Winnipeg
Canoe Destinations and Access Points

Access Points
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Over the years of organizing open paddles for Paddle Manitoba one of the most common questions from participants has been: "where can I go paddling"? The answer to this question usually starts with me asking even more questions to figure out what kind of paddling, how far, trip interest, and skill level. Usually people that come out to open paddles, and ask about destinations, are looking for easy day trips or just an afternoon paddle. This page was setup for those people interested in a quick local paddle, if you are interested in longer trips or something a little further afield there are a number of other resources available.

Since I live in Winnipeg I have spent some time paddling the local rivers and creeks looking for places to get on and off the water. The following list includes the larger rivers, creeks, and some ponds, in Winnipeg which usually have at least some navigable sections for extended periods each year. The map to the right should be interactive allowing you to zoom into different areas across Winnipeg showing locations that I have stopped at over the years. The points with an arrow are the locations that I have used more often. The approximate distances between the river points has been provided for each river below. It is possible to paddle both up & down stream from most of the put in points that I have identified. Tear drops indicate ponds that I have checked out.

Only a few of the sites have docks or boat ramps, the City Winnipeg maintains a list of dock and boat launch locations on their website with more information. Most of the other sites listed here are just a river bank with some kind of access. In most cases the access is easy with only a short walk. A few of the locations may have more difficult shorelines or river banks to climb down. The shorelines of the rivers, especially the Red, are often muddy making access to the water difficult. Typical of many prairie rivers the levels get lower throughout the summer providing some challenges for late summer and fall outings. This list is certainly not exhaustive and I certainly have not found all of the access points, there are still other locations such as Bun's Creek and Omand's creek along with many retention ponds that can still be paddled at some times of the year.

I visited all of these sites during the summer and fall (August-October) of 2009, not always from a canoe, to confirm there was still access the river from the shore. I have also canoed to or from or past all of these places sometime over the last 30 years. Access to the rivers is surprisingly dynamic depending on the season and water levels. There have also been quite a number of changes over the years due to zoneing or building, the river bed itself has even changed in a few places. I discovered a number of places this fall (2009) that I had used in the past that were now either fenced or marked as private property. A few additional places the river bank had collapsed so it was no longer suitable for reaching the water. On the other hand in my explorations to check old sites I found a number of new ones that I did not know existed.

If you want to get out for a paddle on the rivers, creeks, or ponds around Winnipeg please remember to bring the appropriate safety equipment, wear a PFD, tell someone where and when you are going, and take careful note of the water conditions in light of your skills. Check with the City of Winnipeg River Patrol to see if there are restrictions or notices on use of the river. When heading down to the water please respect private property and remember conditions as well as access might change over time. If you drive remember to check for appropriate parking or your car may be towed or ticketed.

If I have missed your favourite launching spot please let me know so I can check it out and add it to the list.

La Salle River

The headwaters of this little river are found near Portage la Prairie; it meanders across the prairie until it eventually passes through the town of La Salle and finally into the Red River near the floodway control structure south of St. Norbert. At La Barriere park there is a dam and further upstream, near the town of La Salle, there is a large riffle structure both of which keep the water level deep enough for an enjoyable paddle over the summer. Typically the river is slow moving (really a long skinny pond) for much of the summer but don't be fooled after heavy rain and in the spring there can be a considerable current.

Put in locations:

Note: In August-September the low side of the dam near La Barriere park is usually too shallow to paddle.

Distance Between La Salle River Points
La SalleFour Mile RdLa BarriereSt NorbertRed River
La Salle05.29.716.518.4
Four Mile Rd04.511.313.2
La Barriere06.88.7
St Norbert01.9
Red River0

Obstacles:

Further afield:

You can start at Elie and paddle into Winnipeg. Elie to Starbuck is 33km as the river flows. Down stream of the Elie dam, for about 8km, be prepared for many downed trees and toe dabs. The distance between Starbuck and Sanford is ~23km; Sanford to La Salle is about 30km. There are lots of bridges providing alternative egress sites. It is a nice quite little river - further out be prepared for fallen trees blocking the channel of the river. There are several riffle structures (Starbuck/La Salle), a low head dam (between Starbuck and Sanford), and two regular dams (Elie/Sandford). There is very little current except in the spring and after heavy rain. It is possible to paddle further upstream from Elie as well, the dam helps, but the river starts to get pretty small.

