Last Mountain Lake Migratory Bird Sanctuary

Sunset at Last Mountain Lake
Photo: Dean Nernberg © Environment and Climate Change Canada. Sunset at Last Mountain Lake.

Last Mountain Lake Migratory Bird Sanctuary (MBS) is situated 165 km southeast of Saskatoon, Saskatchewan. The MBS includes 4843 hectares of the north end of a large natural lake (Last Mountain Lake) and some of the adjacent uplands. It is within the Last Mountain Lake National Wildlife Area (NWA) and located in the Moist Mixed-grass Prairie ecoregion of Saskatchewan.

Runoff water enters Last Mountain Lake via Lanigan and Saline creeks at the north end, Lewis Creek on the west side, and the Arm River at the southwest end. The outlet at the south end is Long Lake Creek, also known as Last Mountain Creek, which flows into the Qu'Appelle River. A dam on the south end of the lake helps control the depth of the lake, which also serves as a spring runoff reservoir for the Qu'Appelle River basin.

Water control structures constructed by Ducks Unlimited Canada at the north end of the lake permit water-level manipulation within a series of basins, providing additional marsh habitat for waterfowl and mud flats for shorebirds. Several natural islands and numerous bays and peninsulas exist in the lake. Marshland rims much of the north end of the lake and the many small potholes. Much of the shoreline within the boundaries of Last Mountain Lake MBS is sand with several gravelly, rocky tracts. Uplands include extensive alkali areas on low-lying grassland and native prairie.

A portion of the Last Mountain Regional Park is within the boundaries of the sanctuary. The Last Mountain Lake NWA headquarters is located outside the MBS boundary. Most of the privately owned land surrounding the lake is under cultivation. At least seven public roads provide access to the MBS.

Importance of the Migratory Bird Sanctuary

Last Mountain Lake MBS is North America's first bird sanctuary. On June 8, 1887, approximately 2500 acres adjacent to the shoreline at the north end of the lake were reserved from sale and settlement as breeding grounds for wildfowl. In 1917, under the Migratory Birds Convention Act, the reserved area became the Last Mountain Lake MBS. All of the Last Mountain Lake MBS has International Biological Program status as important wildlife lands. In 1982, Last Mountain Lake was designated as a wetland of international importance (under the Ramsar convention) for waterfowl and other wildlife.

The northern portion of Last Mountain Lake MBS is a major staging area for waterfowl and Sandhill Cranes in the autumn. Spectacular numbers of ducks, geese and Sandhill Cranes use this area during spring and fall migration. The rare Whooping Crane has been sighted on several occasions during spring and fall migrations. This part of the lake also provides some breeding and moulting habitat for dabbling and diving ducks, and is particularly important during periods of drought. In autumn, the MBS is an important roosting area for large flocks of dabbling and diving ducks, Snow and Ross's Geese, Sandhill Cranes, and to a lesser extent Canada Geese.

Colonial nesting birds that breed on the islands in the lake include the American White Pelican, Double-crested Cormorant, Ring-billed and California Gulls, and Common and Forster's Terns. The pelican colony may exceed 1000 nests in some years. Other water birds that breed in the area include Horned, Eared, Pied-billed and Western Grebes; Black-crowned Night Heron; and a variety of shorebirds. Over 111 of more than 301 bird species recorded on the north end of Last Mountain Lake and vicinity breed there, including the endangered Piping Plover. Year-round upland wildlife species include the Sharp-tailed Grouse, Hungarian Partridge, Red Fox, Badger, Coyote, White-tailed Jackrabbit and White-tailed Deer. The marshes, streams and shallow waters of the lake are important fish spawning areas.

Access and Activities

MBSs are established for the protection and conservation of migratory birds. Activities that could harm migratory birds, their nests or their eggs are prohibited.

MBSs can be and have been established on private, provincial, territorial and federally owned lands. Access to each MBS varies by site and is at the discretion of the landowner and land manager.

