Approximately one hour's drive from Winnipeg, Manitoba and located on the edge of the Canadian Shield, lies a unique Manitoba provincial park. Back in the early 1900s Manitobans set out to create the first ever year round hydro electric dam on the Winnipeg River, now referred to as the Old Pinawa Dam. From 1906 until 1951 the power generated at the Old Pinawa Dam was supplied to Winnipeg and it helped Winnipeg grow to become the large city it is today. Even though the Old Pinawa Dam no longer produces power, it still provides enjoyment to many who visit the dam to hike amongst the ruins and to enjoy the stunning views.
When my husband and I arrived at Pinawa Dam Provincial Heritage Park we weren't really sure what to expect. We were greeted by a large parking lot, a picnic area, and a vast field on the edge of a river. My first thoughts were this would make a great spot for a family reunion. To the right we could see some concrete sticking up and a well worn dirt path leading down to a little outdoor museum area. We headed down the trail towards the outdoor museum and were greeted by some gigantic metal parts from the dam that really sent home the message how big and magnificent a hydro electric dam truly is. After viewing the displays we made our way along the path to see the highlight of the park - the gigantic and powerful Pinawa Dam. What a beautiful sight to behold! The combination of old concrete mixed in with greenery and gentle waterfalls flowing through the dam is pretty darn unique, and you can't help but stop and think about how many hours it must have taken to create this dam back in the early 1900s.
The hiking trail makes it's way along the front of the dam and is very well maintained. On one side of you is the dam, and the other a beautiful water view where fishing boats and kayaks seem to conjugate alongside the trickling water stemming from the dam and falls. I can't really blame them for hanging out in their boat right there below the dam, it seems like a perfect spot to cast a line or to float around and enjoy the view and we make a mental note to bring our canoe the next time we visit this park.
The hiking trail is dotted with informative interpretative signs that further explain how and why the Pinawa Dam was created and used and as you hike past the dam and up over the staircase you begin to realize this beautiful trail continues through waterfalls, big rocks and vegetation. It is the perfect spot to stop for photos or for a picnic. We even stumbled upon a small wedding and it certainly is an ideal romantic place to exchange vows and say “I do”.
There are some bridges to guide you over the river and big rocks and around the dam, but one of the best things about this hiking trail is that you can find little detours where you can climb the rocks, almost creating your own little viewing platform to see the dam ruins and the water. Because there are various little trails and rocks to climb, this hiking trail can be as short or as long as you want, and is easily adapted to suit your own specific needs and experience levels. We even saw some very adventurous people in their kayaks surveying the falls and river, plotting out their course of kayaking action. Although that looked like a lot of fun, it is a bit too risky for my taste but I must admit I did enjoy watching them tackle the challenge.
Hiking amongst the dam ruins, climbing the rocks and taking in the picture perfect views around every corner was the perfect way to spend a couple hours with my husband to reconnect with nature. We will defnitely return in the future for some more hiking and exploration. There is no doubt in my mind that Pinawa Dam Provincial Heritage Park is a great way to combine a picnic, hiking and a bit of history into a fun afternoon in rural Manitoba.
For more information on Pinawa Dam Provincial Heritage Park please visit http://www.gov.mb.ca/conservation/parks/popular_parks/eastern/pinawa.html.