Little Manitou Lake – Manitou Beach, Saskatchewan - Atlas Obscura

Little Manitou Lake

Manitou Beach, Saskatchewan

This mineral lake known for its healing powers is so buoyant it's been dubbed the "Dead Sea of Canada." 


In the middle of the Canadian prairies, nestled in a glacier-scooped valley, there is a lake ascribed with legendary healing waters that are so buoyant it is near impossible to sink. The Saskatchewan province boasts over 1,000 lakes within its borders, but only one is this unique.

Known as the “Dead Sea of Canada,” Little Manitou Lake has a salinity content five times higher than the ocean, or approximately half that of the Dead Sea in Israel and Jordan. Fed by underground springs, the lake waters are high in sodium, magnesium, and potassium salts, allowing swimmers to float effortlessly.

The mineral-rich content makes the water appear a metallic bronze, and the water has long been said to have curative properties. Locals and visitors have claimed they’ve cured skin conditions, arthritis, and joint pain. The iodine content of the water is claimed to help with thyroid conditions. Natural oils, mineral salts, and mud is harvested from the lake and made into salves, lotions, and masks to sell in store across Canada. 

While mineral spas are hardly rare, Little Manitou Lake boasts a mineral concentration higher than any other spa in Canada and is sometimes called the “Carlsbad of Canada” due to similarities to the famous Czech spa. In the 1930s, the lake was converted to a tourist destination complete with a beach, spa, restaurants, bar, golf, and dance hall. However, the indigenous people knew of the lake’s amazing properties long before then.

The earliest known reports of Little Manitou Lake is told by Dan Kennedy, an Assiniboine man of Montmartre Reserve. Kennedy told the story of a tribe fleeing the smallpox epidemic of 1837. When two members of the tribe became ill, the tribe made camp at the site of the lake to rest. After resting for the night they moved on, leaving the two sick men behind. The men dragged themselves to the edge of the lake to sip the water and bath themselves to cool their fever. After two days of bathing and drinking the water they were cured and caught up with their tribe.

Believing the lake to be a gift from the Great Spirit, medicine men called it “Manitou” or “Lake of Good Spirit.” Indigenous tribes came from as far east as the Great Lakes and as far west as the Rocky Mountains to heal themselves in the legendary waters. The lake was considered so sacred, feuding tribes would lay down their weapons at the water’s edge.

Although there is little scientific evidence regarding the healing or curative properties of Manitou’s water, people continue to visit the lake and make claims of such. In either case, one thing is certain: Little Manitou Lake is unique.  

Know Before You Go

The map coordinates above point to the resort village of Manitou Beach, located on the shores of the lake. There are plenty of spas, places to stay, beaches, parks, and other attractions nearby.

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March 20, 2019

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