“I wish I had a river I could skate away on, I wish I had a river so long I would teach my feet to fly“. Joni Mitchell immortalized those words and the South Saskatchewan River in the song River in 1970 and 48 years later you can walk in her footsteps along the Joni Mitchell Promenade. The South Saskatchewan River has become more than a waterway used to transport goods and people it is a place to play, learn and become inspired. I did all three during my first visit to the Paris of the Prairies. I started out with a morning walk with friends, played in a children’s water park (never be too old to do that), and ended my journey exploring the Remai Modern art gallery and brunch at Shift. I didn’t skate on the South Saskatchewan River but my feet were itching to fly along the trail.
Starting at the Delta Bessborough, where I am staying, all I have to do is walk out the front door and head to the river. The hotel is surrounded by parkland including the Kiwanis Memorial Park which is home to the Vimy Memorial Band Shell honouring those that fought in Battle of Vimy Ridge during WW1.
But this is just the start of my journey. Heading west along this portion of the Meewasin Trail will take me along the riverfront and under trees. As you can see it is well paved and perfect to cycle, blade, and walk at your leisure.
It doesn’t take long along the trail to find out our first Joni Mitchell plaque. I can just imagine her walking this trail in the 1950’s and 60’s when she was young. Maybe it was on this spot where she was inspired to pen those famous words for her song.
If you tire of walking perhaps you’d like to stop for a little play time or a workout? You can do both along this portion of the trail. The first stop is waterpark that teaches while you play. While running under the water sprinklers you are actually running over the entire South Saskatchewan River in scale.
For a more adult workout, you will find an adult fitness area complete with all-weather equipment along the River Landing portion of the trail. Add a little cardio into your power walk all while enjoying the view of the river.
If exercise or play is not for you then a visit to the Reconciliation Circle may be just the thing. A portion of Victoria Park along the Meewasin Trail has been renamed and has been set aside to honour and acknowledge the First Nations people that have lived in this area for thousands of years. One of many steps in our journey towards Truth and Reconciliation this is the site of many community gathering events.
You will know you are near the area when you see the Zhongshan Ting memorial celebrating the Chinese contribution to the community dating back to the 1800’s.
All of the above is what you can do outside along the South Saskatchewan River and while the newly minted Joni Mitchell Promenade may have a fresh layer of concrete for you to walk on, it has been a source of activity and inspiration for decades.
If you are looking for an indoor adventure along the trail then take a step inside the Remai Modern. One of the great art galleries in Canada it is located on the banks overlooking the South Saskatchewan River and is an architectural treasure that has helped put Saskatoon on the map.
The gallery is anchored by an 8000+ permanent art collection from the Mendel Art Gallery Collection at Remai Modern. It includes works by many famous local, national and internal artists including Candian modernists like Lauren Harris.
The Remai Modern also boasts the largest collection of Pablo Picasso linocuts in the entire world.
The travelling exhibitions along with galleries exhibiting curated shows from the permanent collection mean that no visit to the gallery will ever be the same.
The building itself is a work of art and to wander the halls is be inside and outside art/nature at the same time. Sitting in an alcove overlooking the South Saskatchewan River as light plays on the landscape outside could entertain me for hours.
The Remai Modern is also a place to gather and meet with friends over a glass of wine or a tasty brunch at Shift. A destination restaurant worth visiting even if you are not heading up into the galleries. After our fun walk along the Meewasin Trail and the Joni Mitchell Promenade, it couldn’t have ended better than with an order of Paul’s Pierogi Benedict.
All of this is accessible by foot along the Meewasin Trail. One of the many things that make Saskatoon such a pleasure to visit.
Wake up early, grab a coffee, put Joni Mitchell on your playlist and take a walk in her footsteps along the South Saskatchewan River. You never know you may also be inspired to create a masterpiece.