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Plan a weekend to visit the agricultural hub at the heart of Manitoba’s breadbasket. Portage La Prairie’s name is derived from the French word meaning ‘to carry a canoe between waterways’, and in this case, it was over la prairie from the Assiniboine River to Lake Manitoba.
Fertile soil, sunny skies, and the winding Assiniboine River define this small city 70 kms west of Winnipeg. Historically, the river was a valuable transportation route, first for Indigenous Peoples and then for European fur traders.
Fort La Reine was established on site in 1738 by La Vérendrye, which still operates as a heritage village and community event hub. An oxbow lake forms an island in the middle of the city, which today is Island Park, a popular gathering place for local families and visitors in all seasons.
Fort La Reine Museum (open seasonally May to October) is a 5-acre heritage village that preserves the area’s early Indigenous and European relations during the fur trade, as well as pioneer life during the railway and agriculture boom. Fort La Reine also hosts year-round events such as a corn maze in fall and horse-drawn sleigh rides and Yuletide market in winter.
For more Portage La Prairie’s history, embark on a self-guided tour of the downtown heritage buildings or follow the heritage interpretive plaques along the walking paths in Island Park.
Take time to breathe in Island Park and Crescent Beach, the city’s outdoor recreation hotspot. This island at the heart of Portage La Prairie is a distinctive geographical feature, formed by a cut-off oxbow of the Assiniboine River. In fall, witness the changing of the leaves along the 5.2 kms of paved, illuminated walking paths; in winter enjoy well-groomed cross country skiing trails and a naturally frozen ice skating path on Crescent Lake.
Two hidden gems for winter outdoor activities are found in the Assiniboine River Valley, a short 50 kms drive southwest of Portage La Prairie. Kids of all ages will love swooshing down the hill, spinning in delight at Valley View Tubing Hill. The groomed run includes a tow rope system and tube rentals.
Bittersweet Cross Country Ski Club features 21 kms of classic trails and 12 kms of skate trails through a hilly, wooded area.
Release some energy at Stride Place, located on Island Park, by splashing around at Shindleman Aquatic Centre, which features Manitoba’s only indoor wave pool, or by cheering on the beloved Portage Terriers to hometown hockey victory at one of the site’s two NHL-regulation sized arenas.
Located 3 kms south of Portage La Prairie in Southport, the Central Plains RecPlex is the perfect place to escape the outdoor elements for a while by climbing the 9-metre rock climbing wall and playing a few rounds of five-pin bowling.
Less than 30 kilometers north Portage La Prairie on the south shore of Lake Manitoba, Delta Marsh and Beach is a must-stop for natural lovers in fall and winter. This extensive wetlands ecosystem is the second largest in North America, and a prime location for watching the fall bird migration and waterfowl hunting.
At Delta Beach, a tiny village of ice fishing shacks pop up on the ice, welcoming visitors to reel in one of the lake’s giant walleye or pike.
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