Last Mountain Lake National Wildlife Area

Notice

Last Mountain Lake National Wildlife Area is open to the public for day-use only. While most trails are open, some trails and visitor facilities may remain closed until such time that they can be safely re-opened.  

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For more than a century, Last Mountain Lake National Wildlife Area (NWA) has been officially recognized as a special place for wildlife.

Description

The NWA was first protected in 1887, when 1,025 hectares (ha) of land at the north end of Last Mountain Lake were set aside as breeding grounds for wild fowl, becoming the first federal bird sanctuary in North America. Two main factors contribute to attracting such a wealth of birdlife to the area: its good habitats, as one of the most productive lakes in southern Saskatchewan; and its strategic location in the heart of the central flyway of North America. Spectacular populations of ducks, geese, sandhill cranes and other migrating birds use the region as they cross the Great Plains between their breeding grounds in the north and their wintering grounds in the south.

Landscape habitat of Last Mountain Lake NWA
Last Mountain Lake NWA. Photo: John Dunlop.

More than 300 species of birds have been recorded at Last Mountain Lake NWA during migration. Up to 50,000 cranes, 450,000 geese and several hundred thousand ducks can be observed during peak migration. Although less visible, many songbirds, shorebirds and birds of prey spend from a few days to several weeks each year in the area. Birds travelling through at least 25 different countries, from arctic Canada to Argentina, use the rich habitat of Last Mountain Lake. The NWA is also an important breeding ground for at least 100 species of birds, many of which are unique to the prairie region. Moreover, 9 species of shorebirds, 43 species of songbirds and 13 species of ducks nest within the NWA. Some of the most spectacular breeders include:

  • western grebe
  • American white pelican
  • American avocet
  • Wilson's phalarope
Pelicans on a shoreline
Pelicans. Photo: Lowell Strauss.

In addition to its values as a staging and a breeding area, the Last Mountain Lake NWA provides suitable habitat for 9 of Canada's 36 classified species by the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada (COSEWIC) in 1993. These species were evaluated as vulnerable, threatened and endangered bird species at the time: 

  • peregrine falcon
  • piping plover
  • whooping crane
  • Sprague’s pipit
  • ferruginous hawk
  • loggerhead shrike
  • Baird's sparrow
  • Caspian tern
  • Cooper's hawk

Colonial nesters such as pelicans, cormorants, gulls, terns and grebes are particularly dependent upon the legal protection offered by the NWA. These birds nest in mixed colonies on several islands on the lake or on floating platforms in the marsh and are very sensitive to disturbance during the breeding season.

Find more information on Last Mountain Lake NWA in the summary table below.

Management

Under the Canada Wildlife Act, NWAs are protected and managed in accordance with the Wildlife Area Regulations. The primary purpose of NWAs is to protect and conserve wildlife and their habitat. For this purpose and according to the legislation, all activities in a NWA that could interfere with the conservation of wildlife can be prohibited. Consequently, most NWAs are not accessible to the public and all activities are prohibited. However, some activities may be authorized through Schedule I.1 of the Wildlife Area Regulations or the issuance of permits as long as they are consistent with the management plan goals for the NWA. For more information, consult the NWA Management and Activities section. 

Any authorized activities at Last Mountain Lake NWA are listed in Schedule I.1 of the Wildlife Area Regulations and signage is posted at access points. These authorized activities include:

  1. Wildlife viewing
  2. Hiking
  3. Operating a vehicle, other than a snowmobile or an all-terrain vehicle, on designated roads and trails and in designated parking areas
  4. Swimming
  5. Non-commercial berry picking
  6. Non-motorized boat launching and boat landing
  7. Non-motorized boating
  8. Cross-country skiing, snowshoeing and skating
  9. Sport hunting — including with dogs off-leash when hunting waterfowl — without a commercial guide, from half an hour before sunrise to half an hour after sunset, if the hunting is carried out
    1. in accordance with any applicable federal permit and any authorization required by the laws of Saskatchewan for sport hunting in that province; and
    2. without the use of toxic shot
  10. Non-commercial sport fishing in designated areas in accordance with any applicable federal permit and any authorization required by the laws of Saskatchewan for sport fishing in that province, during the period beginning on May 15 in one year and ending on March 30 in the following year
  11. Activities referred to in items 1 to 8 and 10 during the hour before sunrise and the hour after sunset, in addition to during the period referred to in subsection 3.1(3)

