Photography Spotlight: Avonlea Badlands

Tucked away in the prairies, the flatlands drop down into a sheltered valley of hoodoos, eroded slopes and formations.

The Avonlea Badlands are quite a unique sight as the path through a field opens up to the valley below. The sudden appearance of this valley poses a stark contrast to the surrounding landscape. Avonlea Saskatchewan is located south of Regina and is home to one of the Province’s most unique badlands.

The Avonlea Badlands are located on private land and are only accessible through arranged tours with the Avonlea Heritage Museum. The guides are very accommodating and tour many people through the area at all times of day/night from May to August each year. Tours of the badlands must be prearranged, and a small fee is collected to help off set the costs.

The museum itself is located on Main St. in Avonlea, Saskatchewan. It has a large collection with over 15,000 square feet of displays to enjoy. The museum is an interesting stop, with an early 1900’s train station and several interesting pioneer displays, this is a great place to start your adventure into the badlands.

The badlands are located just a short drive outside of town. After meeting the guide at the museum, you will travel a short distance, and hike approximately 15 mins before reaching the badlands.

I’ve partnered with the museum to host night photography workshops here and these opportunities allow you to explore the badlands to the light of the sparkling stars. As you hike into the valley, the scattering light pollution stays above, allowing for a great opportunity to see the stars and capture the sky!

For anyone wanting to join my next tour into the badlands, join my mailing list to keep updated or visit my workshop page for the most updated information. You can also check back on the Museum’s Photo tours page as more tours are released.

The Avonlea Badlands really are a special place, as you enter the valley with a small group of people, the large area opens up to be explored with no one else around. You get to experience the unique surroundings in a meaningful way as you learn about the geology and archeology of the area from your guide. So if you are looking for a very unique and interesting landscape to explore by day with the added bonus of possible night tours, this is somewhere you want to visit. Let me break down this location into the photography specifics I found worth noting.

Photography Highlights of Avonlea Badlands

One of the main things that makes these Badlands so special is also one of its challenges, the accessibility. Although you have to join an arranged group tour, the ability to explore the badlands without anyone else around is something truly special. Specially for photography sake, you are able to capture the interesting formations and landscapes without unwanted crowds of people blocking the best views.

For night photographers, the lack of light pollution in the valley and lack of people makes this a great place to capture the stars. There is still some spread of light pollution around the rim of the valley, but in contrast to the landscape above, this area allows some great views of the Milky Way and if you are lucky, even the northern lights can be seen from the Avonlea Badlands.

Photography Challenges

One of the obvious challenges of this location is the accessibility of the badlands themselves. Due to being on private land, there are no self guided options available. All photo trips must be coordinated with the Museum and guided by one of their knowledgeable staff. This helps to preserve and protect this special area and to keep it open to the public through museum tours. It is important that you do not attempt to explore the badlands on your own.

The badlands are located about 3km from the parking location. This should be kept in mind when planning hiking clothing, good sturdy shoes and ways to pack your gear in. The hike is easy, on mostly flat terrain, however it is also an active cow pasture with long grass (ticks) and cactus scattered throughout. These are potential hazards to keep in mind.

Where to Stay

While visiting in the summer, the local Dunnet Regional Park provides a great atmosphere to camp. With plenty of tree cover for shade, this park was a great home base for my astrophotography weekend in Avonlea. Local accommodations are also available. Avonlea is located a short drive from Regina or Moose Jaw.

Some basic recommendations for your next photo trip:

  • Camera gear of choice
  • Telephoto lens for wildlife 
  • Wide lens for landscape
  • Tripod & ball head
  • Polarizer / ND filters for effect
  • Sand/ dust camera cover
  • Garmin In Reach Mini
  • Bug Repellent / Tick Repellent & Sunscreen
  • Lots of water
  • Good hiking shoes 
  • Headlamp for night hiking
  • Whistle for safety

The Avonlea Badlands should be on your Saskatchewan Photography Bucket List. The fact that it is on private land and public is able to access it through tours is something I am truly grateful for. I hope people continue to respect the area so that the museum can continue to guide people to see and photograph this special area in the province.

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