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287. Chaplin Lake, Chaplin, Saskatchewan

This site of hemispheric importance to shorebirds is located about 1.5 hours west of Regina.

When I learned that just outside of my backyard I could find a quarter to half the world’s Sanderling population along with a variety of threatened species such as Piping Plover, I jumped at the chance to tour the area of Chaplin during spring migration.

Shorebirds flock to Chaplin each year thanks to a nearby salt mine and a once-thriving brine shrimp industry. Many stay to nest, and others stop to fatten up and rest for the next leg of migration. With a bounty of food to choose from, shorebirds saunter the salty shores and shallow waters, feasting on masses of brine shrimp.

The lake is a principal breeding area in the province for the endangered Piping Plover. It’s a special place that makes the chances of seeing one really quite high — I was fortunate to see a few while visiting. If you’ve ever envisioned what shorebird heaven looks like, I’ve found it here. (For instance, in 1994 a shorebird count tallied 110,061 birds!) With hundreds and thousands of birds, a myriad of species from photogenic American Avocet to tiny, wading Wilson’s Phalarope and more can be found in close vicinity. And if there is a shorebird photo that you have always dreamed of taking, you’re almost certain to get it at Chaplin Lake.

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287. Chaplin Lake, Chaplin, Saskatchewan

Directions

Chaplin Lake is Canada’s second-largest saline lake. It’s located approximately 1.5 hours west of Regina, off of Hwy. 1 (the Trans-Canada Highway). From the city, drive 154 kilometers (about 95 miles) west and exit at Chaplin. Take the first left to reach the Chaplin Nature Centre.

Attachments

Downloadable Files

At a Glance

Click on the coordinates below to view location:
50°27’23.80″N 106°39’33.88″W

Habitat

Freshwater marsh, inland saline lake, native grassland, mudflats.

Terrain

Flat. Tours are done by vehicle along a private dirt road. There’s opportunity to exit the vehicle for better viewing.

Birds

More than 180 species. Common: Piping Plover, American Avocet, Red-necked and Wilson’s Phalaropes, Semipalmated Sandpiper, Sanderling, Marbled Godwit, Short- and Long-billed Dowitchers, Ruddy Turnstone, Killdeer, Greater and Lesser Yellowlegs, Solitary, Least, Spotted, and Upland Sandpipers, Willet, Wilson’s Snipe, Black-bellied Plover, American Golden-Plover, Long-billed Curlew, Whimbrel, Hudsonian Godwit, Red Knot, Black-necked Stilt. Rarities: Snowy Plover, Burrowing Owl.

When to go

Spring and summer. Shorebird numbers highest in mid-May. Tours run May 18-August 31.

Amenities

Chaplin Nature Centre offers information on shorebirds, migration, conservation, and history of the brine shrimp and mining industry. Tours are booked through the centre and recent sightings and bird checklists are available. Restrooms and gift shop onsite, and plenty of space to park.

Access

Area managed by Saskatchewan Mining and Minerals, Ducks Unlimited, and the Chaplin Nature Centre. Access is via tours on a private road (only for use by Chaplin Tourism or Saskatchewan Mining and Minerals) or independently along Hwy. 58 (grid road). Tours take visitors in and around the lake in a horseshoe route and cost $10 per person for 30 minutes or $20 per person for two hours.

Tips

Ensure your camera has a lens filter. When windy, fine blowing salt covers everything.

For more info

Chaplin Tourism 
Chaplin Nature Centre, 306-395-2770.

Sites nearby

Reed Lake
20 minutes west of Chaplin in Morse. The fresh water attracts other shorebirds, particularly Stilt Sandpiper. Features a viewing tower.

Besant Park
About 30 minutes east of Chaplin. This almost unknown prairie oasis features an abundance of waterfowl, prairie birds, raptors, flycatchers, warblers, and, if fortunate, Long-billed Curlew.

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Jenn Smith Nelson

Jenn Smith Nelson is a freelance travel writer and photographer who contributes to the Toronto Star, Globe & Mail, and other publications.

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