Very few people could imagine what it was like to walk the Swift Current to Battleford trail. A group of people are putting the old trail to the test and are taking the month of August to hike it. The trail runs right the West Central region.
Today will be the first day of the walk, starting in Swift Current. The group expects to arrive in Battleford on August 20th.
Hugh Henry, Vice President of Saskatchewan History and Folklore Society, said the core walking group has members from Swift Current, Regina, Montreal and Waterloo.
Henry also talked about the purpose behind this walk, "We (Saskatchewan History and Folklore Society) have a program that looks at historic sites around the province. This trail from Swift Current to Battleford is a second attempt at marking and bringing public attention to another important historic trail."
Where the trail was is now cultivated farm land. "We are sticking on the roads to avoid those crops that are cultivated. I do have the trail which was surveyed in 1886 transcribed onto RM maps so we'll try and stay as close as we can to the original trail. We'll try and hit the nearest back roads."
There are a few spots where Henry and the crew have had permission to cut through pasture land.
It won't be constant walking for the group either. They plan on having rest stops and camping overnight at farm yards and small towns.
Henry said there will be other stops along the way, "We will be doing some programming along the way as well. We're hitting four towns, just doing some programming. I'll be presenting some of the history of the trail with a power point presentation. We are also inviting people to come out and share their stories, family stories perhaps, of the homestead days."
The towns include Kyle on Aug 5th, Fiske on Aug 10, Biggar on Aug 15 and Cando on Aug 17th. Each presentation will start at 7:30PM.
The group will finish off the trail with a program at Fort Battleford on August 20th. The program will include indigenous culture performers and local people talking about their connection to trail.
Anyone interested in walking a portion of the trail can join in at any point.
History of the Trail
The trail which ran between Swift Current and Fort Battleford, ran 192 miles long or 309km. At the time of it's establishment in 1883, Fort Battleford was the seat of the Northwest Territories Government.
Henry talked about how this route began, "The trans-continental railroad reached Swift Current in 1882, late in the year. So in the spring of 1883, some Metis freighters from Battleford came to Swift Current because goods could be brought in through the Swift Current rail. Previously they had to be taken over land from Winnipeg to Battleford."
From there, settlers, traders and even government officials began using the trail. The North West Mounted Police utilized the trail during the North West Resistance of 1885.
Transportation was also established in the form of a stagecoach, which was used to transport mail and goods between the two points.
Henry notes that the trail was really only active for 7 years, "It had a bit of a short life, by 1890, there was a railway track that went from Regina to Prince Albert via Saskatoon. Then Saskatoon became the closet railway to Battleford."