I recently had to go to Manitoba for the very first time. My schedule was busy and I didn’t stay there very long, but there was no way I was going to leave the province without at least going out for a hike! I decided to go visit Beaudry Provincial Park west of Winnipeg, as it is located about thirty minutes from the airport, which gave me enough time to go there before catching my plane back home.
I was very excited to visit my very first provincial park in Manitoba, especially since the weather was nice (but a little chilly) on this September morning. From Winnipeg, I followed the Trans-Canada Highway to Headingley, then found the park entrance along a gravel road.
Beaudry Provincial Park encompasses approximately 950 hectares of land near the meandering Assiniboine River. It protects several ecosystems typical of the Canadian Prairies, including a river-bottom forest, wetlands and a tall grass prairie. There are also some hiking trails, as well as snowshoeing and cross-country skiing trails in winter.
Since my time was short before I had to head back to the airport, I decided to follow a loop that would take me through the Wild Grape and Elm trails, before returning via the Prairie trails.
So I began my hike on the Wild Grape Trail, taking a few minutes to enjoy the view on the magnificent Assiniboine River along the way.
In fact, the Wild Grape Trail and the Elm Trail follow the winding course of the river, offering several views of it. The Assiniboine River, originating in Saskatchewan, has had a significant impact on the history and on the ecology of a large part of southern Manitoba. Periodic flooding of the river has allowed the growth of lush vegetation on its banks, such as the river-bottom forest through which I was now hiking.
The forest of Beaudry Provincial Park is said to be home to some of the oldest and largest trees in Manitoba. There are cottonwoods, elms, basswoods, and maples, as well as wild grapes (which give their name to the trail).
The Wild Grape Trail is wide and flat, and was pretty easy to follow. The forest, which was beginning to have some fall colours, was very pretty.
Then I reached a fork and I continued my hike along Elm Trail. That trail too was following the river. In winter, it is possible to cross the river in certain places to follow a path on the other side. In summer, this section is only accessible via a detour by the Trans-Canada Highway. Since I didn’t have a ton of time, I wisely stayed on my side of the river, continuing to follow Elm Trail.
After passing near a shelter, I left the forest and found myself for the first time in front of a tall grass prairie. Wow! As it was my first time visiting a province of the Canadian Prairies, I stayed for a few minutes in front of this landscape which seemed to me to stretch as far as the eye could see.
This type of ecosystem was the one that predominated in the region before the arrival of European settlers. In the 19th century, in just a few decades almost all of the prairies were ploughed under. Today, only a few small plots remain intact.
Efforts to restore the tall grass prairie ecosystem began in the 1990s at Beaudry Provincial Park. Since it can take generations for native plants to reappear, prairie restoration is still underway at the provincial park, but I was particularly happy to be able to walk there and see its flora up close.
The trail I followed (at this point I was no longer sure if I was still on Elm Trail) eventually took me back to the park’s parking lot. In all, I covered a little more than five kilometres and left with my head full of images of the wide prairie and of the beautiful Assiniboine River.
This was my first visit to Manitoba, but I already know it won’t be my last!