Five tips that every ghost town hunter should consider
Every time I find myself out in the middle of nowhere Saskatchewan I ask myself this question: “What the fuck am I doing with my life?”
If you asked me this question ten years ago, I wouldn’t have said: single, nearly 30, still in university and regretfully turning into my parents. You see, mom and dad had a roadside antique store for over 15 years in the interior of British Columbia. My parents have hoarding tendencies and through them I learned how to read stamps on china, I learned the tricks to garage sale-ing, and I have developed this quirk where I am fascinated with history and I need to explore and travel to the less populated areas in search for treasures. I moved to Saskatchewan five years ago and immediately started a bucket list of things I had to see while living here. So when my best friend moved from Vancouver, BC to Shaunavon, SK this fall, I was ecstatic because this meant I would finally make the time to explore the southwest corner of this province.
Robsart is the ghost town in Saskatchewan. It is well known in the community and a good starting point if you are just beginning to explore. It’s easy to find (located off Highway 13 and clearly marked) and it delivers. The main street has interesting buildings and has a handful of abandoned houses. It’s prairie picturesque and is way less creepy than Bounty, SK.
There are, however, a few residents still living in the town so be respectful if you go.
After exploring Robsart, SK we made our way to Maple Creek to scour the thrift store and to eat some local deep-fry. We looped through Swift Current and made our way south on Highway 19. This was a fairly remote drive (make sure you have a reliable vehicle), but we drove through some interesting places such as Neidpath. I wanted to check out the ghost town of St. Boswell’s, but not surprisingly we made a wrong turn. It was worth the detour because we got to see a herd of deer run through a graveyard as the sun was setting and we also saw a set of prairie vultures. This is the second time I’ve seen vultures in Saskatchewan – coincidently both times I was lost while trying to find a ghost town.
We eventually found our way out of that grid road hell, but our adventures were cut short due to the lack of daylight. We did stumble across the Saskatchewan gem known as Kincaid, a gorgeous little town with some services left (like a library). However most of the main street was abandoned. This town will now be the focus of my daydreams, until I find a new rural town to replace it with.
Over the years, I’ve learned a few tricks and tips while exploring rural Saskatchewan:
If you are entering buildings you need to be careful. Spring is a bad season to go because the wood can still be wet from the winter months (danger!) and it’s tick season.
Always make sure you have at least half a tank of gas. There is a lack of gas stations around and if there is one, count on it most likely being closed. You might end up in Cabri, SK with no gas (or a card for their cardlock) and being hit on by oil riggers at 6:00 am in the morning.
In old houses, they often have tanks holding water underneath the kitchen floor. So, if the floor isn’t sturdy, there is a chance to fall through into the tank. I have heard of this story happening to a few people.
Always carry extra supplies in your vehicle. Include a blanket and pillow especially if you plan to stay in a rural Saskatchewan hotel. Rooms aren’t $20 for a reason! Also, make sure you have enough car treats. The worst is being lost and treatless.
Buy this book. It doesn’t have a map so make sure you bring your own. Another good tip is to take a tour through some of the towns through Google street view before you head out so you know if it is worth stopping.