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Beach weekend

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St. Malo Provincial Park
Stephenfield Provincial Park

Dark clouds seem to hang over my quest to visit all of Manitoba's road-accessible provincial parks. Every journey that my friends and I made in May, June, and July included at least some rain, more often than not, a lot of rain. Downpours and thunderstorms plagued our trips to Pembina Valley Provincial Park, the Saint Lakes provincial parks, and Spruce Woods Provincial Park. I was beginning to think that this quest was cursed.

Thankfully, as summer has progressed, the rain-filled weekends have disappeared and the mid-summer heat has finally arrived. It's perfect beach weather. With that in mind, this past week's travels focused on lounging in the sun and taking it easy - a relaxing beach weekend.

We headed to two popular provincial parks south of Winnipeg - St. Malo and Stephenfield. Both parks surround reservoirs that are popular with both the beach and the boating crowds. St. Malo was our first stop.

St. Malo Provincial Park is located 75 kilometres south-east of Winnipeg on Highway 59. The park encompasses St. Malo Lake, an artificially created reservoir. The lake was created in 1958, when the Rat River was dammed due to concerns over a shortage of water in the area.

The lake immediately became a popular swimming spot for the locals, and in 1961 the Manitoba government created St. Malo Provincial Park.

St. Malo Lake remains a popular spot to lie on the beach and go for a swim. When we arrived just after noon, the parking lot was already full. Families were barbequing and playing catch in the shaded grove that separates the beach from the parking lot, while several hundred people blanketed the beach and small swimming area.

It was obvious that St. Malo was not the place to get away from the crowds, but that wasn't going to dissuade us because the sun was shining and the temperature was rising.

The beach is may not be as good as some we've visited, but St. Malo is still a great place to head to for a beach day with friends or family. Besides the beach, hiking trails wind through the park's wooded areas and tall grass prairie.

Just outside the park gates is the Our Lady of Lourdes Grotto, a reminder of the French Canadian Roman Catholic influence in the region. The grotto and its accompanying chapel were constructed between 1896 and 1904, by Father Abel Noret and his parishioners.

Father Noret built the grotto because the woods along the Rat River reminded him of the area of the famous Grotto of Lourdes in his native France. Since 1896, parishioners have made an annual pilgrimage from the town of St. Malo to the grotto.

The grotto sits just below the chapel in a small clearing on the banks of the river. A stop here as you leave the park is recommended if you are a history buff or just looking for a spot for some quiet contemplation away from the noisy beach.

 

 

The next stop on our beach weekend was Stephenfield Provincial Park. The park is 21 kilometres west of Carmen on Provincial Road 245.

What I wrote earlier about St. Malo Lake applies to Stephenfield Lake as well: It's a man-made reservoir on the Boyne River, with a small, busy beach. The long, arrow-straight lake is a magnet for boaters and wakeboarders.

Just like at St. Malo, the sun was shining and it was a perfect time for some sun tanning. Stephenfield is quieter than St. Malo or the Lake Winnipeg beaches. I would recommend it if you're more interested in a quiet day of sun and sand.

This week's beach adventure was a huge success. The weather seems to have finally made a 180 and the dog days of summer are here.

It was good to have a relaxing weekend because next week we're heading north again, this time to the region between Thompson and The Pas to explore Pisew Falls, Little Limestone Lake, and Wekusko Falls.

Parks visited in today's post:

 


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