are refuges for life and the last, best remnants of natural wetlands and grasslands in and around Saskatoon.
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The Swale Watchers gratefully acknowledge that we live and work on Treaty Six territory and the homeland of the Metis Nation.
© 2023 Swale Watchers
Photos By: Muhammad Zain Ul Abideen & Meghan Mickelson