Seine River

This beautiful little river, with head waters in the Sandilands south east of Steinbach, runs through the heart of St. Vital and St. Boniface. Later in the summer, except after heavy rains, it is usually too shallow to paddle comfortably but in the spring and early summer it is worth spending some time on this jewel. The river is fairly narrow and even small fallen trees can block the way so be prepared to step out occasionally or bring a hand saw. There are lots of access points, unfortunately it is sometimes a little difficult to distinguish between private and public property, if you are uncertain about the access try a different location. A good source of information on the river within Winnipeg is the Seine River Greenway map created by Save our Seine River Environment Inc.

Put in locations:

Note: Much of the Seine River goes through golf courses. Watch for flying balls and, sometimes, golf clubs. Right before Provencher the river is usually very shallow. For many years there has been a narrow spot with quick currents and a drop just up stream of Gabrielle Roy Park. A little further, past the rail bridge, there was an extensive, and badly needed, remediation project to clean up the old IKO site, the river was closed over the fall of 2009 at this location. The river was opened again in 2010 but it looks a little like a moon scape; a lot of replanting and landscaping has been done so it will be very nice once it fills in.

Distance Between Seine River Points
Prairie
Grove
Creek BendShorehillJohn BruceNiakwaLagimodiere-
Gaboury
Red River
Prairie Grove03.66.28.916.225.726.3
Creek Bend02.65.312.622.122.7
Shorehill02.710.019.520.1
John Bruce07.316.817.4
Niakwa09.510.1
Lagimodiere-Gaboury00.6
Red River0

Obstacles:

Further afield:

The above sites are all down stream of the Red River Floodway Siphon - a U shaped pipe that carries water under the diversion. It is a significant portage (not long just annoying) to cross the diversion and get back to the original river course. You can start outside the city at the end of Carriere Rd and paddle through Grand Pointe, Lorrette, and points beyond (Dufresne, St. Anne, ...). You must portage over hwy 59 and there are often many blockages (e.g. downed trees) elsewhere. Some sections unfortunately have been straightened and have the feeling of a big ditch. Further out it becomes quite a small river. Although I have only paddled as far out as Lorrette I expect that it becomes problematic to navigate later in the spring and summer as the waterlevels go down.

Assiniboine River

With headwaters in Saskatchewan the Assiniboine River wanders across the prairies for over 1000km before entering Winnipeg from the west. The river provides an excellent opportunity for touring Winnipeg from the other side of the bank. It is usually too shallow west of the Maryland Street bridge for larger and even some medium sized boats giving paddlers a chance to explore and experience Winnipeg's second largest river with out competing with much boat traffic. Paddling from Headingley to the Forks (Red River) is a ~4 hour enjoyable paddle. If you are not into this distance don't fret there is ample opportunity for shorter paddles. Be aware that the current on the Assiniboine is quite fast in places and returning against the current can often take two or three times the amount of time it took going out with the current. In many places the river is very shallow, especially from mid-summer through the fall, which also makes a return trip tricky and slow. If you enjoy poling there are a number of sections where you can practice (e.g. St. Charles to Lanoo and west of Assiniboine Park).

Put in locations:

Distances Between Assiniboine River Points
Beaudry
Park
HeadingleyOxbow BendColeridgeWoodbridgeAssiniboine
Park
Ferry RoadOmand's
Creek
Forks
Beaudry Park06.414.215.420.423.124.126.432.1
Headingly07.89.014.016.717.720.025.7
Oxbow Bend01.26.28.99.912.217.9
Coleridge05.07.78.711.016.7
Woodbridge02.73.76.011.7
Assiniboine Park01.03.39.0
Ferry Road02.38.0
Omand's Creek05.7
Forks0

Obstacles:

Further afield:

It is roughly 100km from Portage la Prairie to Winnipeg (Hwy 248 to Beaudry park is 50km). When the current is running the Portage trip can be done in a couple of long days. There are not many places to stay so check ahead. There are (were) camping locations where the river crosses the Trans Canada near Portage and again near Winnipeg. There is also one possible site about half way but I have not stayed there, or contacted them, so you will need to check yourself. There are many egress points as well so bring a cell phone and have someone pick you up.

