Planning a Getaway? 6 Kid-Friendly Activities to Do in Manitoba This Summer

By David Janeson

It’s never too early to begin planning your summer getaway. Here’s a look at six kid-friendly excursions and activities that won’t break your budget this summer, and what you need to know to make them successful.

1. Experience Upper Fort Garry

The confluence of the Red and Assiniboine Rivers is arguably the most significant historical site in Manitoba, at least during the 150 years since the Canadian Confederation’s official founding. Here sits Upper Fort Garry Heritage Park, where residents of a wild frontier region made the fateful choice to join Canada. Learn about their choice, and the complex sociopolitical forces that drove them to make it.

2. Discover Your Inner Kid at the Manitoba Children’s Museum

Need a break from the sun and humidity? Duck inside and discover your inner kid at the Manitoba Children’s Museum, one of Canada’s foremost all-ages museums.

“No matter how old your kids are, they’ll find something to enjoy amid the constantly changing exhibitions and permanent collections here.” — David Janeson

 

Budget at least four hours of your time, as you never know what you’ll get up to here.

3. Spend a Weekend Exploring Riding Mountain

Rising hundreds of meters above the surrounding prairies, Riding Mountain National Park is an accessible wilderness just a few hours from Winnipeg proper. You could easily spend a week wandering the more than 400 kilometers of well-maintained hiking and multi-use trails here, but a couple days of camping works just fine too. One of the highlights is the Manitoba Escarpment, a popular mountain biking destination.

4. Lose Yourself in Assiniboine Park

Back in Winnipeg, Assiniboine Park is the crown jewel of the city’s much-touted park system. Spend a day picnicking on its expansive lawns, exploring its wooded recesses, and admiring the handiwork of world-class artists at Leo Mol Sculpture Garden. The 80-acre zoo is a must-visit, too.

5. Step Back in Time on Hecla Island

Head up to our corner of Manitoba and step back in time. Hecla is just two hours north of Winnipeg by road, but it might as well be on a different planet. Don’t miss Hecla Village, a well-preserved ode to the hardy Icelanders who made their homes here a century ago.

6. Visit the Old Country, Without the Price Tag

Keep the Icelandic theme going through August with a visit to Gimli, home of the annual Manitoba Icelandic Festival. This is Canada’s largest celebration of Icelandic heritage and culture, and it’s fitting that it takes place in the province that’s home to more than one in three Canadians of Icelandic descent.

Book Early, Book Often

Most of the activities listed here lie within a few hours’ drive of Winnipeg, well within reach on a long weekend. Some won’t take more than a day of your time. And nothing here is likely to break your family’s bank, though of course your household budget will dictate what you are and aren’t able to accomplish.

Bottom line: you can easily fit all the activities on this list, and more, into your summer getaway plans. Avoid disappointment, and guarantee space at the proverbial inn, by booking as soon as you’re able to get the time off. Summer will be here before you know it.

 

David Janeson owns Gull Harbour Marina, a seasonal lakeside resort on beautiful Hecla Island, Manitoba.

 

Under Siege: 5 Things Threatening Lake Winnipeg & the Red River Watershed

By David Janeson

Lake Winnipeg is beautiful. There’s nowhere we’d rather spend our days.

Unfortunately, Lake Winnipeg is under siege by a multitude of environmental threats. So is the entire Lake Winnipeg Basin, a vast catchment area that feeds Lake Winnipeg and waterways further north. All five of these acute threats are worsening as we speak.

1. Agricultural Runoff

The Red River and its tributaries drain a largely agricultural region covering parts of Saskatchewan, Manitoba, Minnesota, and North and South Dakota. Crop types practices vary throughout the area, with pastureland and wheat more common in its western extent and corn and canola prevalent in its eastern reaches.

Unfortunately, modern farming practices don’t vary as much. Exacerbated by aggressive tilling, and longer dry spells, topsoil loss is muddying tributary waterways, choking key water plants and upsetting biological balances. Agricultural pollution affects drinking water supplies, too.

2. Increasing Wastewater Volumes

Soil loss is bad enough; fertilizer pollution is worse still. Excessive fertilizer use affects waterways’ chemical composition, promoting harmful algae blooms that affect beneficial plant and microbe populations. This disruption works its way up the food chain, robbing anglers of prized catches.

3. Invasive Species

Aquatic invasive species are a growing menace in Lake Winnipeg. Ironically, invasive zebra and quagga mussels effectively filter lakewater, improving clarity and color. But they’re devastating for native marine species; they belong in the beautiful lakes and rivers of Eurasia, whence they came.

4. Shorter Winters & Longer Droughts

Climate change is the defining political, social, and economic issue of our time.

