This town of 34,000 is named for a big bend in Moose Jaw Creek, which was called moosicappusannissippi or “the creek that bends like a moose’s jaw.” Another theory suggests that an early traveller fixed a cart wheel with a moose’s jaw bone found here. In the mid 1800’s, the town was connected to Denver, using the Powder River Trail, which was used by ranchers and freighters before the railway came across the Canadian prairie.
During the 1920s Prohibition (against alcohol) in the US, Moose Jaw was a popular hangout for smugglers, including allegedly Al Capone. During the Second World War, the city became an important training base as part of the Commonwealth Air Training Program, leading to its air base becoming home to the Snowbirds, the Canadian Air Force’s aerobatics team.
The town is nestled around the winding Wakamow Valley, with a number of parks, connected by a bicycle and recreational trail system (Wakamow means “turn” in Cree). Annual events include the Kinsmen International Band Festival (May), Park Art Show (May) , Sidewalk Days (June), Hometown Fair (June), Pakr Day Barbecue & Bake Sale (July), Saskatchewan Air Show (mid-July), Motif Multicultural Festival (July), Harvest Rodeo (Sept), Haunted House of History (Oct).
Murals of Moose Jaw
Murals Centre, Chamber of Commerce Office, 53 Saskatchewan St E
29 murals, on various downtown buildings, depict the town’s colorful history, including homesteading, the coming of the railroad, and even a community baseball game. The Murals Centre is open 9 am to 5 pm. Guided tours $ (includes souvenir booklet) and school rates (minimum 20 persons per tour).
Tunnels of Little Chicago
108 Main St N (corner of River)
Tours of the underground tunnels between many of the buildings in Moose jaw’s downtown. These tunnels are rumored to have been dug by the Chinese in the late 1800s, and used during the 1920s Prohibition years to allow smugglers to smuggle liquor and escape capture. This era gave Moose Jaw the nickname “Little Chicago”. Tours are every 15 minutes, 10 am to 8 pm in summer, and every half hour 1pm to 4 pm in winter. $7 each, $6 for seniors and students, and $4 for children 6 -12 years. Group discounts for 12 or more.
Fairford & Athabasca Streets
This 11 hectare park has an indoor and outdoor swimming pool, a war memorial, and other recreational facilities. Entertainment is presented each Wednesday evening in July & August. Outdoor pools open daily from 1pm to 5 pm and 7 pm to 9 pm from June 1 to Labour Day; indoor pools daily year-round.
Moose Jaw Art Museum, Gallery & History Museum
This museum has various displays of local, regional and national interest. Heritage exhibits include a large collection of period clothing. Open Tuesday – Sunday 12 noon to 5 pm., and Tuesday – Friday 7 pm to 9 pm. Closed Mondays, Good Friday, and Christmas. Free Admission
Golden Nugget Casino
250 Thatcher, on Moose Jaw Exhibition Grounds
This year-round casino has a variety of games of chance, including Blackjack, Roulette, Poker, Red Dog, and has simulcast horse racing. The facility is licenced with a concession. Open Thursday & Sunday 12 noon to 12 midnight, and Friday & Saturday 12 noon – 2 am.
Suykanen Ship, Pioneer Village and Museum
13 km south on highway 2
This museum preserves a number of historic buildings, including an old post office, blacksmith shop, church, a general store, railway station, and a school. Vehicles on exhibit include antique tractors, trucks and cars. The boat (!) was built by a Finnish settler who had planned to sail back home, via the South Saskatchewan River to Hudson’s Bay. Open daily 9 am to 5 pm, form June 1 to mid September. Admission.
Western Development Museum – History of Transportation
50 Diefenbaker Drive (junction of Highways #1 & #2)
This museum illustrates the history of air, sea, water, rail, and land transportation. A special Snowbird Gallery has aircraft and memorabilia from the Canadian Air Force aerobatics team based in Moose Jaw. Trips on the Short Line, the only operational steam locomotive in Saskatchewan, are available on weekends from the May long weekend until Labour Day (weather permitting). The Museum is open daily 9am to 6pm, April through December and closed Mondays only January through March.
Buffalo Pound Provincial Park
18 km north on highway 42, then 5 km east on highway 202
The 1,930 hectare park is best known for its free-ranging buffalo in the Qu’Appelle river valley. The parks was named for the natural corrals. The Indians stampeded the animals into the buffalo pounds and then killed them for their meat, bones and hides. The buffalo were reintroduced to the Qu’Appelle valley in 1972, and there are now 22 buffalo in the park. The park also has a large outdoor pool, a beach, fishing, boating, mini-golf, and hiking trails. The park is home to the White Track Ski Resort. The Nicolle Flats Interpretive Centre (306-693-2678) explains the scenery and wildlife in the areas marshland, which can be seen from the Boardwalk and the four nature trails. There is a nice hike across grassland hills and a wooded coulee to the 1903 Nicolle Homestead house and barn.
Burrowing Owl Interpretive Centre
Exhibitionpark, Race Tack (off Thatcher Dr, by Golden Nugget Casino)
This brand new centre provides a rare opportunity to view burrowing owls, which have been declared an endangered species in 1995. You can see them in their native habitat, view a giant burrow, and see the owls up close. Free admission. Call for hours.
Claybank Brick Plant
50 kilometres southeast of town, on highway339, off highway 39
This brick plant has been designated a National Historic Site. From 1914 to 1989, this plant was one of two major fire brick plant in Canada. The plant also produced the face brick that is on many of the province’s most interesting buildings. The site has various buildings, machinery, domed brick kilns and tall chimneys all frozen in time, and is currently undergoing a historical restoration and development.