Where MBSs are located on federal land, Environment and Climate Change Canada is responsible for the management and protection of migratory birds, nests, eggs and habitat. Where MBSs are located on provincial land, Environment and Climate Change Canada is responsible for the protection of migratory birds and their nests, while the chief game officer of the province is responsible for the management of habitat. Where MBSs are located on private or municipal land, Environment and Climate Change Canada is responsible for the protection of migratory birds and their nests. Habitat management is the responsibility of the landowner.

Public access to Last Mountain Lake MBS is not restricted. There are limited municipal road access points. The standard prohibitions under the Migratory Bird Sanctuary Regulations apply to this site: hunting migratory birds is prohibited, and no person shall disturb, destroy or take the nest of a migratory bird or have in his or her possession a live migratory bird, or a carcass, skin, nest or egg of a migratory bird, except under the authority of a permit issued by Environment and Climate Change Canada or unless authorized by the Regulations. Possession of firearms or other hunting appliances is prohibited. Dogs and cats must not be allowed to run at large. Allowed activities include:

  • Hiking
  • Fishing, following provincial fishing regulations
  • Boating, subject to launching from Last Mountain Regional Park and no disturbance of colonial nesting birds on the islands
  • Driving on designated trails only (Driving Tour road)

For more information on entry, activities and permits in MBSs, please visit the Management and Activities section of the Migratory Bird Sanctuaries website. For more information on protected areas managed by Environment and Climate Change Canada in Saskatchewan, please contact the regional office.

For greater certainty, nothing in this document shall be construed so as to abrogate or derogate from the protection provided for existing Aboriginal or treaty rights of the Aboriginal peoples of Canada by the recognition and affirmation of those rights in section 35 of the Constitution Act, 1982.

Map of the Area

  • Map of Last Mountain Lake Migratory Bird Sanctuary
Long description for the Map

Map showing the location of Last Mountain Lake Migratory Bird Sanctuary relative to Saskatchewan, Last Mountain Lake and the Last Mountain Lake National Wildlife Area. The map shows the boundaries of the sanctuary, which overlaps with the Last Mountain Lake National Wildlife Area, including both a section of Last Mountain Lake and a portion of surrounding land. The scale of the map is in kilometers.

This map is for illustrative purposes only and should not be used to define legal boundaries. Last Mountain Lake MBS can also be viewed using Google Maps. Please note that the Google map is a complementary source of information and does not represent the official map or site name.

Summary table

Summary Table for Last Mountain Lake Migratory Bird Sanctuary
Category Information
Protected Area designation Migratory Bird Sanctuary
Province or territory Saskatchewan
Latitude/longitude 51°22' N, 105°12' W
Size in hectares (ha) 4843 ha
Date created (Gazetted) 1917
International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Management Category IV - Habitat/Species Management Area
Additional designations
Main habitat type Open water and marsh (68%), native grassland (30%), cultivated land (1%), park (1%)
Key bird species Sandhill Crane, Double-crested Cormorant, Ring-billed Gull, California Gull, Common Tern and American White Pelican
Other species Birds: Whooping Crane, Snow Goose, Ross's Goose, Canada Goose, Piping Plover, Forster's Tern, Horned Grebe, Eared Grebe, Pied-billed Grebe, Western Grebe, Black-crowned Night-Heron, Sharp-tailed Grouse and Gray Partridge Mammals: Red Fox, Badger, Coyote, White-tailed Jackrabbit and White-tailed Deer
Listed species under the Species at Risk Act (SARA) Piping Plover (circumcinctus subspecies), Whooping Crane (Grus americana)
Management agency Canadian Wildlife Service, Prairie and Northern Region
Landowners Province of Saskatchewan, Canadian Wildlife Service and private

Contact Information

Environment and Climate Change Canada - Prairie and Northern Region
Canadian Wildlife Service
Protected Areas and Stewardship
115 Perimeter Road
Saskatoon, SK S7N 0X4
Toll Free: 1-800-668-6767 (in Canada only)
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