echo Kevin M Klerk

As the legends tell, a young First Nations brave was canoeing back home when, from the darkness, he heard someone call his name. "Who calls?" he asked the darkness, to which there was no reply. "Qu'appelle?" he tried again, this time in French. This time there came a reply from the hills... "Qu'appelle?" It was his echo. Upon returning home, he found that the beautiful woman he was to marry had died in the night and the final word to pass her lips was his name. That is the story that gave this valley its name. Today, the area is one of southern Saskatchewan's favourite playgrounds. It provides beauty at any time of year, endless valleys and hills and quaint Canadian towns where visitors seek to find a simpler life.

Echo Valley Provincial Park

This is allegedly the site of the First Nations legend that gave the valley its unique name. The park holds two beautiful lakeside beaches along the Pasqua and Echo lakes, but sadly the beaches require a park permit to use. There are countless rolling hills and ravines to hike and a campground for overnight stays. This is where residents of southern Saskatchewan primarily come to play during the warmer months, not only because of the sandy beaches, but because of the number of recreational areas within the park. Visitors canoe the lakes, host barbecues in the picnic areas, play volleyball on the beach and enjoy the park's mini-golf course. Of course, there is always the wise guy who knows of the valley's legend and tries to re-enact it on the echoing hillside.

Fort Qu'appelle

Fort Qu'appelle is often confused with the valley of the same name that surrounds it. This small city of 2,000 sits on a small bit of land between two lakes and is right in the middle of the recreation area for two provincial parks. Due to its close proximity to water, it hosts half a dozen beaches around the city.

In the winter, the town is filled with the roar of snowmobiles and the ice of the lake is littered with ice fishers. The town is small and the people are friendly, and they love their outdoor recreation. The town is busting with shops and amenities and there are a number of First Nations attractions that take advantage of the area's legend.

Mission Ridge

The Mission Ridge Winter Park is a big hit during the colder months. Winter sports enthusiasts go to take to the slopes or hike through the snowy backcountry. There are also around 350 kilometres of snowmobile trails. The park has four lifts to ferry people to the trails and for times when snow is scarce, it has a snow machine that produces the equivalent of 100 inches of snowfall.

There are nine downhill trails in Mission Ridge, the longest of which is the Half-Mile Highway. More seasoned veterans looking for excitement will find it on their Flett's Freefall or the Torpedo Tube trails. For those new to skiing or snowboarding, Mission Ridge also hosts a school.

Qu'appalle Fish Culture Station

Saskatchewan is a favourite fishing destination. The Qu'appelle Fish Culture Station breeds fish to repopulate the lakes of the Saskatchewan. This station assures that Saskatchewan's favourite game fish, the walleye, is topped up each year. During the summer, tours of the station are free and it is always a kick to feed the fish and watch them swarm and splash in the pools.

Beaver Creek Ranch and Horse Centre

In the town of Lumsden, Beaver Creek Ranch is a working cattle ranch and horse training facility offers lessons to eager new riders, as well as hay and sleigh rides and authentic Cowboy Cookouts.

Visitors can take to the trail for scenic horse riding or watch the cowboys break in new horses. They also host the innovative Team Tracker activity that puts a fresh spin on the treasure hunt. Visitors are separated into teams and run from the tracker, who is on horseback, and try to reach the treasure before the tracker overtakes them. The team with the most treasures at the end wins. This is not only a fun pastime for visitors, but an excellent team-building exercise for companies.