Whiteshell Provincial Park
Whiteshell Provincial Park is one of Manitoba's largest and best known provincial parks. At roughly 2,800 square kilometres in area and stretching from the Winnipeg River in the north to Falcon Lake in the south, from the Ontario border in the east to Seven Sisters Falls in the west, the park is home to hundreds of lakes and thousands of cottages. It is a recreational playground in all seasons.
In the winter, snowmobilers can ride on an extensive network of trails that surround all of the major lakes in the park. Cross-country ski trails are found throughout the park, from Otter Falls in the north to Falcon Lake in the south. Maps of the snowmobile and cross country ski trails can be found at www.manitobaparks.com. West Hawk, Falcon, George, and Lyons lakes, among many others, are also hot spots for ice fishing.
After a 1.5-hour drive east of Winnipeg on the Trans-Canada Highway and just past the slumbering Falcon Lake Golf Course, we pulled into Falcon Lake. The townsite was quiet and with the lake just frozen over, the ice-fishing shacks were still sitting on the shore and what little snowmobiling was going on was confined to the land.
About 15 kilometres from the Falcon Lake townsite, on the south shore of the lake, is Falcon Trails Resort. The resort operates the Falcon Ridge Ski & Recreation Area. We were disappointed that they were not open when we were out there, but we were told they are expecting a December 18th opening day for the ski hill and cross-country trails.
The hill is one of the longest-operating ski facility in Manitoba, first opening in 1959. If you want some variety from the Winnipeg-area ski hills, you should check out Falcon Ridge.
Our next stop was West Hawk Lake, 15 kilometres northeast of Falcon Lake, on Provincial Highway 44. The lake, formed by a meteor strike, is Manitoba's deepest, at 115 metres. Because of its depth and massive volume of water, West Hawk is one of the last lakes in Manitoba to freeze over. It was a shock to drive up to the lake and see it still unfrozen, with a plumes of steam rising from the surface.
This hydrographic anomaly highlighted the fact that even though winter had hit the area like a bulldozer, the winter-activity season in the park was not quite ready to be kicked off.
Newly frozen lakes and streams meant that it wasn't safe yet to open the majority of the vast network of snowmobile and cross country skiing trails for which the park is renowned. Skiers and snowmobilers will have to be content with land-based trails until later in December, when the ice on the lakes is more solid.
With this knowledge in mind, my travel companion and I decided to take it easy and go for a cruise through the park by car. We decided to take a scenic drive to the Caddy lakes area after West Hawk Lake.
After a brief stop at West Hawk Lake, we continued down Highway 44 for three kilometres, until we reached Provincial Road 312. This road runs between Caddy and West Hawk lakes before ending at Ingolf, just outside the park and just inside Ontario.
The trip along this road provides some spectacular sights. Granite rock faces tower above the shoulders of the road and small lakes and streams break through the blanket of forest. About half-way down the road, the Whiteshell River empties into West Hawk Lake. The bridge over the river at this point provides a spectacular view.
We had a relaxing day touring Whiteshell Provincial Park. As the winter season further descends on us, I suggest you head out to the park and check out the many winter recreation options that the Whiteshell provides.
Next weekend, I'm heading out to the last provincial park on my list, Asessippi Provincial Park. I couldn't think of a better way to end my odyssey than with snowboarding at Manitoba's best ski/snowboard area.
Park visited in today's blog: