Many features of the present-day Qu’Appelle river valley landscape were formed during the advance and retreat of the late Wisconsin glacier. Deglaciation began in southern Saskatchewan around 17,000 years ago. By 14,000 years ago the glacier edge was just north of the present day Qu’Appelle Valley. The glacier retreated northward and, by 8,000, years ago the glacier had fully melted.
As the ice sheet retreated, its enormous volume of meltwater formed glacial lakes. These lakes drained by means of large rivers such as the steep-sided, meandering Qu’Appelle River Basin. The Qu’Appelle Valley was carved by the swift movement of glacial melt, making it one of the largest glacial spillways in the province.