In the 1800′s, First nations tribes were being wiped out at an alarming rate by the european settlers. War, disease, and famine were tearing apart an entire civilization. For most of those who came down with smallpox, death followed soon thereafter. However, there were exceptions. According to the local stories, there was once an Assiniboine tribe who had several tribe members come down with smallpox. They somehow came upon Little Manitou Lake, and after drinking and bathing in the healing mineral waters, were completely cured from this disease. Stories eventually spread of this little Saskatchewan wonder. People from all over the country were coming to check it out, it wasn’t long before development began in the area.
Studies were eventually done on the water in Little Manitou Lake. They discovered several things. The water in this lake is 5 times more saline than the ocean, making it almost half as dense as the Dead Sea. In total, the gravity of Little Manitou Lake’s water is 1.06, which allows for some incredibly easy floating, even for you non-swimmers.
On my recent travels throughout Saskatchewan I was driving towards Saskatoon but was being completely thrown off schedule with a sudden rainstorm. The storm had gotten to the point where driving was beginning to get dangerous. It was my intention to check out Little Manitou Lake anyways, but I wasn’t sure exactly for how long, nor what I’d find. As I pulled into town I realized there was enough to see and do in town to warrant taking a half day off driving, and hope for the rain to pass.
Little Manitou Lake, Saskatchewan
I drove through the small town of Watrous (5km from Manitou Beach) & made my way slowly down the hills towards Manitou Beach, one of Saskatchewans oldest and most unique resort towns. As I parked my vehicle, I casually strolled towards the sandy beach. The wind and rain made for thousands of small waves covering the entire lake. Grey skies were all around, yet despite the lack of colour, the area was still beautiful. Foam caused from the crashing waves and salt water algae covered parts of the beach. Despite the cold weather & occasional burst of rain, I removed my shoes and socks and dipped my feet in.
Pins and needles soon forced me to get out of the frigid waters to seek warmth. I figured I could find that up the road so I proceeded to walk. The rain picked up again, and it was then that I realized that my rain jacket wasn’t nearly as waterproof as it was supposed to be. I was soaked to the bone. Thankfully my camera was protected in its bag, but I didn’t have that luxury. I made my way around around a couple bends in the road and then suddenly the rain stopped. As I turned one last bend I saw it. Danceland, Home of the world famous dance floor built on horse hair.
Danceland, Home of the World Famous Dance Floor Built on Horse Hair
I wasn’t sure if they’d be open, but I saw one vehicle parked near the hall and hoped it was one of the owners. I strolled up with camera in hand, and gently pushed the creeking screen door open. It was pretty dark inside the dancehall. Concerned I might be breaking and entering, I warmly called out “Hello?”… Out of the kitchen came both of the owners. Arnold and Millie Strueby introduced themselves and were happy to show me around. Within minutes we were talking about the history of Danceland.
The first dancehall was built in 1919, then rebuilt as “Danceland” in 1928 as one of the first dance floors built on top of horse hair. I was completely lost about this whole Horse Hair shenanigans, thankfully the Strueby’s explained its purpose. Dancers can apparently go for hours without getting sore due to the bounce caused by the horse hair. They say when the dancehall is full you can actually see the floor bounce. Danceland still uses the original 5,000 square foot maple hardwood floor that was installed in 1929.
There has been countless owners throughout its history, and a huge variety of acts have played on stage at Danceland, including Wilf Carter, Don Messer, Bobby Gimby, Mart Kenny, and my personal favourite, the Inkspots. Back in those days it was common to get big names in town. At the time there was nothing like Manitou Beach, and trains were coming in and out of town bringing in loads of people.
Despite its age, Danceland has this jaw dropping feel about it all. You can’t help but stare in amazement at the structure of the building. Everything from the lights, to the beams, to the sheer size of the building, you can’t help but smile. Danceland continues to operate to this day. They’re open year round, with dances on Friday and Saturday, followed by Gospel shows on Sunday. There’s buffets, weddings, social events, you name it! It’s a pretty wild little Saskatchewan gem, and stepping onto that Horse Hair infused floor, you can’t help but want to shake and jive.
I said farewell to the owners who encouraged me to warm up in the Manitou Springs Spa. It was still drizzling outside so I figured “What the hey! Why not?”
The Manitou Springs Spa & Resort
I grabbed my swim trunks from the car and wandered into the Manitou Springs Spa. I decided I’d pass on the swedish stone massages and facials, and just skip right to floating in the mineral rich waters. As I finished changing I realized I probably shouldn’t be creeping about a spa with a camera in hand. I can’t imagine I’d get anything but strange looks from people, and who wants to get kicked out into the rain. I decided it was safer to lock up my gear and just relax.
After a quick shower, I slowly eased myself into the hot and murky lake fed mineral waters. There was maybe 12 other people in the pools, and I was quite visibly the only person below 55. I laughed it off and decided to give this whole floating gig a try. I dunked my entire body, and within micro-seconds I bounced back up. It was like swimming in a new breed of water. I felt alien, light, almost hollow. This 1.06 gravity thing was completely blowing my mind. I spun onto my back and let the water do all the work. Heal me water, heal me good!
What’s in the mineral water?
Grams per Gallon
- Magnesium Sulfate – 308.38
- Magnesium Bicarbonate – 63.42
- Sodium Sulphate – 50.92
- Potassium Sulphate – 116.62
- Sodium Chloride – 1405.60
- Calcium Sulphate – 104.96
- Oxide of Iron & Aluminum – 0.28
- Silica – 0.69
After almost two hours of floating I was a mineral infused prune. I wandered out of the water and decided I had to risk it. I needed a picture. I unlocked my gear, and did a dash. As I entered the pool area with a camera I got one weird glance, but nobody else seemed to notice. I quickly snapped, and realized my camera was fogging up like crazy. I had to hope for the best that one of three photos would look okay.
As I left the Spa I felt like a new man. I was completely relaxed, stress free, and ready to hit the road to continue my journey throughout Saskatchewan. Manitou Beach is one of those strange aging gems in Saskatchewan. It might not be as popular as it was back in the day, but there is still plenty going on in the area. If you’re heading north from Regina to Saskatoon, you’d be crazy not to stop and check it out.
For more information on Manitou Beach check out The Watrous Manitou Website.