My friend Esther suggested we celebrate our autumn birthdays with a walk at The Forks and ride on the Splash Dash boat river tour. I thought maybe the tour company closed up shop at the end of August but they were still open and we had a great time on our little cruise.
Jay, a Winnipeg blues musician was our affable, informative, and interesting boat driver and guide, and we were joined by a delightful family from Ottawa making a dream trip of a lifetime across Canada in their recreational vehicle.
Jay started out by telling us a funny story about how Queen Elizabeth and Prince Philip had gone on a ride on one of the riverboats on a visit to Winnipeg in October of 2002 and it ran out of gas. Her majesty’s boat had to be lashed to another boat and towed back to shore. Apparently, as she climbed out of the boat the Queen commented to her husband, “Well that was interesting.”
These colorful lines helped us see just how low the river has been this year. Normal levels in spring are at the blue mark. The yellow mark shows the height of the water during Winnipeg’s 1950s flood. After that, a floodway was built to protect Winnipeg. It was sarcastically known as Duff’s Ditch because premier Duff Roblin insisted it be built at a cost of $63 million. Some people thought it a foolish waste of money until 1997 when the river’s height reached the red mark. After that, the floodway was expanded.
We passed the Manitoba Legislature and Jay told us all about its special Tyndall stone construction. The Tyndall stone used in many important buildings in Winnipeg contains fossils that may be 450 million years old.
We also heard the story of the Golden boy and its many transatlantic voyages in the hold of a freight ship commandeered to transport troops during World War I.
Jay did a great job of explaining how Louis Riel, whose statue we could see from the river became known as the founder of Manitoba.
We passed under the stunning Provencher Bridge.
Jay pointed out the lovely Indigenous-inspired art on the bridge something many people miss seeing as they walk across it on the Riel Esplanade.
When we drove by the Human Rights Museum Jay told our Ottawa cruise companions that it was the first national museum to be built outside of the Ottawa capital region.
We cruised by the St. Boniface Hospital where I lived as a child.
Jay told us the story of how St. Boniface’s grand basilica cathedral burned in 1968.
We saw this riverside tribute to Tina Fontaine the Indigenous teenage girl whose body was found in the river in 2014. Her death brought public attention to the high number of missing and murdered Indigenous women in Canada and led to the government establishing a national inquiry into the issue.
I learned that this railroad bridge near my Exchange District home is 125 years old.
It started to spatter rain and get a little windy before we were done but that didn’t dampen our enthusiasm.
A cadre of Canada geese helped guide us back to the Forks landing.
As we pulled into the dock I felt like I could have echoed Queen Elizabeth’s words as she exited her riverboat in 2002 and said, “Well, that was interesting.”
The Provencher Bridge
Autumn in the Exchange District of Winnipeg
A Controversial Statue