Planning your visit

Last Mountain Lake is one of the sites selected as part of the Connecting Canadians to Nature program and is an ideal place for any nature-lover to visit. Whether you're interested in hiking, wildlife observation, photography or one of the various interactive programs that are offered seasonally, you are sure to find something for every member of the family. The recommended length of a visit is 2 to 4 hours, but there are also options for longer or shorter visits. The Last Mountain Lake NWA is open from dawn to dusk, during daylight hours only.

Activities

Last Mountain Lake NWA is completing the new Interpretive Pavilion, which will be open to the public during visiting hours from May to September. It has been filled with temporary exhibits, many of which are on loan from local museums and parks. From the pavilion, the public can obtain information on the various activities taking place throughout the NWA. These include:

  • Geocaching
  • Bird Migration Board Game
  • Big Birds Activity
  • Driving Tour
  • Hunting and Angling

Trails

Last Mountain Lake NWA currently has three main hiking trails for visitors, all of different lengths and ecology. A trail guide with numbered stops accompanies each visitors to learn more about the unique nature of each trail. All trails are mowed pathways, and although not completely flat, they are relatively even surfaces on which to walk. They include:

  • Shore-to-Sky trail: Located next to the Interpretive Pavilion, this trail offers a 30 minute hike along the shoreline (15 minutes if walking at a brisk pace), and ends at the new observation tower.
  • Grasslands trail: Drive into the Migratory Bird Sanctuary to complete the hour long walk through the beautiful prairie grasslands overlooking the lake. Washrooms are available at the trailhead.
  • Wetland Trail: Drive to the confluence of Lanigan and Saline Creeks and hike to explore the wetlands and waterways of this area. Washrooms are available at the trailhead. Please note that the boardwalk is closed as it is being relocated, but we must wait for the pond to dry before completing the process.

Public facilities

  • Interpretive Pavilion
  • Washrooms
  • Picnic and Day-Use Area
  • Parking

Booking events

At Last Mountain Lake National Wildlife Area, staff availability for guided activities and tours is limited. If you would like to book an activity, please contact us in advance to explore the options available. Some of these options include:

  • Guided Hikes and Birdwatching
  • Pond Dipping
  • Owl Pellet Dissection
  • Wide-area Games

It is understood that Last Mountain Lake NWA is a fair distance from any major urban centers, which is why we offer a variety of travelling activities, including our Mobile Museum. This is a 14-foot trailer containing several exhibits showcasing the work we do at the NWA and the wildlife that resides there.

To engage the public, Last Mountain Lake NWA holds several events throughout the year. Some of these include:

Special location notes

  • There may be biting insects during the summer season. This includes ticks and mosquitos, so make sure to wear full-length pants and shoes, and bring insect-repellent.
  • Weather in the summer can be extremely hot, and there are limited places with shade. Please make sure to bring sunscreen and plenty of water.
  • Camping is prohibited at all times.
  • Certain parts of the NWA are used for hunting in the fall, please check with the office.
  • No food service is available on site.
  • Please remain on the trails. Not only will this reduce the chance of contact with ticks, it protects wildlife from being disturbed.
  • Please do not damage, destroy, or remove plants.
  • Due to the remote nature of our location, gas stations are limited in the area, fill your tank before you come.
  • All roads leading into the NWA are gravel.
  • Dogs are allowed, but it is mandatory that they be kept on a leash.
  • Trails are inhabited by gophers and the occasional badger. Please be wary of holes along the trails.
  • Coyotes reside here, so exercise caution in the area.

