I’ve been all around this country but I’ve never spent much time in Manitoba.
I dont’ know if I’ve ever spent more than 36 consecutive hours in that province. I’ve always considered Manitoba as a place to drive through, to get to someplace else.
This summer, though, I finally had the chance to see some of it, when I was sent to Winnipeg for a few days.
From the air, the area around Winnipeg is as flat as a table-top.
This was in late June, when the fields were still fresh and green. Within a month, they would be golden brown.
Winnipeg itself is just west of where the forests of Ontario end. West of the city, it’s all prairie. North and east of Winnipeg, the lakes and trees start again.
South of Winnipeg, is North Dakota (which is as exciting as it sounds).
From the hotel, the city itself is surprisingly green with lots of trees.
But I wasn’t very interested in seeing just buildings and streets. Junior Bear and I wanted to go see the back roads and the farms and prairie grass.
We didnt’ have to drive very far to find some empty roads.
Where I’m from in Ontario, it’s all forests and lakes, so I found it a novelty to see the flat landscapes and endless open sky.
One thing to realize, though, is that while this part of the country is sparsely populated, this is NOT wilderness. Far from it.
Pretty much every square foot of land has been cultivated and plowed under to make room for wheat and canola oil.
This was a relatively recent phenomenon. The prairies only started to get settled in the 1870. Before this, this whole area was mostly virgn tall-grass prairie, which went on for hundreds of miles.
I would have loved to have seen that.
Only a few small patches remain today. Junior and I managed to find one. o
More empty roads.
Again, there is no real wilderness in Southern Manitoba. Everything is a grid-square of farm roads, all mapped out, and all easily accessible by car.
The best you can find with the more “remote” roads, is when the pavement turns to gravel.
We found a grain elevator. Once the icons of the West, you’d find one in every town.
Today, grain elevators have mostly been phased out. But I managed to find one of the few remaining ones just north of the city.
They’re interesting buildings, because you can see them from far, far away. They’re often the highest object within 20 miles.
Unless you count highway off-ramps, which are the biggest “mountains” between here and the Rockies.
I had to see the Red River Floodway. I flew over it many times, but I had to see it first hand.
This is a ditch that was constructed in the 60′s to divert the Red River around Winnipeg in case of flooding.
The Red River is unique because it starts in the south and flows toward the north. During the spring thaw, the snow-melt down south has nowhere to go, because the river up north is still frozen, creating ice-jams and hence the frequent flooding.
This happens so often, they built the flood way to prevent this. It was finished in 1968 and has been used 20 times and has saved Winnipeg billions in flood damage.
It’s quite an impressive engineering feat, especially when seen form the air. The ditch encircles the whole city.
Here is the town of Landmark, which claims to be “The Centre of Canada”.
So of course, I had to take a picture of Junior Bear.
Hooray! We are about as far away from the Atlantic and Pacific oceans as we can get.
And that’s one more interesting location to add to his resume.
Speaking of bodies of water, the amount of significant lakes or swimming holes around Winnipeg is pretty much zero (unless you want to swim with the catfish in the silty brown Red River).
But 90 km to the north, the trees and the lakes start again, and you have Lake Winnipeg and Grand Beach.
This is a damned huge lake (400 km long). Its on the same order of size as the Great Lakes, and Grand Beach is supposed to be one of the top-rated ones in the world.
Though I could tell by the huge parking lots and number of cottages here, that his place is an absolute ZOO in peak season. Highly-rated beach or not, this isn’t the type of place I would find relaxing.
But when I was there on a weeknight before peak season. So I Junior and I had the entire place pretty much to ourselves.
It was a kind of squally day. No rain, but it made for good photos.
On the way home we managed to see a REAL bear.
Then, we left the trees and water and headed south back to the prairies.
It was the longest day of the year. At sunset (around 10:00 PM), I managed to capture the skyline of Winnipeg against the fields.
Nice visit, but I was glad to get Ontario.