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Manitoba Parks: From A(sessippi) to Z(ed Lake)

Asessippi

Neil Babaluk 5 minute read Monday, Jan. 3, 2011

This blog is titled Manitoba Parks: A(sessippi) to Z(ed) Lake. I travelled to Zed Lake early on in the journey, but after visits to 75 provincial parks I still had not been to the “A” park from the title, Asessippi Provincial Park. That all changed the weekend before Christmas, when my odyssey to visit all of Manitoba's road-accessible provincial parks came to an end with a trip to Asessippi.

Asessippi Provincial Park was one of Manitoba's first provincial parks, opening in 1964. Located just off Highway 83, between Roblin and Russell at the western edge of the province, the park surrounds Lake of the Prairies.

When the Shellmouth Dam was built on the Assiniboine River in 1972, the lake was created when the river backed up behind the dam. The southern end of the 67 kilometre-long lake is the focal point of the park, however the park also is home to wide, steep valleys that are remnants of ancient glacier-fed Assiniboine and Shell rivers. Today, the flow of these rivers is minute, but their legacy remains in the shape of the landscape.

The drive to Asessippi is long (381 kilometres from Winnipeg), but your efforts to get there will be rewarded in all seasons.

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Winter in the Whiteshell

Neil Babaluk 4 minute read Preview

Winter in the Whiteshell

Neil Babaluk 4 minute read Thursday, Dec. 16, 2010

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.

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Thursday, Dec. 16, 2010

Neil Babaluk for the Winnipeg Free Press
Whiteshell Provincial Park is home to hundreds of lakes and thousands of cottages.

Breaking trail at Birds Hill

Neil Babaluk 4 minute read Preview

Breaking trail at Birds Hill

Neil Babaluk 4 minute read Thursday, Dec. 2, 2010

November's near record snowfall may have been a nightmare for the people in charge of Winnipeg's snow removal program, but it was a lucky break for me.

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Thursday, Dec. 2, 2010

Neil Babaluk for the Winnipeg Free Press
The Cedar Bog Trail loops through a sections of meadows and aspen and oak forest, before descending into a thick, cedar-filled bog. The trail is mostly flat, with a few small hills in the bog section.

Historic Hecla

Neil Babaluk 4 minute read Preview

Historic Hecla

Neil Babaluk 4 minute read Thursday, Nov. 18, 2010

Fall is an interesting time of year for Manitoba's provincial parks. The busy summer season is over and the winter recreation season has yet to start up. Most parks are extremely quiet. Hecla/Grindstone Provincial Park is no exception. The lack of crowds makes this a great time to visit the park.

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Thursday, Nov. 18, 2010

Neil Babaluk for the Winnipeg Free Press
Hecla Island, connected to the mainland by a short causeway that spans a channel of Lake Winnipeg, features a variety of recreation options year-round.

Provincial parks in your backyard

Neil Babaluk 4 minute read Preview

Provincial parks in your backyard

Neil Babaluk 4 minute read Wednesday, Nov. 3, 2010

My journey to visit all of Manitoba's 77 road-accessible provincial parks has taken me thousands of kilometres from Winnipeg to every corner of the province. When people think of provincial parks, they think of a getaway from their urban habitat, so it may surprise most people that Winnipeg is home to several provincial parks. This past weekend, I travelled from one end of Winnipeg to the other to visit three existing parks and the future home of another.

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Wednesday, Nov. 3, 2010

Neil Babaluk for the Winnipeg Free Press
Memorial Park was created as a provincial park in 1962, but there is much more history to the site.

Fall beach weekend

Neil Babaluk 5 minute read Preview

Fall beach weekend

Neil Babaluk 5 minute read Wednesday, Oct. 20, 2010

The beaches were empty and most cottages stood shuttered for the season. The leafless trees provided a stark landscape. The west side of Lake Winnipeg is a different place in the fall. There are very few cottagers remaining and the lakeside towns have mostly closed up shop for the season. Only the locals remain.

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Wednesday, Oct. 20, 2010

Neil Babaluk for the Winnipeg Free Press
Netley Creek Provincial Park sits at the confluence of Netley Creek with the Red River, just south of where the Red empties into Lake Winnipeg.

