RED RIVER REASONS
By Bob Turner
I am a relative newcomer to Red River North, having moved to the Selkirk area a year ago.There were a number of reasons why my wife and I decided to retire here: First and foremost was the fact we have family living near Lockport and in north-east Winnipeg. But the second, and almost as important reason was the fact that there is lots to see and do in the region.
We love historic attractions and Red River North has more than its fair share. This became evident when our good friend Gord visited from Calgary last summer. Here is a man who has been all over North America, Australia, and Britain, so he is not easily impressed, but always game to investigate something new. We stopped for a milkshake at Skinners, and he suggested we cross River Road to look at the commemorative monument near the St. Andrews Locks and Dam. Well, the walk led to an hour or so of entertainment and an eye-opening experience for his hosts.
I was aware that the dam is used to regulate water level on the Red River, although I wasn’t aware that it’s the largest dam of this type (Camere style) ever built, and the only one still in existence in the world. Cool, I thought. But friend Gord wasn’t done there. “Ooo Ooo”, he exclaimed. “We can go and watch boats come through the locks!”
“Oh great”, I thought. “At least it’s more exciting than watching automobiles rust.”
Now I have been accused of having the attention span of a two year-old, but I have to admit, I spent the next hour or so watching several family pleasure-crafts come through the locks as per schedule, some heading north and some heading south.
The whole structure – the dam, the locks, and the bridge over them – were completed back in 1910 to allow freighter ships to travel between Winnipeg and areas north. The elevation drop of the Red River, about 13 feet between Middlechurch and Lister Rapids, made it impossible prior to this. In later years, competition from railway and road decreased its importance, but at the time of its construction, the Lockport installation made economic development possible to the north.
The total cost of construction was $3.5 million, paid by the Canadian government. (This, I believe, is about the same amount it costs to build one kilometre of twinned highway today.) The fact that the whole installation is still functioning today is a testament to the quality of construction and the reason it was designated as a Canadian Civil Engineering Historic Site in 1990, in addition to its designation as a National Historic Site.
This is a perfect place for anyone looking to spend a few minutes or a few hours, without spending more than a few dollars (gas unless you cycle, and possibly snacks). There’s something for young and old: while there we saw families watching the flocks of pelicans that gather there to scoop up fish from the river; there are benches to relax on and lots of picnic spots in the two parks next to the dam (provincial on the east side, federal on the west) ;and like us with our friend Gord, there’s watching boats coming through the locks. And of course, I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the fishing. This, after all is catfish country! And pickerel/walleye country! And sauger, yellow perch, and freshwater drum country!
It’s only a 20-minute drive from the Perimeter Highway, and easy to find, so why not check it out? The Dam, Locks, and Bridge, at Lockport. Just one of many reasons to explore Red River North.
In his final report, on April 10thof this year, Rick Mercer summed it up when he said, “If you can’t make the big trips, make the small trips, in your own back yard. I guarantee you it’s awesome.”
In coming months I will explore many more reasons to travel here in your own back yard – Red River Reasons – here in Red River North.