If the general economy and price of gas are keeping you closer to home this summer, why not try camping in Manitoba? We have a large number of provincial parks, and the cost of camping is not prohibitive, especially since the government has eliminated park entry fees in our province this year. If you’re used to visiting parks in the south and east, why not try one a little farther west?
One of our western parks is Asessippi, north of Russell. Approximately 23 square kilometres in size, the park’s focal point is Lake of the Prairies, formed by a long dam where the Shell River joins the Assiniboine Valley. The lake is long, stretching back into Saskatchewan, but the southern three kilometres are part of Asessippi Provincial Park. This area is well known for its walleye fishing, although pike, perch and carp are also caught. (Last year, my son caught a 31.5-inch master angler carp!) Boats need to be put into the water near the dam, but campers can leave them overnight at the campground pier. Be sure to check the catch limits for this lake when you buy your fishing licence.
The campground has about 100 sites, both basic and electrical, as well as two large group-camping areas and a large overflow section. One new feature in the campground is the six yurts, available for rent at a nominal price. Other facilities include a miniature golf course and a concession booth where lunches and a few camping supplies are sold. The beach is below the concession booth, down a set of switchback stairs that children are sure to love.
Several self-guided hiking and biking trails are available and visitors often see wildlife along them. On most visits we’ve seen rabbits, squirrels and deer, and last year we caught sight of a black bear on the far side of the lake. In the past I’ve enjoyed watching people parasailing behind a fast motorboat, swooping up into the air and soaring down the lake.
Another good fishing area in western Manitoba, and one of our smaller parks, is Rivers Provincial Park, 38 hectares of mixed grass prairie on the shores of Lake Wahtopanah, not far from the town of Rivers. The lake was created by damming the Little Saskatchewan River, and fishermen know it as a good place for pike, walleye and perch, both in the lake and below the dam. Recreational boaters and water skiers also find the long, narrow reservoir to their liking. Again, check the size and number limits before you fish. All the campsites are near the lake (there are close to 50, plus an overflow area, with about 18 sites being seasonal) and there is a good beach for swimming. If you’re visiting for the day, you can use the day-use area and playground facilities, as well as the miniature golf course. There is a good trail for hiking or biking from the park to the town of Rivers, a few kilometres away. One other trail takes you through mixed grass prairie (full of black-eyed Susans, prairie lilies and wild roses in season) while other trails take you across the dam or on the lower side of it. The view from the dam is a scenic one; you can see up the lake and down the deep valley below. If you’re lucky enough to be there when a train crosses the trestle, you have a lovely photo op.
If either of these two parks is new to you, why not try a day or two there – or a week – for a change in scenery? For more information call 1-888-482-2267 or check the Internet at www.gov.mb.ca/conservation/parks/.
– Donna Gamache writes from MacGregor, Manitoba