- Category: Rolling Across the Heartland
Nestled in a picturesque valley on Highway 36 south of the Trans-Canada Highway is Willow Bunch, one of Saskatchewan's oldest settlements. The agricultural community, situated near the Canada – US border, was founded in 1870 by several groups of Métis hunters and settlers. The area was known as “Talle de Saule”, meaning “Clump of Willow”, and this gave rise to the town’s permanent name. As the quaint community grew, eighty acres of land were donated by one of the residents in order to build a church, rectory, convent, and cemetery, and the Sisters of the Cross arrived from France in 1905.
The Rural Municipality of Willow Bunch was established seven years later in 1912. In 1926, the Canadian National Railways line arrived to brighten the community’s prospects. By the mid-1950s the population was approaching 800, and in 1960, Willow Bunch was incorporated as a town.
With changing times and customs, the former convent and school was closed in 1983 and today houses the Willow Bunch Museum. Visitors to the museum can experience the story of Sitting Bull's time in the area, travel across the Prairies with the first settlers, and learn about "Giant" Édouard Beaupré, a local boy who grew to the amazing height of 8'3". You can even pose for a picture with Édouard’s statue!
Nestled in the coulees of Willow Bunch Valley is Jean Louis Légaré Regional Park. Founded in 1961, it’s the perfect place to visit for the day or camp for the weekend, and has electrified sites, clean showers, and numerous walking trails. There’s even a challenging 9-hole golf course located within the park.
If you explore the surrounding areas, there is much more to discover. Eighteen kilometres west of Willow Bunch is McGillis house, a typical Métis home of 1890s. In the same area you will find the St. Victor Petroglyphs, which contain carvings of animal tracks and human faces. A short drive south east of Willow Bunch brings you to Castle Butte -- a remarkable 70-metre high sandstone and clay formation in the heart of the Big Muddy Badlands.
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