Saskatchewan, known across most of Canada for being comprised mainly of flat farmland, is also full of surprises and contrasting landscapes. One of the more unique places you can visit in Saskatchewan is Castle Butte, a towering sandstone formation that is located south of Regina in the Big Muddy Badlands. Here the rugged hills and valleys were shaped by glacial meltwater and erosion. The crown jewel of this region is Castle Butte.
Castle Butte is a massive structure with a circumference of half a kilometre and a height of 60 meters. Comprised of sandstone, clay, alkali and coal, it dates back to the last ice age. When the large sheets of ice that covered most of Canada began to melt, it created rivers and lakes that carried sediments to lower areas. As time passed, these sediments accumulated and hardened, forming the base of Castle Butte. Then wind and rain slowly eroded the sediment hill, forming its distinctive castle-like shape.
Castle Butte has been used as a landmark throughout history. Some Indigenous people viewed it as a sacred site, used for religious ceremonies and navigation. The North West Mounted Police (NWMP) used it as a reference point while patrolling the area for outlaws.
During the 1800s and 1900s rebels and renegades ran rampant throughout the Big Muddy Badlands. They hid amongst the caves and caverns to avoid the NWMP while smuggling stolen cattle across the border. When prohibition started in America, cattle smuggling, which had died down at this point, was replaced with smuggling bootleg alcohol to the south.
While sitting inside one of the caves, and looking out at the landscape below, I imagined how the outlaws kept a lookout for the NWMP. It was a perfect vantage point and hideout.
I searched through many of the different caves, cracks and crevices at Castle Butte, but couldn’t find any hidden secrets or remnants of its outlaw past. While that was disappointing, the view from the top was not.
From the peak of Castle Butte, the jagged badland hills stretched out as far as the eye can see. The hazy sky, caused by forest fire smoke to the west, permeated the entire area with a yellow hue.
At the peak, there was enough room to walk around. The top was smooth and flat.
The journey to the peak was not that difficult. The traction was good, and most of the path could be walked along. There were a few steep spots, where I had to crawl, but I did not find it very challenging.
After visiting Castle Butte, it makes sense why it got its name. With some of the erosion lines on the exterior resembling gigantic pillars, and all its caves and crevices, the comparison to a medieval castle is obvious. When approaching Castle Butte from a distance, the massive stone structure can be seen towering above the surrounding landscape like a giant cathedral.