Moose Jaw is an easy fifty minute drive from the campground where I stayed, so let’s say about forty minutes from Regina proper. I’m so glad I did the town as a day trip rather than moving on to it with the coach. Those five nights I spent in one location really helped me recoup some energy!
I left for Moose Jaw around quarter to 8, getting into town just before 9, only to learn that the town opens late! Thankfully, I found a coffee shop and was able to kill some time there before 10, when the Tunnels of Moose Jaw ticket office opened.
Moose Jaw’s tunnels are the stuff of legends. Please visit the website to get some more information on their history. They were originally built as a way for steam engineers to easily access the boilers that provided the steam which heated the city, but they soon became the domain of sweatshops and bootlegging. These two topics were the subject of the tours available.
The first tour I went on took me on a Chinese immigrant’s journey upon arrival in Canada at the turn of the 19th century. The Chinese immigrant experience at that time is a true black mark on Canadian history. The tour very effectively conveys the exploitation and degradation these immigrants were subject to. There wasn’t a dry eye in the group when we got back to the surface.
The second tour is about Moose Jaw’s connection with Chicago during the Prohibition era. This tour was very entertaining, but was based on conjecture (that Al Capone might have sought refuge at times in Moose Jaw) and didn’t really provide that much historical information other than to set Moose Jaw as being the place for debauchery at the time. It was nice to finish up with that one, but if you can only take one tour, I recommend the Chinese one.
There’s a small heritage museum at the library, which I toured, then I bought a brochure outlining the steps for a self-guided tour of the town. The temperature in Moose Jaw on Tuesday was torrid. I can only compare it to my experience of Las Vegas in June. A real 30 degrees, not a 30 degrees with humidity. I couldn’t keep myself hydrated, so I knew that I was going to be cutting the day short.
Every single street light in downtown Moose Jaw has a voice that in tones: “The WALK light to cross XXX Street is now on. The WALK light to cross XXX Street is now on. The WALK–” It got to be very annoying, especially in the afternoon when I was trying to take photographs of various buildings and the heat was sapping all my patience. It reminded me of the annoying elevator voice at my job that calls out each floor.
There’s an extension on the back of the building for the police station. This addition perfectly matches the style of the old post office.
Moose Jaw came off as a charming, but faded, town. It had a grimy, sun bleached quality to it. Downtown is just a few blocks square and is very walkable. There’s a lovely park called Crescent Park, right in the middle of town, with a casino and spa on its edges. There are a lot of things to do in the environs, so if I’d had more time and had gone to Moose Jaw with the coach for a few days, as I’d initially planned, I would have had plenty to do.
Why ‘Moose Jaw’? The accepted theory is that the town is named after the Moose Jaw river, which has a bend that looks like the jaw of a moose!