Val Marie Reservoir Migratory Bird Sanctuary

The Val Marie Reservoir Migratory Bird Sanctuary (MBS) is located south of Swift Current, in Saskatchewan. It offers a quality habitat for many birds to rest, feed and nest.

Importance of the sanctuary: migratory birds and other wildlife

Established 10 kilometers northwest of Val Marie, the Val Marie Reservoir Migratory Bird Sanctuary is part of the local Community Pasture and is located in the Mixed Grass ecoregion of Saskatchewan. This sanctuary is one of five established on November 3, 1948, to replace five other sanctuaries that were no longer suitable waterfowl habitat due to drought. The reservoir is an important feeding and resting area in both the spring and fall for Canada geese and ducks, particularly during droughts, as it is the only large, permanent water body in the area.
 
Ring-billed Gull
Ring-billed gull


The reservoir supports several hundred ducks and geese during the breeding and moulting seasons, however only moderate numbers of dabbling duck and Canada goose broods are produced in most years. Colonial nesting birds also use the islands in the sanctuary; these include:

  • double-crested cormorant
  • great blue heron
  • black-crowned night-heron
  • ring-billed gull
  • California gull
  • common tern

During the summer, American white pelicans, Franklin's gulls and black terns also use the area, but they are not known to breed there.

Great Blue Heron
Great blue heron

Landscape

The Val Marie Reservoir, also known as Newton Lake, exists due to a Prairie Farm Rehabilitation Administration dam on the Frenchman River, which was completed in 1937. The water levels in the reservoir fluctuate often, as there is a heavy demand downstream where the water is used to irrigate forage crops.

In years of average to below-average precipitation, wide expanses of mud flat become exposed by mid-summer between the rocky, sandy shoreline and the water. The changing water levels also impact the islands within the reservoir. The several small islands and peninsulas in the northwest portion of the reservoir fluctuate in both size and number as the water levels rise and fall.

Most of the emergent vegetation in this body of water can be found in the northwestern end where the Frenchman River enters the reservoir and the aquatic vegetation throughout consists largely of beds of pondweed and water milfoil. The land surrounding the water is almost entirely native grassland, and the western half of the shoreline, as well as 50 to 200 metres of adjacent lands, are fenced to exclude livestock grazing.

Did you know?

The Prairie Farm Rehabilitation Administration was established in 1935 in response to a disastrous drought in the Prairies that forced many farmers to abandon their lands. Its focus was to aid with the problems of soil erosion and the lack of water resources for agriculture development. There are very few Prairie communities that have not benefited from its activities.

Map of the area

Map of Val Marie Reservoir Migratory Bird Sanctuary
  • Long description
    Map showing the location of the Val Marie Reservoir Migratory Bird Sanctuary (MBS) in relation to Saskatchewan, Newton Lake, and Frenchman River. The map shows the refuge boundaries, which enclose most of the Newton Lake. The MBS is located west of Highway 4. The scale of the map is in kilometers. Permanent and intermittent waters are shown on the map, as are roads and highways. An inset on the map shows the location of the shelter in Canada.

Access to the sanctuary

Migratory Bird Sanctuaries, such as Val Marie Reservoir, are established across the country to protect migratory birds during critical periods of their life cycle. Whether these areas are used for feeding, resting or nesting, they play an important role in the survival of many species. Public access to this site is at the discretion of the landowner, Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada. Please ensure that you are aware of how you can help protect this sanctuary and please read the restrictions, including those on firearms and hunting, which are in place to conserve the wildlife that call it home. Dogs and cats must not be allowed to run at large inside Migratory Bird Sanctuaries.

If you would like further information on what is permitted in Migratory Bird Sanctuaries, please visit the Management and Activities section of the website. For more information on Val Marie Reservoir Migratory Bird Sanctuary in particular, please contact our regional office.

Key facts about Val Marie Reservoir Migratory Bird Sanctuary

Protected Area designation Migratory Bird Sanctuary
Province or territory Saskatchewan
Latitude/longitude 49°19' N, 107°50' W
Size 505 hectares
Date created (Gazetted) 1948
International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Management Category V – Protected Landscape/Seascape
Additional designations None
Main habitat type Open water and mud flats (90%), marsh (9%), islands (1%)
Key bird species Ducks, Canada goose, double-crested cormorant, great blue heron, ring-billed gull, California gull, common tern, American white pelican, black-crowned night-heron, Franklin's gull, black tern, killdeer
Other species Birds: American avocet, spotted sandpiper, marbled godwit and Wilson’s phalarope
Listed species under the Species at Risk Act (SARA) None
Management agency Canadian Wildlife Service
Landowner Agriculture and Agri-food Canada

Related links

Contact information

Environment and Climate Change Canada
Canadian Wildlife Service
Protected Areas – Prairie Region
115 Perimeter Road
Saskatoon, SK S7N 0X4

Toll Free: 1-800-668-6767 (in Canada only)
Email: ec.enviroinfo.ec@canada.ca

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