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Floodway gates a site worth seeing
Having out-of-town guests gives us the chance to check out some of Winnipeg’s more notable events and hotspots for the first time or revisit them after a long absence.
There are the "high on the list of what to do in Winnipeg" outings such as going to the Winnipeg Symphony, Manitoba Chamber Orchestra, the current exhibit at the WAG, The Forks, Assiniboine Park with its zoo, open spaces and art galleries with the only known painting of Winnie the Pooh, the Exchange District, Folklorama, the St. Boniface Museum...
The list could go on and on depending on the time of year.
But if you want to go off the beaten path, the place our guests from as far afield as Australia, England, and the northern U.S. have enjoyed is the drive to St. Norbert to view the Red River Floodway gates.
It doesn’t sound like a "Rah! Rah!" kind of outing, but it is. If you are versed in some knowledge about the floodway, you likely already know it’s a place where our history comes alive.
Without a doubt the best time to go is in the spring if the gates are raised from the river bed, and before traffic becomes restricted to the site.
On the south side of the bridge, the water is placid with a few minor ice floes drifting along. The entrance to the floodway, where the water begins its flow around the city for 47 kilometres, is visible.
By contrast, on the north side of the gates, the water is roiling and makes a thundering noise.
Along the edge of the river on the tumultuous side, pelicans bob and twist. It is not unusual to see a dozen or more of them.
Premier Duff Roblin backed the building of the floodway despite opposition. Over the years it has become known as Duff’s Ditch.
Today his government’s foresight is praised by Winnipeg residents. Started in 1962 and completed in 1968, Duff’s Ditch was finished ahead of time and under budget.
When the Red River Floodway was constructed, it was the second largest earth-moving project in the world. Only the Panama Canal was bigger.
Since its completion, billions of dollars in property damage have been averted in Winnipeg.
Because the 1997 flood taxed the floodway to the max, the channel was widened between 2005 and 2010.
Notwithstanding the floods of 1950 and 1997, the largest recorded flood of the Red River is still the one of 1826.
In 2008, the International Association of Macro Engineering Societies recognized the floodway as "one of the 16 engineering achievements that shaped the world since biblical times."
Take yourself, family, friends and visitors to see the entrance gates to one of the engineering marvels of the world.
Go for it!
Jeannette Timmerman is a Richmond West-based writer.
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