Monday, June 11

La Reata Ranch: A Little Piece of Paradise by Lake Diefenbaker

On the international circuit, the La Reata Ranch is considered one of the crown jewels of the Saskatchewan tourism industry.

Located on the shores of Lake Diefenbaker near Kyle, tucked away in the beautiful Saskatchewan River valley, the operation has been entertaining city folks from across Europe and North America since 1996, thanks to George Gaber and his partners.

“I come from Germany. I came here in 1995 while I was on holidays,” says Gaber. “I went up to the Tisdale area to enjoy a ranch vacation and came south, outside of Swift Current, and spent another week there. I liked both places but the south felt more cowboy country.

“We went out and camped out overnight with the horses down by Swift Current Creek and that really got me. I couldn’t believe it. It was like we know it on Europe, on TV and in the movies. I felt right in it. I decided 'Wow! That is what I want to do!'”

In the rolling hills of the Coteau region, Gaber found his calling. The landscape is a mixture of rolling prairies, open range, canyons, river hills and the sandy beaches of Lake Diefenbaker.

The large ranch property includes nine miles of river frontage. Nature changes its palette with the seasons, from the purple crocus in spring to the pink flowering cactus in summer, to the splendour of golden colours in the fall.
“I packed up and moved to Canada, to Saskatchewan. The old Shaw place it was. Robert Shaw. It came for sale. Then, we built the guest ranch part down by the coulee that drains into Lake Diefenbaker but used to drain in the South Saskatchewan River. It is just a mile east of the main ranch here.

“I learned lots of stuff. I had the experience from back home. I grew up on a ranch and had my own horses—a farm. We had cattle and pigs. I learned from my parents. We built our own herd of cattle. We took some cows over but we expanded over the years. We have about 100 pairs—a cow-calf operation throughout the summer—mostly black Angus.”

Pretty soon, Gaber found himself hitting the travel trade trail. With his native command of German, he was well equipped to attend Equitana, the world’s largest horse show in Germany, which takes place every two years. This led to his first bookings.

“We can accommodate up to 20 people. We run about 23 horses. It started out pretty good, and then September 11th knocked everything back and it was kind of bad then. Now it is finally picking up again.

"The main reason our guests come here is the horseback riding—but it is not toy riding. We take them out on a daily basis to check the cattle. We have to move the cattle. We have to rope them and treat them. The big event of the year is the branding over three days. We round them all up, bring them home, sort them out and count them, and do the authentic branding, rope them and drag them to the fire.”

The guests can get involved and hold the calves and brand them. “We have our own registered brand. It is an L and a bar for La Reata, on the left rib,” Gaber says.
“Most of our guests are from Germany, but also from Austria, Switzerland, the Netherlands, Belgium and France. Now we are getting into the Scandinavian market—Denmark, for instance.”

When asked how people react to him in his adoptive community—given that George is not your typical cowboy—he comes up with the answer you’d expect from a cowboy: “I never had one complaint yet from anyone. The community here accepts me. They really do. There was a huge welcome. All the neighbours are very good to us. They help me out. They like that kind of business. They socialize with us. They are kind-hearted folks.

“I like the lifestyle, being out here, the wide open space, freedom, having people coming out. You meet people from around the world. You make friends. They invite you. They love you. Most of them arrive in late evening so it is dark. It the morning, they see where they are. For them it is just incredible. They feel like crying, especially when they leave—they don’t want to go. They want to move to Canada. They just love it. It makes an incredible impression on them.”
George Gaber has no misgivings about his choices.

For more information, contact:
George Gaber
La Reata Ranch

The Claybank Brick Plant Bunkhouse - an alternative small meeting location near Regina

I have been visiting the Claybank Brick Plant National Historic Site on pleasure outings and on business for years. The renovated old bunkhouse features a cafe and an impressive board room that is available for small meetings to organizations looking for alternative places to meet outside of Regina and Moose Jaw.

It takes about 50-minutes to drive there from either of those two cities, and once there, one sure gets a sense of being away in an isolated setting that is conducive to more productive meetings where meeting participants would perhaps be able to focus more readily on the meeting objectives and tasks.

If time allowed, a visit of this best preserved historic brick plant in North America could be organized at a reasonable cost.

This little known spot set on the edge of the Missouri Coteau deserves to be featured as the facility is quite lovely, and the staff is dedicated to producing authentic experiences that go beyond what one might expect.

For more information about or to book the Claybank Brick Plant Bunkhouse, visit:

Natural History Museums Nurture Local Sense of Place

This Royal Saskatchewan Museum golden eagle diorama has had quite a history. I saw it for the first time in the early 1980s. It struck me then as a vivid illustration of a land that had successfully maintained a definite sense of wilderness in the midst of massive agricultural transformation. In 1990, while the museum was undergoing major renovations, it was hit by fire. This diorama and many others were covered by black soot. The museum was closed to the public for a few months to repair the damage. The community and museum patrons pulled together, and invested in the creation of an even more ambitious set of galleries and displays that eventually yielded a spectacular First Nations Gallery.

Natural history museums play a subtle but critical role in helping shape a destination's brand identify. Their very presence in a community attests to the profound appreciation by its inhabitants of those aspects of life that enrich the local sense of place. Natural history museums highlight cultural capital and natural wealth. They are resource centres, learning opportunities for children, adults and visitors.

They are institutions tasked with the stewardship of artifact collections that researchers and citizens can enjoy in future generations. Perhaps more powerfully than other efforts, they eminently convey that private and public sector organizations are sometimes able to partner to achieve great projects. Perhaps studying what common ground was found among partners that allowed such institutions to be built might provide useful insight for all those who seek more mutually-beneficial partnerships in general.