 

“Its importance can’t be overstated. And, unsurprisingly, its effects are being felt right here in the Lake Winnipeg watershed, right now.” — David Janeson

 

As winters grow shorter and summer droughts extend into fall, the entire regional ecosystem finds itself under strain. For instance, while it’s nice (for humans) to mothball the winter coat in March, many native plant and animal species require long winters to thrive. Others depend on regular summer rains to replenish their water supplies and ensure an uninterrupted reproductive cycle.

5. Growing Irrigation Demands

By any reasonable standard, the Lake Winnipeg Basin isn’t parched. Depending on where you stand in the southern portion of the basin, you’ll soak up at least 45 centimeters of rain per year (including snow water equivalent). That’s a far cry from the western edge of the Great Plains, in the rain shadow of the Rockies, where you’ll be lucky to see 30 centimeters in a typical year.

Still, modern agriculture requires lots of water, and irrigation demands are rising accordingly throughout the basin. This affects neighboring south-flowing watersheds as well, but it’s more acute in our neck of the woods, where the climate is drier. Again, it’s exacerbated by longer droughts and fleeting snowpack.

Do Your Part!

Are you worried about the long-term health of Lake Winnipeg? You’re in good company. And you don’t need a water management or environmental studies degree to make a difference.

If you live anywhere in the Lake Winnipeg watershed, on either side of the U.S.-Canada border, you can make a meaningful impact simply by resolving to think intentionally about the water you use, the waste you produce, and your lifestyle’s impact on the environment. Let’s roll up our sleeves and be the change we want to see in the world.

 

David Janeson owns Gull Harbour Marina, a seasonal lakeside resort on beautiful Hecla Island, Manitoba.

7 Musts for Your Lake Winnipeg Vacation

By David Janeson

Lake Winnipeg is an amazing body of water: the world’s 10th largest, by most counts. It should come as no surprise that its seemingly endless shores teem with fun recreational opportunities and cultural experiences for the whole family. Here’s a look at seven enduring favorites.

1. Visit Viking Park in Gimli

Viking Park is a must-see on your way up the shore of Lake Winnipeg. It’s relatively new, as this excellent CBC primer explains, but Viking Park has already earned a deserved reputation as one of Canada’s top Nordic-themed destinations. Don’t leave before snapping a selfie with the iconic Viking statue.

2. Stick Around for the Icelandic Festival

If Viking Park has you hooked, head back up to Gimli in early August for the world-famous Icelandic Festival, Canada’s largest celebration of Icelandic heritage. Tens of thousands of people descend on the lakefront village each year to remember the region’s original European settlers and revel in customs preserved across the generations. The best part is, no Icelandic heritage is required to partake.

3. Take a Dinner Cruise

Can’t decide whether to tuck in for dinner or take one last spin around the harbor? You can do both on a dinner cruise at Gull Harbour Marina. There’s nothing quite like viewing a late summer sunset from the deck on calm evening waters, cold beverage in hand. Later in the year, when night comes earlier, you’ll be treated to a breathtaking astronomical display. Constellations, ahoy!

4. Rent a Boat for a Day (or Two)

Prefer to captain your own vessel? Whether you prefer the reassuring grip of a double paddle or the confident roar of a motorboat engine, you’re covered.

 

“Hecla Island is a DIY mariner’s playground. And once you’re out on the water, the sky (or bottom) is truly the limit.” — David Janeson

 

Don’t forget to ask locals to share their favorite fishing spots — if they’ll tell you, that is.

5. Hike Hecla Island

Hecla Island isn’t a world-renowned hiking destination, but don’t let that fool you. Dozens of kilometers of trails crisscross the island, from the leisurely interpretive walk through Hecla Village to the 10-kilometer West Quarry Trail, a great wildlife-viewing opportunity. Don’t forget your hiking boots or snowshoes. (Or both, depending on the season.)

6. Spend an Endless Summer Evening at Sunset Beach

They don’t call it Sunset Beach for nothing. Stretching along the northwestern shore of Hecla Island, on the far side of Gull Harbour, this strip of sand is one of the best places to watch the sun set in the entire province.

In June and July, you can enjoy a leisurely dinner and make it to the beach with plenty of time to spare before the show starts. Once the stars make their appearance, it’s a whole new world. If you can find an open camping site, you’ll surely be tempted to spend the whole night here.

7. Squeeze in a Round of Golf

Few first-time visitors realize that Hecla Island is home to one of Manitoba’s top golf courses: an 18-hole championship course at Lakeview Hecla Resort, not far from Gull Harbour. On long summer days, snagging a prime tee time is rarely a problem. Fore!

What’s your top destination or activity on Lake Winnipeg?

 

David Janeson owns Gull Harbour Marina, a seasonal lakeside resort on beautiful Hecla Island, Manitoba.