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Pelican Watching at the Saskatoon Weir

Home > Saskatoon > Outdoor | Nature | Animals and Wildlife
by Lisa Gulak (subscribe)
Traveller, physical fitness enthusiast, and freelance writer living in the beautiful country of Canada.
Published May 11th 2013
Birding and watching water flow
The arrival of the pelicans signals that the season has changed and summer is here. The pelicans gather at the weir from April to October. The birds, which were once on the endangered species list, have been spotted on the South Saskatchewan river since the 1970s. According to spotters from the Saskatoon Nature Society, "the first official pelican to touch down between the CP Bridge and the weir did so Monday April 15, 2013 at 3:40pm."

pelican, saskatoon, weir,
Pelican bobbing in the rapids at the Saskatoon weir. Photo credit: Lisa Gulak

The American White Pelican is one of the largest birds in North America with a wingspan of up to three metres and the birds weigh between seven and ten kilograms. The birds that visit the weir generally come from the colony at Redberry Lake. The journey for the pelicans from Redberry Lake to the weir is about 140 kilometres. During the winter season, the birds migrate to California, Florida, Mexico, and Guatemala. To learn more about the pelicans, visit the Meewasin website.

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Photo credit: Lisa Gulak

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CP Bridge at the South Saskatchewan River. Photo credit: Lisa Gulak

The weir was created as a make-work project during the 1930s depression years. It was built to help control water levels. Since the construction of Gardiner Dam in 1967, the weir is no longer necessary to regulate water flow. However, it remains a popular sight to watch birds and enjoy the Meewasin Valley trails. A boardwalk and viewing platform provides a safe way to watch the water go over the weir.

weir, saskatoon, river, south, saskatchewan
The weir on the South Saskatchewan river in Saskatoon. Photo credit: Lisa Gulak

However, while it is a pretty sight and the sound of water is relaxing, the weir remains a very dangerous place. The current spins in a circle - like a washing machine - and traps its victims. It is known as a hydraulic jump and can keep a victim or debris submerged indefinitely. Hence, they are sometimes referred to as "death machines". The weir also forms an impassable barrier to boats. There has been talk recently of re-developing the weir and making it safer, but no concrete plans have come forward. If the weir were to be re-developed, it would be interesting to see how the engineers go about removing it.

weir, saskatoon, south, saskatchewan , river, danger
Photo credit: Lisa Gulak

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When: April to October
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