An important link to the history of the Miniota area, closed due to flooding four years ago, has been reclaimed.
In no small part that’s thanks to the Birtle Miniota & District Development Corporation (BMDDC) and supporters.
The Silver Bend Revitalization project was spearheaded by Jenny Kuemper, under the direction of the BMDDC. The organization was created by the recent amalgamation of the Birtle and Miniota Community Development Corporations (CDC), and serves all of the Prairie View Municipality (PVM).
“Needing tender loving care after the flood of the Assiniboine River flowing through the valley, we forged ahead cleaning up the trail and purchased new signs/benches, thanks to community support,” Kuemper said. “Generous donations from the Value Shoppe in Birtle and dollars from the prior Miniota CDC, went towards this important cause.”
But restoring the trail, which covers a total distance of 7.8 kilometres, also required a dedicated group of volunteers.
If you haven’t descended into the valley or visited the Wapka Tanka site, both can be reached two km north of Miniota on Highway 83, turning west at the Wapka Tanka/SBT (Silver Bend Trail) signs. This road will take you over the overhead train bridge, known as “Midnight Crossing” – a really great spot to get close to a passing CN train safely – and the trail parking lot is to the right. By turning left, one can reach Wapka Tanka. With the lot size accessible for large rigs, i.e. buses, motorhomes, and campers, large groups and travellers are encouraged to visit and take in the wonderful views.
“When we are referring to the Silver Bend Trail, we can’t do so without mention of Wakpa Tanka, truly a unique site. So much so it’s the only site of its kind in Canada. Translated from Dakota, Wakpa Tanka means great river,” said Kuemper.
“The Wapka Tanka site, erected 10 years or so ago, is home to a beautiful gazebo with interpretive signage overlooking the valley, and painting a rare picture of the Birdtail Sioux First Nations people’s lifestyle, thanks to artifacts being unearthed by the TransCanada pipeline in 1992.”
Prior to the railway being built, the Assiniboine River served as an important link to settlements in its backyard, as it was the primary source of transportation of goods and people.
The paddleboats cruising up and down the river brought in a variety of supplies and settlers to the communities of Miniota and Beulah. The waterway was also used as a food source and played a role in the fur trade as well.
The historic part of the Assiniboine Valley features an old pioneer trail winding along the edge of the valley. You will find historic gravesites and the old Babiuk homestead where a family of 10 was raised in the early 1900s and fantastic views of the valley along the way. From the top of the valley, one will see how the river meanders and has created the oxbow lakes, and scars as the valley floor shifts.
Keeping tabs on people or groups using the trail is very important to the BMDDC, with information readily available at the PVM office in Miniota, by contacting the BMDDC or signing the guest book at the Silver Bend Trail and Wapka Tanka. Any and all donations are appreciated and can be directed to PVM or BMDDC.
“We encourage all users to leave us a signature and the date of their visit, as upon applying for grants, this information is often required to obtain a successful response to an application,” Kuemper said. “Now that the trail is open and being used, it’s easier for us to define it as a historical site, ideally with some degree of historical designation in its future.”
By being directly involved in the revitalization, Kuemper said when defining economic drivers and the attractions that make the area unique, the Silver Bend Trail and the Wakpa Tanka Lookout must not be underestimated.
“By highlighting the relationship between the municipality’s early settlers and Indigenous people, it plays a huge role in our history and in our future, for generations to come.”