Located 200 km south of Regina, in one of the driest, most rugged environments in the province, the banks of the Big Muddy Valley are so far apart that its floodplain is 3 km wide in places. Some 60 km in length and up to 160 metres deep, the Big Muddy was part of an ancient glacial melt water channel that carried vast quantities of water southeastward at the end of the last ice age.
– Claude-Jean Harel*
Like so much else in Saskatchewan, Castle Butte changes with the light. I make a point to go at least once a year (though it’s so close to home, I should really go more often), and each trip yields a different experience and a different view of this sandstone monolith. I have heard Castle Butte referred to as the “crown jewel” of the Big Muddy Valley. It’s a stunning landmark, to be sure. And yet the very forces which created it – wind and rain – work ceaselessly to undo their masterpiece. Every year, Castle Butte’s sandstone foundation erodes just a little bit more. Heavy rains are particularly hard on it, and those have not been in short supply the last few years.
Castle Butte is an icon in southern Saskatchewan, but it is certainly not a static one. It changes day by day. It changes its appearance according to light and shadow, and it changes imperceptibly at first, but noticeably over time, as the environment wears it away. In the meantime, it is a “must visit” in Saskatchewan. This last visit, rather than climbing to the top (my boots were not cooperating with the slick mud), I wandered about its perimeter and saw things I’d never noticed before. Sometimes it pays to make poor footwear choices.
All photos copyright Kristin Catherwood. July 1, 2014.