Boundary Surveys

Saskatchewan’s boundaries were not all surveyed at the same time. The 49th parallel, claimed by the Hudson’s Bay Company as the southern limit of its territory in the early 18th century, was agreed in principle as the border between British North America and the United States in 1818. However, it was not surveyed until after the purchase of Rupert’s Land (see Rupert’s Land Purchase) in 1869; this survey took place in 1873–74 (see G.M. Dawson), with the Saskatchewan section of the international border extending for 630 km from east to west.

After considerable debate over the number and organization of provinces in the west (see boundaries of saskatchewan), the present-day internal boundaries were designated in 1905 when Saskatchewan became a province. As Alberta and Saskatchewan were both designated as provinces at the same time, the border between them was easily established; it is located along 4th initial meridian at 110°W, and is 1,225 km long.

The eastern border with Manitoba is more complex. Manitoba first became a province in 1870, but was much smaller than today. It was enlarged in 1882, and its western boundary with the adjacent North-West Territories later became part of the Saskatchewan/Manitoba border. This boundary was located along the centre of the road allowance between ranges 29 and 30, west of the prime meridian and intersecting the US border at 101°30’. Because of the use of “correction lines” at the second and every fourth township north of the Canada/US border, this part of the boundary forms a series of north/south segments offset from one another towards the west. In 1905 Saskatchewan’s eastern neighbours were Manitoba in the south and the District of Keewatin (NWT) in the north, the border between them being at approximately 52°47’ N. Before 1930, only sections of that border had been surveyed. In 1912 Manitoba’s borders were extended to the 60th parallel, and in the following years some additional sections were surveyed. The southern, segmented portion of the border extends to the 22nd baseline at 56°20’ N. Northward of this it follows the 2nd meridian (approximately 102°W) to the 60th parallel. This northern section of the Saskatchewan/Manitoba boundary was first surveyed in 1961–62; the remaining border was surveyed or resurveyed between 1961 and 1972.

Saskatchewan’s northern border, some 445 km long, runs along the 60th parallel. Surveying began in December 1954 and was completed in March 1958. On August 15, 1963, a ceremony was held at the junction between Saskatchewan, Manitoba and the Northwest Territories to celebrate completion of both the interprovincial boundary and the survey along the 60th parallel from the Alaska Panhandle to Hudson Bay. An aluminum obelisk, containing letters addressed to government officers in the year 2063, marks the intersection of these borders.

Marilyn Lewry

Further Reading

Nicholson, N.L. 1954. The Boundaries of Canada, its Provinces and Territories. Ottawa: Department of Mines and Technical Surveys.