Last Updated on May 31, 2020
The Avonlea Badlands of southern Saskatchewan take you completely by surprise. There is little to prepare you for lies ahead as you walk across the gently undulating pasture. Then suddenly, the perfectly ordinary-looking pasture drops away, and you gaze below at an enchanting land of stone-capped hoodoos, weathered buttes, strange pillar formations, and eroded cliffs looking like dripping chocolate.
These badlands contain sedimentary deposits laid down millions of years ago when a large inland sea covered this area. More recently, the land was shaped by glaciers that scoured the surface, and meltwater that caused further erosion. Over thousands of years, many forces including freezing and thawing, rainfall, and slumping sculpted the sandstone and mudrock. Much of the fragile area is still being eroded.
While this area isn’t as large as some other badland formations in the southern prairies, it packs in an incredible amount of variety. It’s nothing short of a photographer’s dream, with photo options including hoodoos, strange rock formations, mud pillars, the popcorn-like texture of the mudrock, huge spherical concretions, and eroded hillsides with everything from flowing contours to hoodoos in the making.
The Road to Avonlea
The badlands are the near the town of Avonlea, at the junctions of Hwys # 334 and #339, southwest of Regina or southeast of Moose Jaw. They are on private land, and the only way to visit them is on a guided tour arranged by the Avonlea Heritage Museum. Fortunately for photographers, they have also been running tours to catch the evening light, or the night sky. For tour details, see the museum’s website www.avonleamuseum.ca
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11 thoughts on “Saskatchewan’s Surprising Avonlea Badlands”
Wow! Stunning photos especially the ones where the landscape is bathed in sunlight.
Thanks Deeptha. It really makes a difference to be here when the sun is low in the sky.
Just a reminder. Avonlea badlands are on private land. You can’t just go on your own. Visits and tours can be arranged by calling Heritage House Museum in Avonlea.
Yes, that’s right. And that’s what we indicated in the last paragraph of the article.
That’s a well written article and excellent photography!
Just amazing. I’ve grown tired of most’s belief that the prairie is just flat – this area’s just a short drive from the deceivingly flat TransCanada Hwy and I grew up in East Central SK near the Gem Lakes where eskers and rolling hills dominate. Before moving to Ontario (which is also lovely but much flatter BTW!) I purchased large prints from the Karpans to have hung in my home and I now have 7 or 8 of their books in my library. It will always be home.
Thanks for your comments, Lila. We’re happy to hear you are enjoying our articles and postings.
Love the photographs and so interesting to se another version of the prairtie badlands. Thanks for sharing. Allan
Thaks for sharing your appreciation of this area. My father, 96 years old this month, was born in Avonlea. He shares fond memories of scrambling in the badlands and the Dirt Hills, exploring and shooting gophers and jackrabbits. My grandfather was a carpenter who worked on many prairie churches and was also foreman of the Claybank Brick Factory in the 30’s. I am a photographer by trade and a painter by passion and I think I need to take another road trip to visit this beautiful area of Saskatchewan that I have these ties to.
Dwight – it’s great to hear of your family ties to this beautiful area. The badlands are a unique Saskatchewan treasure. Enjoy your upcoming travels to connect with your heritage.