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Tall red buttes rise towards a deep blue sky. Dusty paths of brick-colored clay, just as hard too, snake through the badlands, skirting both deep sandstone ravines and prickly pear cacti. Echoes of the Old West arise in one’s mind, but this isn’t Montana or North Dakota – this is Saskatchewan. In a valley known as Big Muddy, this spectacular landscape once welcomed the likes of Dutch Henry and the Sundance Kid, since sometimes US Marshalls wouldn’t follow, because these badlands sit just twelve miles north of the US - Canadian border.
Chosen as one of Canada’s 50 Places of a Lifetime by Keith Bellows, Editor in Chief of National Geographic, the region’s majesty includes something distinctly Canadian – a smattering of ancient aboriginal stone effigies each with a unique name, like Big Beaver Buffalo or Minton Turtle. Revered as a landmark to the First National people, these effigies are primarily stones shaped as a figure buried into the surface of the ground, honoring the importance of these animals in the lives of the original residents.
The area’s unique landscape displays over 70 million years of history, from the cretaceous period through the Paleocene period into the ice age to the present day, providing budding geologists with a broad pallet ready for study. History buffs enjoy the area’s colorful past, touring both house caves and horse caves adapted and even enlarged by outlaws to suit their special needs.
Castle Butte is one of the most popular experiences in Big Muddy. Standing 230 feet tall and over a quarter mile in circumference, this ice-age carved butte offers a great hike around the base, or a beautiful view for those willing to climb to the top. Far away from the bustle of large cities, Big Muddy offers the peace and quiet rarely found these days, allowing visitors to relax and enjoy the stunning surroundings.
Coach tours arranged through guides based in nearby Coronach help visitors find the elusive outlaw caves just one hill from the border, as well as fields of summer wildflowers, the aboriginal effegies and Castle Butte. Both group tours and private tours are available. Other nearby towns offer museums,
If You Go: The closest international airport is Regina, approximately two hours northeast from Big Muddy. Complete information about Saskatchewan’s Great Southwest area is available through their website, including accommodations, dining and other close-by activities. Summer visits are best.