What is the Northeast Swale?

The Northeast Swale is a ribbon of wild prairie and natural wetlands that represents the conservation opportunity of a lifetime for the City of Saskatoon.

Defined by the course of an ancient river, the Swale originates on the east bank of the South Saskatchewan (just north of Silverspring) and flows north and east for almost twenty-six kilometers in the surrounding countryside.

The connected landscape of the twenty-six kilometer-long Swale represents one of the largest surviving fragments of natural prairie in this part of the province. Of this expanse, the first four or five kilometers of the Swale, comprising about 300 hectares, are within the current boundaries of the City of Saskatoon.

Saskatoon, Small Swale

Even within city limits, the Swale is home to an amazing abundance of diversity of life, with more than 200 different kinds of wild plants, over 100 species of birds, and many types of animals, including hares, foxes, coyotes, and two kinds of deer.

Several of the species found in the Swale, like the crowfoot violet and leopard frog, are especially valuable because they have become very rare in other places, where natural habitats have been disturbed and lost.

However, change is coming to this important refuge, too, and the wild and beautiful Northeast Swale needs our support.

How to get there

A message from our previous chair, Louise Jones

The Northeast Swale Watchers is a group of concerned citizens who came together in 2011 to monitor plans for development in and around the Swale. We have a vision of a liveable city in which human residents reduce their impact on natural areas within and around the city.

How can this be accomplished? Reducing dependence on motor vehicle transportation while implementing a rapid and effective public transportation system, regulating pesticide use, preventing wetland destruction, and reducing light pollution are actions that will improve our health through looking after the health of the land and water that sustain us.

The Northeast Swale is a case in point. For nine years, the Swale Watchers have been actively meeting with representatives of the City of Saskatoon and Meewasin Valley Authority to share our concerns about the impact of the rapidly growing neighbourhoods and related road infrastructure on this amazingly vibrant natural area within city limits. Although the City of Saskatoon has made some minor adjustments to mitigate impacts from development, most of our recommendations have been ignored or only partially implemented.

We see the protection of the Swale as critically important and recognize that the many roads through the area, contaminants entering the wetlands, and bright lights spilling into the area will have a huge impact on the ability of this vital and natural system to survive. Keeping a reduced speed limit through the Swale is essential for the protection of humans and wildlife in the Swale. Council increased that speed after agreeing on this important mitigative measure and some are wanting to increase the speed even more. We also need to encourage the City to demand that the Province move the route of the proposed Saskatoon Freeway out of the Swales.

Through this process of “consultation,” we have learned that the City has articulated plans for protection without the regulations to achieve it. The developers’ demand for land and for supporting infrastructure is the driving force, with environmental protections an afterthought, at best.

We acknowledge that the City’s Sustainability Division is tasked with integrating both the Triple Bottom Line policy and Green Infrastructure Strategy into all departments of the City, but progress has been sluggish. Council must show leadership by requiring City Administration to lead by example, by setting high standards for environmental protection as the foundation for action. These same requirements should also be imposed on businesses and residents in the larger community to ensure that we have a high quality of life going into the future. SOS: Save Our Swales.


Louise Jones

September 17, 2020

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The Northeast Swale Watchers is a group of concerned citizens from a variety of backgrounds who have been monitoring development and advocating for the protection of the Swales since 2011. In our advocacy, members contribute their knowledge and time to make presentations, attend meetings, conduct citizen science, and engage with the public.

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