Fall is one of the best Canadian clichés. Fall with the trees full of colours, yellow, red and orange leaves, the reflections in the water of the lakes, etc etc, I imagine that the image popped in your head quite well! To enjoy fall in Winnipeg, you have to get out of the city a bit. So, we are going to Pinawa.
The Old Pinawa Dam
I had never seen an old dam. This one is located in a Manitoba provincial park, the Old Pinawa Dam Heritage Park, about an hour and a half drive east of Winnipeg. I had no idea what to expect and I purposely didn’t look at pictures to be surprised (and then let’s be honest too, ruins in the depths of Manitoba in Canada, it is not too common on travel blogs, it’s not really in the list of those places that we already have the impression of having seen without ever having been there)
But it’s good to keep some suspense sometimes. And finally, the Old Pinawa Dam reminded me of I have seen in Eastern Europe, in Hungary, in Serbia, all full with semi-ruined Soviet buildings that are still standing in quite a few European capitals. Here, geometric concrete rubs shoulders with all-Canadian nature, and it’s super pretty.
It took me quite a while to figure out what hydro meant, either it was in Canadian English or in French. It’s actually just… hydroelectricity. Some provinces use the many rivers and turn the water into energy. And for all this, we need dams. The Pinawa Dam was the first in Manitoba and was in service from 1906 to 1951.
There is a interpretative trail all around the Old Pinawa Dam, which is not very long but allows you to alternate viewpoints of the dam and the concrete blocks. The panels are quite interesting, some retrace the life of the dam workers a century ago, and the way in which they managed the winter and the frozen water… with a pickaxe. Brrr. More history of the dam is available here.
The Pinawa Suspension Bridge
No need to go to Vancouver to find a suspension bridge, Manitoba also has at least two, in Souris and Pinawa. The Pinawa Suspension Bridge is located about a ten minute drive from the Old Pinawa Dam, but it’s pretty poorly marked. Yet it is on the Trans-Canada Trail: 23,000 km of trails from one end of the country to the other, from coast to coast to coast.
At this point in our walk, everything is fine. And on the other side of the bridge, there are colourful undergrowth and a small lake. Wow, that looks so good, let’s move on.
And there… a snake! Another thing you probably don’t know about Manitoba is that we have the most free-roaming snakes in the world. More than in Australia, more than in the Amazon, more than in any jungle. Just 100 km away from Winnipeg and civilization, there are miles and miles of snake nests that people will happily visit every spring in Narcisse.
I, on the other hand, have snake phobia. And despite all these years of traveling, coming face to face with rats, sharks, spiders, bats, kangaroos, wombats and so on, I had never seen a snake in the wild. And it was not pleasant. It completely petrified me, I remained frozen for what seems like long minutes.
Besides this snake, squirrels and pheasants, we also met a little fearless Bambi. It was better than a snake. Or a bear.
Seven Sisters’ Dam
Third step of the trip, also located in the area around Pinawa: the Seven Sisters Dam. If the Pinawa Old Dam is no longer in service, it is because it has been replaced by another much more powerful and more modern dam. But… OK I had never gone to see a dam or even climbed a dam, which is possible to do here but I did not expect that at all: all the water was contained one side, revealing a lunar and desert landscape on the other. It was beautiful !
Last stop of the afternoon, Whitemouth Falls Provincial Park. Falls? Well, don’t expect Niagara. It’s Manitoba. But it doesn’t matter, it’s still beautiful and this time there were no snakes around! #phew
Next time, I’ll do the loop from Seven Sisters to Whitemouth Falls, as described on All Trails.
I hope you enjoyed visiting Pinawa’s Old Dam and its surroundings with me!
Other Manitoba things to do and see?
– the Canadian Fossil Discovery Center in Morden
– Birds Hill Park
– Nopiming Provincial Park
– Spend a day in Neepawa
– Winter glamping and dog sledding
– 12 things to do less an hour away from Winnipeg
– 10 foods to try in Manitoba
– the Pinawa Old Dam
– a guide of Rural Manitoba Museums
– Lower Fort Garry and the Fur Trade