10 icons of Manitoba's North

Posted March 15, 2022 | Author Jillian Recksiedler

North of the 53rd parallel is a region of Manitoba that is as vast as it is diverse. It is where wilderness and culture collide. When planning your visit to northern Manitoba this summer, be sure to visit a few of these icons that help define this remote part of the province.

Pisew Falls, Thompson

Sunset through the rising mist at Pisew Falls.

One of Manitoba’s most accessible and impressive waterfalls, Pisew Falls is located about 75 km south of Thompson in a provincial park set amongst the pine, spruce and tamarack forest. You can hear the falls as soon as you exit your car in the parking lot; just follow your ear down a short boardwalk to two viewing platforms to take in the awesome site. Pisew, which means lynx in Cree, is where the Grass River drops 13 meters, switches directions and plunges through a gorge.

Clearwater Lake, The Pas/OCN

Girl in bathing suit in Clearwater Lake
Woman looing up at the cliffs on a hiking trail in the Clearwater Lake caves

Nestled in Manitoba's north about a 6.5-hour drive northwest of Winnipeg, it can be easy to overlook this diamond in the wild. Once you visit Clearwater Lake, you'll have no problem understanding why it was voted as the best provincial park in the province. With its crystal-clear waters (you can see to depths of up to 30 ft) and tropical blue hue, it's hard to resist the beauty of this spring-fed lake. The Caves - a short 1.5 km hike tucked among rock crevices along the shores of Clearwater Lake - is a hidden oasis teeming with moss-covered rocks, ferns, shrubs and trees.

Beluga whales, Churchill

Close-up of a beluga surrounded by a pod of belugas.
Alex de Vries-Magnifico

Summer in Churchill welcomes droves of a white mammal…but it’s not the one you’re thinking. The western Hudson Bay population of beluga whales is estimated at 58,000, and thousands of those enter the nearby Churchill and Seal estuaries for feeding and breeding. Companies such as Sea North Tours offer beluga viewing day tours by boat as well as kayaking or paddle boarding. Lazy Bear Expeditions offer multi-day, guided packages to experience belugas by a large passenger boat or by getting water level via Beluga AquaGliding™.

Flinty's Boardwalk, Flin Flon

Person walking up stairs along Flinty's Boardwalk in Flin Flon.

For those who have a firm belief that Manitoba is an entirely flat, prairie province, Flin Flon will come as a surprise. Built up on rock outcrop, the landscape of the town can be better seen with a hike along Flinty's Boardwalk. The 4.2 kilometre trek brings you around the perimeter of Ross Lake with spectacular views and interpretive signage that explains how the rock below was formed by volcanic rocks that erupted underwater millions of years ago.

Wekusko Falls, Snow Lake

Wekukso Falls is where the Grass River, which snakes its away across northern Manitoba, drops 12 metres through a series of rapids. There is very short trail leading to one of two suspension bridges that cross the falls at two spots. These bridges not only give an excellent vantage from which to photograph the falls, they also get you close enough to really sense the power of the tumbling Grass River. In sight of the falls are walk-in tenting sites – these may be some of the most beautiful campsites in all of Manitoba. Wekusko Falls Lodge also offers cabins rentals for family fishing adventures.

Polar bears, Churchill

A curious polar bear walks toward the the camera on the tundra near Churchill.

While October and November is considered peak polar bear season in Churchill, there is opportunity to view these northern icons in summer, too. During the warmer months, polar bears are often solitary and low-key—you may spot them on a town and area tour hanging in the rocks along the some of the coastal roads. On Lazy Bear Expeditions' Ultimate Bears and Beluga Summer Adventure a boat tour up the Hudson Bay coast offer the best chance to view bears along the rocks from the water. Churchill Wild offers summer polar bear viewings at two of their fly-in wilderness lodges.

Flintabbatey Flonatin, Flin Flon

Flinatabbetey Flonatin roadside attraction statue in Flin Flon

If there is a single most popular roadside attraction in Manitoba, it might just be Flintabbatey Flonatin in Flin Flon. Known as Flinty to locals, the statue gives a nod to fictional character Josiah Flintabbatey Flonatin of The Sunless City, the town's namesake. Given his fame, take a few photos with Flinty before heading next door to the Flin Flon Station Museum. This charming museum is housed in the former Canadian National Railway Station building and offers a thorough overview of the town's mining history.

Wolf Mural, Thompson

Spirit Way is a curated pathway and biking trail through the heart of Thompson that takes visitors past 16 points of interest, including the iconic 10-storey wolf mural reproduction of a famous Robert Bateman painting. The wolf keeps a watchful eye over this city planted deep in the boreal forest, and its eyes seemingly follow you no matter from which direction you approach it. Stroll the path up to it and take a pic - you'll understand why Thompson earn its moniker ‘the wolf capital of the world.’

Karst Spring, Cranberry Portage

One of the best hikes in the area is on Lake Iskwasum in the gorgeous Grass River Provincial Park, 60 km from Cranberry Portage. The Karst Spring self-guiding trail is located at Iskwasum campground, and is a moderate, 3.2 kilometre hike that takes you through lush greenery and dense forest to a wooden bridge over a powerful underwater spring that gushes out of a sedimentary rock cliff.

Sam Waller Museum, The Pas/OCN

This must-see museum in The Pas is housed in the former historic court house. Today, the museum houses a wide collection of artifacts, knick knacks and curiosities curated from local collector Sam Waller. But beyond being a collector, he was a skilled naturalist, taxidermist, museum curator and a teacher. You'll be impressed by an extensive taxidermy collection, traditional Indigenous dress, and the exhibits verging on the downright curious, such a two-head calf and family of dressed-up fleas. The museum also offers historic walking tours that take visitors into The Pas' past.

Jillian Recksiedler, Travel Manitoba

About The Author

Hi, I'm Jillian, a marketer, communicator, traveller and Manitoba flag waver. Growing up in rural Manitoba during the '80s means I have a penchant for daytrips, maps (the paper kind), and prairie sunsets. I never tire of sharing stories about my home.

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