10-Jul-2001 -- After completing our first confluence of the day -
52°N 105°W - we headed west along Highway 16 (also called the Yellowhead Highway, stretching from Winnipeg, Manitoba to the Pacific port of Prince Rupert, British Columbia). We were driving towards the town of Elstow and the second of three confluences we hoped to find today. On the way we saw several potash mines. We've included a photo of one of them. Potash is a nutrient essential for plant growth so most of it is used in fertilizers. Massive reserves of potash lie at depths greater than 1000 meters beneath much of southern Saskatchewan and account for 25% of the world's production. The mine in the photograph is 18 km from this confluence but there was another one just 4 km away.
As we drove along a grid road to take the potash mine photo we disturbed two badgers that were scurrying along the side of the road. The shy one ran off into tall grass in the ditch but one kept stopping to stare at us as if to scold us for disturbing the peace. The only other wild life we saw were gophers and birds - red winged black birds, gulls, ducks, crows and ravens. There were numerous hawks sitting on poles or fence posts while others were soaring overhead on the prairie breezes.
Back on the highway, we soon turned north onto a grid road 2 km east of Elstow. A drive 1.3 km. north and 275 meters east on another grid road brought us close to the confluence. Leaving our dog Max in the van we walked carefully through the crop for 190 meters to the spot. After taking the pictures in each direction and the GPS reading we headed back to the van to pose for pictures in the middle of the grid road.
Searching the area for photo opportunities we saw several boxes dotting the field 1.5 km east of the confluence. Some had colourful "tents" covering them. Looking through binoculars, Alan observed what looked like bees buzzing around and flying into the bottoms of the four hanging apparatuses in each box. We discovered later that these are shelters for leafcutting bees that pollinate alfalfa crops. Carolyn walked across the drought ridden, dry field to take photos of the boxes dotting the landscape. On the way back to the highway, about 700 meters south of the confluence, we stopped to take pictures of a dried up lake bed. The natural salt residue of the lake bed can be seen blowing up in clouds in the prairie breezes and rolling across the landscape. There was a distinct smell of sulphur in the air at the confluence probably caused by this blowing natural salt.
Back on Highway 16 we drove west towards the city of Saskatoon and our third confluence of the day,