Walking through the tall grass

Neil Babaluk 3 minute read Preview

Walking through the tall grass

Neil Babaluk 3 minute read Wednesday, Oct. 6, 2010

The end of summer meant time to scale-back the road trips and buckle down for the current school year. There will be no more 13 hours drives and no more camping, but the journey isn't over. Thirteen parks remain (of the original 77) to be explored. After a two week absence, Manitoba Parks: A to Z is back, with this week's stop at Beaudry Provincial Park.

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Wednesday, Oct. 6, 2010

Neil Babaluk for the Winnipeg Free Press
Beaudry Provincial Park follows the meandering Assiniboine River as it cuts through woods filled with towering basswood, cottonwood, and maple trees.

The return of the snakes

Neil Babaluk 4 minute read Preview

The return of the snakes

Neil Babaluk 4 minute read Thursday, Sep. 23, 2010

Red-sided garter snakes travel great distances every fall to return to their winter dens near Narcisse, Manitoba. Tens of thousands of these snakes migrate back to the limestone crevices that serve as winter homes, using what scientists believe are "scent trails" left by snakes travelling ahead. When fall rolls around, the central Interlake is inundated with these migratory snakes.

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Thursday, Sep. 23, 2010

Neil Babaluk / For the Free Press
Norris Lake Provincial Park.

Final northern adventure

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Final northern adventure

Neil Babaluk 5 minute read Thursday, Sep. 16, 2010

The September long weekend marked a major accomplishment for me. I've made it through the most difficult part of my quest, visiting all of northern Manitoba's road-accessible provincial parks. The trip to Bakers Narrows, Grass River, and Clearwater provincial parks, was my third journey north this summer. Like the previous two trips, it was tough to leave and return to Winnipeg.

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Thursday, Sep. 16, 2010

Neil Babaluk for the Winnipeg Free Press
In the early days of the 20th century Athapap, as it’s commonly called, and Bakers Narrows were part of the route for moving copper mined from the Flin Flon area to The Pas, where it was then shipped south by rail.

Mountain Marathon

Neil Babaluk 5 minute read Preview

Mountain Marathon

Neil Babaluk 5 minute read Thursday, Sep. 9, 2010

The sun was shining, there wasn't a cloud in the sky, and the temperature was pushing 30 degrees Celsius. It was a beautiful day in the Porcupine Hills of western Manitoba. The problem was that even though it was a beautiful summer day, we spent most of the day in the car.

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Thursday, Sep. 9, 2010

Neil Babaluk for the Winnipeg Free Press
At 831 metres above sea level, Baldy Mountain is the highest point in Manitoba.

Hiking with ghosts of the Rebellion

Neil Babaluk 4 minute read Preview

Hiking with ghosts of the Rebellion

Neil Babaluk 4 minute read Thursday, Sep. 2, 2010

Manitoba's history came alive last Friday night at St. Norbert Provincial Heritage Park. The park's annual Ghost Hike commemorates the violent events that led up to Manitoba entering into Confederation in 1870.

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Thursday, Sep. 2, 2010

Neil Babaluk for the Winnipeg Free Press
The Bohemier house in St. Norbert Provincial Heritage Park represents homesteads from the post-1870 period.

Cycling along the Red

Neil Babaluk 6 minute read Preview

Cycling along the Red

Neil Babaluk 6 minute read Thursday, Aug. 26, 2010

Who knew the road that I grew up on is a provincial park? I had no clue about this until I began planning the schedule for my travels. River Road in St. Andrews, roughly 15 kilometres north of the Perimeter Highway, is a provincial park that commemorates the history of settlement along the banks of the Red River.

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Thursday, Aug. 26, 2010

Neil Babaluk for the Winnipeg Free Press
St. Andrews Church is the oldest stone church in Western Canada that is still actively in use.

Manipogo!

Neil Babaluk 4 minute read Preview

Manipogo!

Neil Babaluk 4 minute read Wednesday, Aug. 18, 2010

Lake Manitoba teems with fish. Anglers can pull out large numbers of Walleye, Northern Pike, and Yellow Perch. One species of marine life that no one has managed to catch is the elusive Lake Manitoba monster – Manipogo.

