Some time early this morning, Winnipeggers should be able to finally catch a glimpse of something they haven't seen since October.
The Assiniboine Riverwalk is expected to finally emerge today from the flood waters that have submerged it since the start of a prolonged flood season that has spanned most of the spring and summer.
As of Friday evening, Winnipeg's rivers had finally dropped to 8.58 feet above the normal winter ice level at the James Avenue monitoring station. The Assiniboine Riverwalk sits at 8.5 feet James, a level that will emerge today if there are no heavy rains.
This level is two feet above what was considered the normal summer river level before southern Manitoba's climate entered into a wet phase that's lasted two decades so far. Since the construction of the walkway, it's been submerged for part of the summer for 16 out of 21 years.
No year has been worse than 2011, however. The last time Winnipeg's rivers were below the walkway level was on March 31, according to City of Winnipeg river data.
At the time, the river walk wasn't visible because of snow and ice. The last date anyone could actually glimpse the maligned walkway was Oct. 28, 2010. But even then, it was covered with silt left behind from a three-week submergence that lasted from late September to mid-October of last year.
And in terms of being easily traversed by people without the benefit of rubber boots or all-terrain bikes, the Assiniboine Riverwalk has not been completely clear of debris since Aug. 31, 2010.
"We haven't seen it in a year," said Paul Jordan, chief operating officer at The Forks. "The last time I remember seeing it was just after the barge festival in September (2010). We never saw it again."
It will likely be mid-September before The Forks will complete the task of clearing silt from the walkway and conduct other repairs that will allow it to be reopened, Jordan said. He said he has no idea how much work will need to be done, given the damage caused by months of river current.
"We haven't done the assessment yet," he said. "I'm hoping we're up and running in a couple of weeks."
Unofficially, the emergence of the walkway marks the belated end of the flood season in Winnipeg. But this city is not alone.
In Fargo, N.D., the Red River finally receded below flood stage earlier this week, according to the U.S. National Weather Service.
6.5 feet James
Historic "normal summer level" for the Red River at the James Avenue monitoring station.
8.5 feet James
Assiniboine Riverwalk level
March 31, 2011
Last date when the Red River was at or below 8.5 feet James. But the Riverwalk was covered by snow and ice at the time.
The Red River is expected to drop to 8.5 feet James. But it will be several weeks before The Forks can clean it up and open it to the public.
Oct. 28, 2010
The last date the Riverwalk was above water and clear of river silt, snow and ice.
Aug. 31, 2010
The last date the Riverwalk was completely free of silt.
Source: City of Winnipeg