If you’re looking for a different Manitoba spot to explore this year, consider Steep Rock, located in the Interlake, along Lake Manitoba. My husband and I visited there this summer and found it interesting and well worth a day or two in the area.
Steep Rock, located in the municipality of Grahamdale, is best known for the rocky cliffs that give the spot its name. Be sure to search these out and take a walk along the top. The signage to reach them is a little hard to interpret, but ask locals for help if you need it.
The travel brochure claims that the picturesque cliffs are “one of the most photographed locations in Manitoba.” Sunset is a particularly good time to go, as the bluffs face the setting sun, and several benches are set out so visitors can sit and enjoy the view across Lake Manitoba. A variety of vegetation, including bright-green juniper and many-coloured lichens adds interest to the rocky shore. The limestone cliffs are the remnant of a prehistoric sea bed, moulded by wave action for thousands of years. In a few spots, small caves have been eroded out at their base. If it’s not windy, it’s possible to scramble down the cliffs and wade along the base to explore the caves — but rubber boots or water shoes are necessary. A canoe trip along the cliffs would also be scenic, and canoe rentals are available in season at the town dock and the campground.
Another scenic spot is the old quarry, now water filled and a beautiful turquoise when the sun is shining. A hiking/biking trail several kilometres in length encircles the quarry, where small islands dot the blue water and add to the beauty. Take time to walk at least part of the trail, and listen for loons and gulls.
This quarry produced high-calcium limestone from 1913 to 1992. It was used in the production of Portland cement by the Canada Cement Company in Winnipeg. By 1971 the quarry was about a kilometre wide, a little more than that in length, and about 10 to 12 metres deep. Usually around 15 to 20 people were employed. Stop in the village near the site to see an old locomotive and steam shovel, as well as a plaque commemorating the company’s excellent safety record.
Although that quarry no longer operates, there is another quarry, located southeast of town. Operated by Graymont, it presently has about 30 employees and is blasting down to a 12-metre depth. Tours are sometimes available.
Another stop in town is the Steep Rock Anglican Church which is in Manitoba’s list of historic sites. Beside it is a stone cairn, erected by the Royal Canadian Legion, to commemorate veterans from the two world wars and the Korean War. Not far from the church is a chip and putt golf course visitors might also want to check out.
Steep Rock could be explored in a single day, if you start early, but if you plan to watch the sunset and explore other sights, a couple of days is better. There is a large, popular campground nearby, that is scheduled to remain open until October 15. Camping is also available at Fairford, farther north. Private cottages are sometimes available for rent in Steep Rock, and hotel accommodation is available in Ashern, an hour away.
Summer is the busiest time for tourists, but spring and fall are also popular. In spring, crocuses dot the grass above the cliffs, and red-sided garter snakes emerge from the cracks of the cliffs. Fall means that sunsets are earlier, so that could be an advantage if your visit is just for the day.
If you’re coming from the southeastern part of Manitoba, you can reach Steep Rock via Highway No. 6. (It’s a 2-1/2 hour drive from Winnipeg.) Drive 31 km north of Ashern and then about 20 km west on No. 239.
If you’re coming from the western part of the province, come through the Narrows on No. 68 and connect, via No. 325, to Highway No. 6 at Ashern.