There aren’t many large cities on the Canadian prairies, and these are often separated by hundreds of miles. While far from large, with less than 35,000 residents, Moose Jaw is the 4th largest city in Saskatchewan. When driving across the TransCanada highway, Moose Jaw can provide a pleasant stop and diversion as it’s about half way between Winnipeg and Calgary.
On my last drive across Saskatchewan, I spent a half day in Moose Jaw. The city has more than 50 interesting murals which provide a glimpse of the city’s history, which I’ve shared in a prior blog on TravelGumbo. I spotted most of these while wandering around the historic core of the city and that’s what the focus of this blog is.
There are a lot of interesting older buildings in the historic downtown section of Moose Jaw, one of the nicest being the CPR train terminal. CPR choose this city as a major terminal because it provided a reliable source of fresh water from which to resupply it’s steam locomotives. The train station now is filled with small shops and no longer services rail passengers.
The city is surprisingly proud of it’s connection to American gangster, Al Capone. Capone apparently visited the city in the 1920s. While no photos of that visit are known to exist, a few first hand witness accounts described meeting him in Moose Jaw. So it’s likely that he scouted out the town as part of his alcohol smuggling operations and kept a low profile while doing so.
Tunnels of Moose Jaw also bring back memories of the old days of alcohol smuggling during American prohibition. The tunnels were first constructed over a hundred years ago and connected many of the buildings in downtown Moose Jaw. The tunnels were initially built for an underground steam system, but were later used to hide Chinese railway workers (who were avoiding government taxes and racists). During Prohibition, then tunnels provided a safe space to store hard liquor which was then shipped to the USA via railroad. The tunnels were also used for gambling and prostitution.
Moose Jaw hosts a NATO flight training school, and is home to the very popular Snowbirds, a military aerobatic air show similar to the USA’s Blue Angels. If you’re lucky, the Snowbirds may be performing in Moose Jaw during your visit and it’s definitely worth seeing. Moose Jaw also has a casino and geothermal spa, both popular with travelers.
Below are a few more sights taken while I rambled around the city’s downtown area:
(Click on thumbnails to enlarge, and right click to advance slideshow)