Red River

The Red is the largest river in Winnipeg. In the spring the current can be quite strong, the river is fairly wide making the strength and speed of the current deceptive. Later in the year the water level is basically controlled by the St. Andrews dam at Lockport (yes that is a long distance from Winnipeg) and the current is not nearly as strong. The river is remarkably flat with only a slight drop (1:5000) across the whole length and even less in Manitoba ( 1:10000 also Statistics Canada Report) where it traverses the bed of glacial Lake Agassiz. When the river breaches its bank it basically fills the bottom of this ancient lake creating in some years (1997 for example) what is locally known as the Red Sea. In the fall the river is drawn down (dam at lockport pulled up) at this time there may be some extra current but getting to the river across the muddy bank is probably a greater problem. The city also pulls out their docks at the same time.

There can be a fair bit of boat traffic on the Red especially around the Forks and further north. There are a few larger boats, such as the M.S. River Rouge, M.S. Paddlewheel Queen and Princess, along with many intermediate sized pleasure boats. You can sometimes meet water skiers coming down the river which always makes me a little nervous. I have seen many personal watercraft zooming around near the forks and as far north as the Perimeter hwy. There is less boat traffic in the south end of Winnipeg - I have often wondered if the speed limits around the rowing club, MPA, and Churchill marina have a chilling effect on boaters. I must admit I don't find the paddle along the Red as nice as the other rivers due to the size and increased boat traffic. On the other hand it is an easy portage from my house so I do paddle a fair bit near Fort Garry.

Put in Locations:

Distance Between Red River Points
St NorbertKilkennySommersetChurchill DrForksLagimodiere-
Gaboury
ScotiaPerimeter Hwy
(North)
St Norbert08.723.528.230.734.340.645.4
Kilkenny014.819.52225.631.936.7
Sommerset04.77.210.817.121.9
Churchill Dr02.56.112.417.2
Forks03.69.914.7
Lagimodiere-Gaboury06.311.1
Scotia04.8
Perimeter Hwy (North)0

Note: Distance from St. Norbert to Kilkenny includes 1.9km along the La Salle River.
Distance to Lagimodiere-Gaboury includes about 600m along the Seine.

Obstacles:

There are no significant obstacles other than large boats and the occasional water skier. Watch for increased current around bridges (esp. rail bridge north of Provencher). If you are putting in near the floodway control structure there are very significant currents and eddies particularly when the water is high. Launch well downstream of the control structure.

Further afield:

The Red can be paddled North all the way to Lake Winnipeg - with only a small portage at St. Andrews Lock and Dam. Do not approach the Dam in your canoe! Stick to the main channels through the delta at Lake Winnipeg as the smaller side channels change often through the marsh. Heading south the Red extends into the United States where it forms the boundary between Minnesota and North Dakota. Ste. Agathe is 37km south of Winnipeg (St. Norbert), Morris roughly another 40km further up stream. Be careful around the floodway control structure.

Sturgeon Creek

Running through St. James this is one of the larger creeks in the city. Portions of it can be paddled most of the summer but usually I only go in the spring and after heavy rain. I have not paddled north of Saskatchewan avenue but I expect it is possible at least from near the Perimeter highway. Beyond that you run into the St. Charles Rifle Range and access/use is restricted. The creek can have very swift currents and dangerous obstacles (e.g. low bridges and culverts) when the water is high - be very careful.

Put in locations:

Distance Between Sturgeon Creek Points
CrestviewWoodbridge
Crestview03.8
Woodbridge0

Obstacles:

Ponds

There are many small man-made ponds in Winnipeg. The ponds are typically fairly small and quite exposed. Before you paddle on any of these small lakes check the signage since some specifically exclude all water activities others exclude motorized activity and swimming. More information on Winnipeg Retention ponds can be found on the City of Winnipeg website. You should not go in the water when paddling on the retention ponds. In the spring, and occasionally in the fall, you have to be careful of the geese as they can be quite territorial. I have tried to identify locations that are close to the water with good parking (remember to check the signs). Many obvious access points to these ponds are along busy regional roads - look around as there are often small side access points as well. Over the last few years the city and developers have been planting native vegetation around most of the newer retention ponds (cattails, bull rushes, and other emergent macrophytes). There are many benefits associated with this practice: it improves the water quality for wildlife, slows the water flow, increases the diversity of both flora and fauna, limits the number of geese, less costly upkeep, etc... I think it is a great idea but it does limit access for canoes and paddle boats.

Put in locations:


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This material has been provided for personal use only. Use of the information is at your own risk. The information on this page may be updated without notice. © 2010 Charles Burchill


Last modified: Thu Aug 28 07:04:12 2014