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Wednesday, Aug. 18, 2010

Neil Babluk for the Winnipeg Free Press
With the majority of Manipogo sightings happening around Toutes Aides, the Manitoba government decided to name the area’s provincial park after the mythical beast.

Beach Weekend, Volume 2

Neil Babaluk 5 minute read Preview

Beach Weekend, Volume 2

Neil Babaluk 5 minute read Thursday, Aug. 12, 2010

My last trip to northern Manitoba drained my batteries completely. The combination of the seven hour drive to Paint Lake, the additional full day drive to Pisew and Wekusko falls, and the return trip to Winnipeg was exhausting. A busy week at work, combined with helping friends paint their new house and visits to several Folklorama pavilions, compounded my travel fatigue.

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Thursday, Aug. 12, 2010

Neil Babaluk for the Winnipeg Free Press
Patricia Beach offers an alternative to the crowds of Grand Beach: Fewer people, but the same soft, white sand.

Falling in Northern Manitoba

Neil Babaluk 4 minute read Preview

Falling in Northern Manitoba

Neil Babaluk 4 minute read Thursday, Aug. 5, 2010

For hundreds of years the Grass River served as the major “highway” of the north. Cree hunters, followed by European explorers and fur traders, used the Grass River as their primary transportation route across northern Manitoba. It has been many years since roads have replaced the river as the primary artery of the north. The Grass River is now a tourist destination and no longer a route of exploration and commerce.

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Thursday, Aug. 5, 2010

Neil Babaluk for the Winnipeg Free Press
At 13 metres high, Pisew Falls is Manitoba's second-highest waterfall, only one metre shorter than its neighbour, Kwasitchewan Falls.

Beach weekend

Neil Babaluk 4 minute read Preview

Beach weekend

Neil Babaluk 4 minute read Wednesday, Jul. 28, 2010

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.

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Wednesday, Jul. 28, 2010

Neil Babaluk for the Winnipeg Free Press
The lake at St. Malo Provincial Park was created with the damming of the Rat River in 1958, and immediately became a popular swimming spot.

Peaceful Prairies

Neil Babaluk 4 minute read Preview

Peaceful Prairies

Neil Babaluk 4 minute read Wednesday, Jul. 21, 2010

The rolling fields of blazing yellow canola illustrated to us the diversity of Manitoba's landscape. After weeks of visiting the sandy eskers of northern Manitoba, the rocky crags of eastern Manitoba, and the limestone cliffs of the Interlake, the fertile fields of south-western Manitoba provided a contrasting change of scenery.

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Wednesday, Jul. 21, 2010

Neil Babaluk for the Winnipeg Free Press
Seton Provincial Park, located 70 kilometres west of Portage La Prairie, is a place for motor homes to pull off the highway so their drivers can catch some sleep.

Entrance to the Wilderness

Neil Babaluk 5 minute read Preview

Entrance to the Wilderness

Neil Babaluk 5 minute read Thursday, Jul. 15, 2010

Nopiming means "entrance to the wilderness" in Anishinabe. This term couldn't be any more true, when applied to Nopiming Provincial Park.

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Thursday, Jul. 15, 2010

Neil Babaluk for the Winnipeg Free Press
Manigotagan River Provincial Park, July 10, 2010

North of 56

Neil Babaluk 5 minute read Preview

North of 56

Neil Babaluk 5 minute read Wednesday, Jul. 7, 2010

Lynn Lake is roughly 1,090 kilometres northwest of Winnipeg. Let's put that into perspective: That's almost the same distance between Winnipeg and Medicine Hat, Alberta; almost the same distance between Winnipeg and Omaha, Nebraska. It takes about 12 hours of driving through some of the most pristine forests in Canada to arrive at this remote town, built as the result of a 20th century gold and nickel rush. Twelve hours on the road – all within the province of Manitoba.

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Wednesday, Jul. 7, 2010

Neil Babaluk for the Winnipeg Free Press
Paint Lake Provincial Park on July 3, 2010.

