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Former Delta Marsh Field Station

The area is one of many still dealing with the aftermath of floods

It’s the fifth anniversary since the 2011 flood along Lake Manitoba, and two years since the 2014 flood. The high water may be gone but the effects linger on and will continue to do so for many years. Cottagers and homeowners whose property was destroyed or damaged are affected, and many are still at work removing debris and/or rebuilding. Farmers whose fields and pastures were inundated must continue to deal with litter, decreased land values and lower yields.

One particular place which was destroyed by the floods is the Delta Marsh Field Station, located not far from where the Portage Diversion empties into Lake Manitoba. On a trip to the area this past spring, my husband and I were dismayed to see the destruction at the site, a spot that was once well known for its environmental studies and school visits.

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The Delta Marsh Field Station was established in 1966, on land that had previously been part of the estate of Donald H. Bain, a well-known athlete and businessman from Winnipeg. It operated as a research and teaching facility of the University of Manitoba’s faculty of science, and was based at Mallard Lodge, which had been built by Bain in 1932.

A variety of buildings was constructed over the years, while Mallard Lodge operated as the centre and was also used to house university students doing research there. Other buildings served various functions, some for housing, others for study or analyzing data from the surrounding marsh.

Over the years, the field station became renowned for ecological monitoring in the Delta Marsh — which has been officially designated a “Wetland of International Significance,” a “Heritage Marsh” and an “Important Bird Area.” Researchers worked to study different aspects of the marsh ecosystem, as well as monitoring daily weather and the water quality of Lake Manitoba.

Uprooted trees litter the beach.

Uprooted trees litter the beach.
photo: Gamache Photos

The field station promoted environmental education at all levels, with many school class field trips taken there, adult seminars and conferences being held there and visitors could watch the monitoring of birds during migrations.

By 2010, it was decided to operate the field station only during summer months, as it was considered not financially sustainable on a year-round basis. The 2011 flood put an end to that use as well, and in November of that year, the university closed the station permanently. In 2012 most of the buildings were demolished or hauled away.

Today, the road to the field station has been repaired although it is usually closed to the public. On our visit we could see that the nearby beach still has lovely sand but it is littered with tree carcasses.

The field station site is equally depressing. Mallard Lodge and one other small building remain — owned by the province — but no decision has been made yet about them. Both are in a sad state of repair. The once historic lodge has been undermined by waves, and windows are boarded up. Only foundations of the other buildings remain, some partially buried in sand or barely visible.

If you are interested in the Delta Marsh and efforts to restore it, read Delta: A Prairie Marsh and its People, co-authored by University of Manitoba biology professor, Gordon Goldsborough, and several others. This book, planned and written by a large committee over many years, does offer some hope for the recovery of the marsh, but it appears that the field station is gone forever.

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