Birding in Bison Country – Sturgeon River Canoe Trip

Trip Overview

Yellowheaded blackbird in Prince Albert National Park marshland

Yellowheaded blackbird in bison country marshland in Prince Albert National Park  (©canoeski)

A wildlife watching extravaganza, this 2-day trip on the Sturgeon River along the southwest boundary of Prince Albert National Park is also a test of canoeing skill. The river twists and turns in an almost endless meandering pattern on its course through an ancient glacial meltwater spillway. The switchbacks demand coordinated steering strokes by both bow and stern paddlers in the tight turns, and numerous beaver dams require agility and some dexterity to negotiate depending on the water level in the river.

For birders the aquatic river/marsh habitat yields numerous sightings while canoeing. At the evening campsite located on an upland ridge, the aspen woodland provides another birding habitat plus a marvellous overview of the river valley. Sightings of Canada’s only remaining free ranging plains bison herd may also occur during the course of the canoe trip as the Sturgeon River forms the southern “boundary” of their grazing area.

Over the years, resource experts on board the tour have included a geographer familiar with the glacial and human history associated with the river valley along with an experienced birder to help participants to get better acquainted with the rich environment that we paddle through.

Trip Details
Duration: 2 days, 1 night
Scheduled Dates: May 20 – 21, 2023
Custom departure dates for groups can be arranged.
Geographic Area: Sturgeon River – Prince Albert National Park, northern Saskatchewan, Canada
Nearest Communities: Debden and Big River
Paddling Venue: River flatwater with beaver dams
Adventure Rating: Novice to Intermediate – a modest degree of fitness and upper body conditioning will help prepare you for rigorous physical activities like paddling and portaging
Minimum Age: 14
Paddling Distance: Approx 30km or 45km (take-out dependent on weather)
Accommodation: Wilderness camping in storm-proof nylon tents
Price per Person: $550 plus 5% GST

Booking Info


Canoeing the Sturgeon River in Prince Albert National Park

Canoeists pulling off the Sturgeon River at our hilltop campsite  (©canoeski)

Day 1 involves an early morning departure from the CanoeSki base in Saskatoon via passenger van to head north to the Big River area where we access the Sturgeon River. En route we drop off a shuttle vehicle where we exit the lower section of the river on the afternoon of Day 2. We launch the trip on the river in late morning and paddle downstream stopping to pull over beaver dams or to observe wildlife or get briefed on river valley landscape and history. We arrive at our evening campsite in late afternoon and portage our gear to our up-slope campsite. This is a wilderness area with no amenities, all of which we carry with us, including drinking water. The overviews of the river upstream and downstream from the campsite are inspiring and provide a great vantage point for observing wildlife in the valley below. An old pack trail passing through the camp is used for evening birding walks.

Day 2, we carry on paddling downstream with usually a few less beaver dams to negotiate and arrive at our designated take-out early afternoon. If the exit access is too wet on account of recent rain, we have the option of continuing downriver about another 3-hour paddle to the next exit. This second-best option requires a 500 m uphill portage from the river to where we can bring in our pick-up vehicle to load passengers and gear. On the way back we make a restaurant stop in Shellbrook and arrive in Saskatoon early evening.

Package Includes:

  • Canoeing and safety equipment
  • Storm-proof nylon tents
  • Waterproof packs for personal items & clothing
  • Park entry & camping fees
  • Nutritious meals prepared over an open fire
  • Certified instructor/guide
  • Return transportation by passenger van from Saskatoon.

Prices shown in Canadian Dollars; applicable taxes extra
Advance booking required, subject to availability

To book your space on this trip, please see Registration

Packing List, Liability Waiver and Detailed Trip Info – contact Cliff Speer 306-653-5693 or