Little Haunted House on the Prairie

Neil Babaluk 6 minute read Preview

Little Haunted House on the Prairie

Neil Babaluk 6 minute read Wednesday, Jun. 30, 2010

The wide-open prairie can be a spooky place late at night. I discovered this last weekend, while driving across the lonely stretch of land between Spruce Woods Provincial Park and Brandon. The pale light of the full moon made every cluster of trees seem haunted and gave the mist that hung over the land an unearthly glow.

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Wednesday, Jun. 30, 2010

Neil Babaluk for the Winnipeg Free Press
The Criddle/Vane Homestead. June 26, 2010

Sunshine on the shore of Lake Manitoba

Neil Babaluk 5 minute read Preview

Sunshine on the shore of Lake Manitoba

Neil Babaluk 5 minute read Friday, Jun. 25, 2010

Beautiful sandy beaches, striking limestone cliffs, and the sun shining down – this past weekend’s trip to Manitoba's provincial parks was totally opposite to the previous weekend's.

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Friday, Jun. 25, 2010

Neil Babaluk / For the Free Press
Steep Rock, north of Watchorn Provincial Park.

The Interlake’s remote Saint lakes

Neil Babaluk 5 minute read Preview

The Interlake’s remote Saint lakes

Neil Babaluk 5 minute read Wednesday, Jun. 16, 2010

With 77 provincial parks to visit over the course of the year, not every journey is going to be spectacular. Not every park will offer the majestic rolling hills of Turtle Mountain, the primitive wilderness of Grass River or the shape-shifting sand dunes of Spruce Woods. My recent trip to three parks in the central Interlake region was one of these journeys.

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Wednesday, Jun. 16, 2010

Graeme Nash for the Winnipeg Free Press
Fishers at Lake St. Andrew Provincial Park, June 12, 2010.

The cradle of hydroelectricity

Neil Babaluk 6 minute read Preview

The cradle of hydroelectricity

Neil Babaluk 6 minute read Thursday, Jun. 10, 2010

One hundred and four years ago, the turbulent flow of the Pinawa Channel forever changed the lives of Manitobans. Today, the remnants of the Pinawa Dam remain as a memorial to the birth of hydro electricity in Manitoba.

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Thursday, Jun. 10, 2010

Neil Babaluk for the Winnipeg Free Press
Pinawa Dam ruins, June 5, 2010

Fire and fishing failures

Neil Babaluk 4 minute read Preview

Fire and fishing failures

Neil Babaluk 4 minute read Wednesday, Jun. 2, 2010

I've always taken pride in my camping skills: pitching a tent in the rain - child's play, starting a campfire – no problem, barbequing the perfect steak, a cinch. That was the case up to this weekend, when my friend and I had all sorts of problems getting a fire started. My pride was slightly dented.

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Wednesday, Jun. 2, 2010

Neil Babaluk / For the Winnipeg Free Press
A view of the cottages lining Moose Lake on May 29, 2010.

The journey begins

Neil Babaluk 5 minute read Preview

The journey begins

Neil Babaluk 5 minute read Friday, May. 28, 2010

You know there's something special about the Manitoba wilderness when you're living in a sub-tropical country, but all you can think about is camping in the Whiteshell and hiking in Turtle Mountain.

Those thoughts crossed my mind during the sweltering summer I spent in Taiwan in 2007. As the thermometer pushed 40 degrees -- and swimming in the brown, polluted waters of the Taiwan Strait was not a palatable option -- summer at the lake began to cross my mind. When I got home to Manitoba, I decided to make the most of my summers and get to know my province better at the same time.

Fast forward to 2010. After two summers of working weekends along with sub-par weather, I still hadn't managed to hit the lake as often as I wanted and still hadn't ventured out much further than Grand Beach. I wanted the summer of 2010 to be different. I decided that it was finally time to see Manitoba, from north to south and from east to west.

That's how the idea for this blog was born. If I were going to travel around the province and see the sights, I wanted to go big; to make it a challenge. There are 77 road-accessible provincial parks in Manitoba. I decided to attempt to visit all 77 of these parks this year with a friend -- two “weekend warriors” who want to see what Manitoba provincial parks have to offer.

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Friday, May. 28, 2010

Neil Babaluk for the Winnipeg Free Press
Backcountry pond along the Turtle's Back Summit trail in William Lake Provincial Park on May 23, 2010.

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