Finding Art and Outdoor Adventure in Boissevain

Posted April 29, 2024 | Author Kit Muir

Manitoba can be unpredictable, you’re never sure what you might come across. The weather, the wildlife and the people may surprise and delight you. This is especially true in Boissevain.

Person taking a photo with their phone of the view from the viewing tower of the Turtle's Back Trail.

I was first surprised by Boissevain last summer. I had never visited nor really heard anything about the small community just north of the United States border. But after one visit, I nearly fell in love. The small town charm, the iconic roadside attraction and so much nature to explore so close by were all major selling features for me. So one year later I jumped at the opportunity to go back again and spend more time getting to know this small town.

Lakefront Camping

Our trip to Boissevain started with a night of camping in William Lake Provincial Park. This small park, east of the larger and more well-known Turtle Mountain Provincial Park is well worth the three and a half hour drive from Winnipeg. My partner and I lucked out and were able to book the perfect camping site overlooking the picturesque lake, where we could sit and watch the sky change colour as the sun set.

A person in a kayak on Lake William looking up at a red sun

William Lake

Not-So-Wild Wildlife

In the morning we were up bright and early to take full advantage of the outdoor beauty of the park. Unfortunately the Manitoba weather had other plans – plans for a downpour. But as many Manitobans know, the weather can change quickly. After playing part of a scrabble game (we always bring a travel game when camping), the sky cleared and we were ready to start our hike.

Small travel Scrabble board with eight words on it.
A person walks toward a wooden bridge that crosses a marsh on the Turtle's Back Trail
A wooden hiking sign on the Turtle's Back Trail

Lake William Provincial Park is home to the Turtle’s Back Trail. The 6 km loop lead us up the Turtle’s Back summit to a viewing tower with a spectacular view of southwestern Manitoba. Parts of the trail wind along the edge of the lake, and the steep elevation as you reach the final summit made us feel like we’d really worked for the view.

View from the top of the tower on the Turtle's Back Trail. View is above the tree tops of forested areas, a lake and fields.
A brown cow stands on the middle of a forested trail along the Turtle's Back Trail
A person takes a picture with a phone

There’s also one more feature of the trail worth noting, about half of the hike takes place on community pasture land. Yep, it’s exactly what it sounds like, you’re walking through land whose main residents are cows. When we read the warning that there were “livestock at large” we had a good chuckle to ourselves and thought maybe we’d see a cow wandering slowly through a field as we passed. But here came the next surprise of the day. As we made our way along the trail, through a densely treed area, we heard a rumbling coming from the hillside beside us. We couldn’t see anything through the bushes but could certainly tell there was something large headed toward us. As we stepped cautiously behind a tree, the first of a dozen cows came running out of the bushes ten feet from us. The small herd crossed the trail at a running pace and disappeared again into the bushes on the other side. Not quite the “wildlife” we had expected to see on a hike in Manitoba, but certainly an unforgettable encounter.

The Town of Boissevain

Next, our exciting journey took us into the town of Boissevain. Just 28 kms north of Lake William Provincial Park, Boissevain is a quaint town. The town has a small campground itself with an outdoor pool just nearby if you’d rather camp in the town. For our second night, we traded our camping site in for a room at the cozy Canadian Wilderness Inn. We got a room with a view of the iconic Tommy the Turtle roadside attraction, where we obviously had to stop to get a few photos.

A person stands in front of the roadside attraction Tommy the Turtle, with both arms up, mimicking the stance of the statue
A hand reaches over onion rings, burgers on a table to pick up a french fry.
Two hands hold a burger over a basket of french fries

Before settling in for the night, we got dinner at one of the only restaurants in town open in the afternoons. The Busy B is a classic drive-in, serving up a couple of unique offerings like the Mountain Burger which has both a beef patty and a farmers sausage patty, Poutine Perogies and Fried Pickle Chips.

Art around town

Before leaving Boissevain we wanted to make sure to explore the town. It’s small but surprisingly chock full of public art. Along the two main roads of the town there’s an old grain elevator, a small but beautiful public park and a few of the town’s 17 murals. We embarked on a mural scavenger hunt, a great activity for families with kids or just a couple twenty-somethings wanting to explore the town. The murals tell of the town’s history and its people, while adding colour to local businesses.

A person walks by a mural showing a winter scene of a house, barn and people working with logs.

Boissevain murals

Along the way we stopped at the Boissevain Bakery for doughnuts and cookies for the drive home later. We then made our way to the Arts Park, a volunteer-driven park filled with an abundance of flowers and unique pieces of public art. In the centre of the park is a gazebo with a picnic table, the perfect spot to bring a packed lunch or a lunch to-go from the town’s breakfast and lunch café — the Sawmill. This restaurant serves coffee, tea and specialty drinks along with flatbread pizzas, salads and sandwiches. It also sells a few locally made goods if you’re looking for something to remember the trip by.

Remember to call ahead to check the business hours for the restaurants and shops. Not everything is open late or open at all in the off-season.

Around town

Paddling the Boissevain Reservoir

With Boissevain sufficiently explored, we moved on to the final activity of our trip, kayaking. We brought our own kayaks and set out to find the nearby Boissevain Reservoir. The Reservoir was just 5 minutes outside of Boissevain and, maybe unsurprisingly, it was a bit harder to find than we anticipated. Heading out of Boissevain on Mountain Street, turn right at the first four-way intersection after you’ve left the city limits. Then, turn right again as the road dips. From here you should see the Lorna Smith Nature Preserve area, and just beyond that will be the dock where you can launch your canoe or kayak. (Yes, these are some very country road directions but they should get you there just fine.)

Two kayaks on the rocky shore of the Boissevain reservoir.
A person kayaks in front of reeds in the Boissevain reservoir
Sign for the Lorna Smith Nature Centre

The Boissevain Reservoir is a long, narrow body of water, great for a relaxing paddle. Along the edges of the reservoir, as mentioned above, is Lorna Smith Nature Preserve, land that is filled with natural prairie grasses and wildflowers in the summer and offers a place to rest for migrating birds in the fall. It’s a lovely spot to breathe in nature and to end our trip to the unsurprisingly lovely Boissevain.

Close-up of girl's face on a chilly Winnipeg winter day with fur hood and scarf.

About The Author

Hi! I'm Kit, a Franco-Manitobaine from the Interlake and a champion of the phrase "there's no place like home." If you see me out exploring the province, say hi! Or reach out at

Content Specialist