Directions

The Administration Building and Interpretive Pavilion are both located at the main access point south of Highway 15.

From Regina and Saskatoon

Take Highway 2 to Highway 15. Go east on Highway 15 for 14.4 kilometers where you will see a sign for Wildlife Road. Turn south (right) and travel 9.6 km to the headquarters office. 

GPS: 51.416929, -105.239036.

More information on access and permitting for Last Mountain Lake NWA can be obtained by contacting the Environment and Climate Change Canada office at LML NWA.

Map of the area

Map of Last Mountain Lake NWA
Last Mountain Lake NWA
Long description 

This map shows the region around Last Mountain Lake in southern Saskatchewan. The boundaries of the Last Mountain Lake NWA and of the Last Mountain Lake Migratory Bird Sanctuary are indicated. The NWA covers almost all land around the northern side of the lake and the Migratory Bird Sanctuary covers the northern portion of the lake. The two sites are superimposed in a few small townships. The scale on the map is in kilometers. Permanent water, intermittent water, roads and highways are all indicated on the map. An inset shows the NWA location in Canada.

This map is for illustrative purposes only. It should note be used to define legal boundaries.

Summary table

Summary table of Last Mountain Lake NWA
Category Information
Protected Area designation NWA
Province/Territory Saskatchewan
Latitude/Longitude 51°22' North / 105°12' West
Size 10,906 ha
Reason for creation of protected area To maintain and enhance its wildness; An important breeding ground and migratory stopover for several species of birds, many of which are unique to the prairie region.
Date created (Gazetted) 1994 – Legal Description
International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Management Category IV-Habitat/Species Management Area
Additional designations
Main habitat type
  • Wetland (21%)
  • Grassland (57%)
  • Cultivated land (4%)
  • Hay land (18%)
Listed Species under the Species at Risk Act (SARA)
Invasive species
  • smooth brome grass
  • Kentucky blue grass
  • quack grass
  • toadflax
  • nodding thistle
  • sweet clover
Additional links Birds:

Main threats and challenges
  • Alien invasive plant species
  • gravel extraction
  • human influence
  • habitat fragmentation
Management Agency Environment and Climate Change Canada (Canadian Wildlife Service)
Public access and usage Authorized activities listed in Schedule I.1 of the Wildlife Area Regulations for Last Mountain Lake NWA, include:

  1. Wildlife viewing
  2. Hiking
  3. Operating a vehicle, other than a snowmobile or an all-terrain vehicle, on designated roads and trails and in designated parking areas
  4. Swimming
  5. Non-commercial berry picking
  6. Non-motorized boat launching and boat landing
  7. Non-motorized boating
  8. Cross-country skiing, snowshoeing and skating
  9. Sport hunting — including with dogs off-leash when hunting waterfowl — without a commercial guide, from half an hour before sunrise to half an hour after sunset, if the hunting is carried out
    1. in accordance with any applicable federal permit and any authorization required by the laws of Saskatchewan for sport hunting in that province; and
    2. without the use of toxic shot
  10. Non-commercial sport fishing in designated areas in accordance with any applicable federal permit and any authorization required by the laws of Saskatchewan for sport fishing in that province, during the period beginning on May 15 in one year and ending on March 30 in the following year
  11. Activities referred to in items 1 to 8 and 10 during the hour before sunrise and the hour after sunset, in addition to during the period referred to in subsection 3.1(3)

Note: If there is  law, the law prevails, as it is the legal instrument authorizing the activity.

Contact us

Environment and Climate Change Canada - Prairie Region
Canadian Wildlife Service
Protected Areas Unit
Last Mountain Lake National Wildlife Area and Migratory Bird Sanctuary
Box 280
Simpson, Saskatchewan
S0G 4M0

Local: (306) 836-2022
Toll-free: 1-800-668-6767 (in Canada only)
Email: ec.enviroinfo.ec@canada.ca

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