Saskatoon is nicknamed “River City” and has the beautiful North Saskatchewan River meandering through the city. It is the gateway to Prince Albert to its North, North Battleford to its west, and Lake Diefenbaker to its South, and while in town, you have access to one of the best and most diverse restaurant scenes in Canada.
Saskatoon, in west-central Saskatchewan, combines big city amenities with small-town charm. The city is magically wrapped around the South Saskatchewan River, which winds its way through the city. The town is home to the University of Saskatchewan, which accounts for the city’s “young at heart” nature. Saskatoon’s downtown looks small but has a dizzyingly diverse choice of restaurants and cultural amenities.
The town has professional baseball, hockey, and thoroughbred racing, and has lots of facilities for those who prefer to take part in their recreation. The city’s climate is typical for the prairies, though the area farmers are pleased it gets above average rainfall, and in the winter, the moderate snowfall provides for ample sports activities.
Whether it’s a visit to a park, an art gallery or the area’s history, Saskatoon offers its visitors and residents lots to do every day of the week.
Saskatoon and the surrounding area has been inhabited for over 6,000 years, the earliest residents were members of the Plains Ojibwa, Assiniboine and Plains Cree tribes. There cultures were similar, with their main source of food coming from bison hunters, traveling as far as Montana and South Dakota in the U.S.
The surrounding tribes used an area just north of present day Saskatoon as a winter camp. The site, Wanuskewin, was and is still a place of spiritual power, and has both mortal and supernatural protectors.
Early settlers dreamed of creating a prosperous community in Saskatoon. John A. MacDonald’s government was looking so rapidly to develop the country, that he was offering large sections of land to any colonization companies.
Members of Toronto’s Methodist community, which was opposed the use of alcohol, formed the Temperance Colonization Society (“TCS”) in 1881 and signed up 3,100 would-be colonists for more than two million acres. TCS’s own 313,000 acres ran from Clark’s Crossing (now Clarkboro) about 20 km downstream from today’s Saskatoon, west to the Moose Woods Reserve, about 45 km upstream. In June 1882 John Lake, a Methodist minister & entrepreneur, found a colony site on the banks of the South Saskatchewan River, at a point deep enough for regular ferry crossing, following the advice of Moose Woods Chief, White Cap. The place was named Minnetonka, though early settlement was discouraged due to the hostile native activity caused by the North-West Rebellion.
In 1890 the Qu’Appelle, Long Lake and Saskatchewan Railway Company bridged the river at Saskatoon and built a line to Prince Albert. The railway station on the west bank soon attracted settlement, which in 1901 was incorporated as the village of Saskatoon and became a town (population 544) in 1903. The settlement on the east side was called Nutana, and a third settlement called Riversdale grew west of the railway tracks, and in 1906 the three amalgamated (population 4500) to form a city.
By 1908, 4 bridges crossed the river at Saskatoon, making it a major western transportation hub for rail and road traffic. The city became a major commercial centre as agricultural goods were sold for eastern consumption, and the farmers bought manufactured goods, brought from the east by the railroad. Later potash, which is used in fertilizer, was found near Melville.
Saskatoon became a mainstream city of Saskatchewan by assuring the railways came to their town. By 1908 Saskatoon had three railway bridges and a traffic bridge crossing the South Saskatchewan River, securing Saskatoon as the hub of a transportation network..
By 1912, during the pre-war boom, the city grew to 24,000 and the Campus of University of Saskatchewan was holding its first classes. The next year the municipal railway (public transit) began running and carried 3 million passengers in its first year. In 1923 the city had its first radio station, and by 1928 opened its airport, and in 1928 had its first public library, and by 1931 the population grew to 43,000. This dipped a bit during the Great Depression but rebounded to 46,000 by 1946.
It wasn’t until the early 1900’s, when the town had grown to 20,000 people due to the amalgamation of the three settlements that the community had proved that it was going to survive. With Saskatoon becoming a city in 1906, their borrowing powers increased dramatically and this encouraged an outburst of city spending, including the development of sewer and water works. These improvements made it sensible to build permanent structures. The majority of structure made prior to these advancements have not lasted.
After World War II, significant reserves of oil were found in Saskatchewan, both in the northwest around Lloydminster, and the east around Estevan. This broadened the resource base of the province away from agriculture and potash. Saskatoon also benefited from the surge of European immigrants after the War. By 1948 electric trolleys began replacing the street railway, completed by 1951. Over the next decade, Saskatoon grew to 95,000 residents.
Today Saskatoon has over 200,000 people, and is Saskatchewan’s largest city, with significant growth in population over the 1980’s. The main industry continues to be agriculture, Saskatoon is also very blessed with being one of primary forces in Saskatchewan’s growth of half of the entire quantity of Canada’s major export crops. Mining is also an important part of the economy, with the Saskatoon area is the world’s largest exporter of uranium, and source of almost two-thirds of the world’s recoverable potash reserves. High technology is also growing, fueled by proximity to the well-regarded University of Saskatchewan. Saskatoon is connected to Regina, the province’s capital city by Highway 11, which runs a diagonal path between the main Trans-Canada #1 and the Yellowhead Route #16