Return to Narrow Hills: Gem Lakes

Story by Andy Goodson, Photography by Mitch Doll

I have a love-hate relationship with Narrow Hills Provincial Park. Things are tense there ever since camping down McDougal Creek destroyed my ego, but it's really just the five hour drive from Regina that irks me. It seems worthwhile though. The park has some of the most beautiful lakes and hills in Saskatchewan, and there's enough fishing opportunities to keep you busy for a lifetime.

Eager to redeem ourselves from our failed back-country trip, my friends and I decided to return to Narrow Hills in June 2014. Except this time, the only mission we had was to relax and let loose. 

Walking through tall stands of jack pine at the Gem Lake trail. 

Diamond Lake wilderness campsite in Narrow Hills Provincial Park. 

About The Gem Lakes, Narrow Hills Provincial Park

Jade, Opal, Diamond and Sapphire—These are the Gem Lakes, a unique set of deep kettle lakes in northern Saskatchewan. The lakes earn their namesake by their clarity and brilliant display of colour reflected by the water. What makes them unique is that they have absolutely no inlets or outlets, but are fed entirely by underground aquifers. There is a hiking trail connecting each lake and three separate wilderness campsites on Jade, Diamond and Opal Lakes.

The Gems are stocked annually with Saskatchewan's exotic trout species: rainbow, brook, brown, tiger, and splake trout. But they are a challenge to fish in open-water season. The water clarity makes the fish easy to spook and they will head for the depths on bright days. This is a realm preferred by the shrewd fly fisherman. 

It rained on and off for the entire four days we spent at Diamond Lake because we're dumb and camped out here in June again. We did have enough sunny breaks to make the trip an overall success. As naive campers, it was high time we learned how to prepare for bad weather anyway.

Canoeing on Diamond Lake

Lake fishing for trout is not my strong point, but did manage to tangle a tiger trout fingerling out of Jade Lake after a few hours of swatting mosquitoes. Even for such a small fish, it put up a valiant fight. I know this because I was able to see the entire thing play out through the clear water. 

The creeks and rivers this time of year are usually too fast and high to fish properly, but we went on a mission to both Nipekamew and White Gull Creek anyway. As predicted, the current was too strong at White Gull and there was far too much dead fall to make fishing worthwhile. There are deep pools that undoubtedly hold some brookies at the right time of year... In June however, you would probably have more fun floating down on it in an inner tube with a case of Pilsner.

The best part about our Gem Lakes trip was simply the room to relax. There's not too many places I know where you can hike down a path to a campsite with its own fire pit and picnic table next to a pristine lake. Being able to swim, fish or hike whenever you want is hard to beat. 

There's not much else to say about the Gem Lakes. If you're thinking about checking them out, do it. They're worth it.