When our planned trip to Walt Disney World Resort got cancelled in 2020 due to COVID-19 and border closures between Canada and the U.S., we decided to explore some of the attractions in our province of residence, Manitoba.
Central to Canada, Manitoba is blessed with a lot of scenic spots and parks, and many of them are within a few hours’ drive from Winnipeg.
Read on to learn about some of the best things you can do in the Whiteshell.
About Whiteshell Provincial Park
Whiteshell Provincial Park is just over 2,700 square kilometres and is located in the southwest region of the province. This Manitoba provincial park is loaded with water bodies (lakes and rivers), multitudes of trails, and archaeological sites.
Whiteshell was designated as a natural provincial park in 1961.
There is always something to do in all four seasons. In summer, hiking, fishing, mountain biking, camping, kayaking, and swimming are popular. In winter, you will find visitors cross-country skiing, ice fishing, skating, and snowmobiling.
Things To Do in Whiteshell Provincial Park
The park is close to Winnipeg and takes just over 90 minutes to drive. If you are looking for exciting things to do close to Winnipeg, Whiteshell should definitely be on your list.
Since we were visiting with our two kids (4 & 6 years old), we were not planning to do a lot of hiking. Although, we ended up hiking about 3.6 km total to see Rainbow Falls and the Bannock Point Petroforms.
Admission to most of the attractions listed is free; however, you will need a park vehicle permit. The permits are now available for purchase online at manitobaelicensing.ca. It cost us $9.50 for a daily vehicle park permit.
1. Whiteshell Fish Hatchery Interpretive Centre
Located on provincial road 312 between West Hawk Lake and Caddy Lake, this hatchery is used to replenish walleye, trout, lake sturgeon, pike, and arctic char stocks in various lakes across the province.
The attraction offers a free guided tour, and kids love it. You get to see the fingerlings and how the eggs are hatched. There are also several tanks containing broodstock.
The interpretive centre is open from 10 am to 2 pm on Friday, Saturday and Sunday during the summer.
Register online here. You can also call them to make inquiries at 204-349-2228.
2. West Hawk Lake
West Hawk Lake is the deepest lake in Manitoba, with a depth of around 377 ft in the centre, and it is believed to have been formed by a meteor impact.
You can do many things here, including fishing, cycling, hiking, boating, and just playing by the beach.
The water quality was good (clear), and we noticed that many of the camping sites were really packed with RVs.
There are cabins for rent right across from the lake and good places to grab a snack or lunch, e.g. The Nite Hawk Cafe.
3. Alfred Hole Goose Sanctuary
The best time to visit the Alfred Hole Goose Sanctuary is in spring or fall.
In spring (mid-May), you can watch hundreds of geese with their goslings, and in the fall (late August to September), you will find the geese getting prepared to migrate to warmer climes.
The Alfred Hole Goose Sanctuary was established in 1939. You can enjoy the displays, join a scheduled program or walk the self-guiding hiking trail.
If you want to participate in the interpretive program or enter the Visitor Centre, make sure to get there before 2 pm.
4. Whiteshell Trappers Museum
Located right next to the Alfred Hole Goose Sanctuary, the Trappers Museum is a throwback to the fur trapping industry that was once popular in these parts. You also learn about modern trapping techniques.
The museum was built in 1997.
5. Falcon Lake Beach
The long beach line of Falcon Lake is where we spent most of our day so the kids could build sand castles and play in the water.
If you are into kayaking, you can bring yours or rent one on-site.
If you have time to spare, you could visit the Falcon Beach Ranch, where you can go horseback riding on one of the surrounding trails.
This ranch has many cabins you can rent if you plan to stay in the park for a few days.
Also, the Falcon Lake Golf Course is located nearby in the Whiteshell Provincial Park. A visit to this golf course is for another day!
6. Bannock Point Petroforms
This historical site is considered to hold petroforms that are probably up to 1,500 years old.
Petroforms are arrangements of stones on bedrock to create outlines of figures or shapes and are believed to represent instructions given to the First Nations people by the spirits.
We spent some time here looking at various rock alignments in the form of turtles, fish, snakes, human effigies, and other geometric patterns.
Depending on when you visit and the weather, be sure to pack a powerful mosquito repellent…the ones we encountered here are vicious, to say the least.
Watch your kids, and don’t let them move the stones. The petroforms are considered sacred by the Ojibway or Anishinabe people, and you may find recent offerings placed in various locations there.
Also, keep an eye out for your entry and exit points, or you could end up walking in circles.
Free interpretive tours are available during the summer and take about 1.5 hours. You can contact them at 204-369-3157.
7. Rainbow Falls
The Rainbow Falls is a popular location in the Whiteshell for kids to have some fun.
After parking close to the resort area at White Lake, we hiked the Rainbow Falls hiking trail for about 1 km or so to get to Rainbow Falls.
I later learned that you could also reach the falls by car through an access road. Our six-year-old walked the trail with no problems; however, the 4-year old was having none of it and had to be carried most of the way.
Rainbow Falls offers beautiful scenery, and kids would enjoy swimming there. There’s no beach sand here, and the floor is smooth rock.
I am not sure how the people traffic here ebbs and flows during the day; however, you would find it more enjoyable with fewer people around.
The trail we took to Rainbow Falls had some areas where the old granite outcrops of the Canadian Shield were in full view. We also observed some rock/stone formations in some areas.
8. Caddy Lake
Caddy Lake is a great spot for fishing, boating and kayaking.
There are man-made rock tunnels that connect Caddy Lake to South Cross Lake and North Cross Lake, making for some exciting paddling on a beautiful lake.
We did not have enough time in the day to do anything here.
If you spend some time in the Whiteshell Provincial Park, you can rent a cabin at the Caddy Lake Resort or one of the B&Bs in the area. There is also a campground close to the lake.
9. Pinawa Dam
A trip to the old Pinawa Dam can easily be squeezed into a day trip to the Whiteshell. While it’s not a part of the Whiteshell Provincial Park, it’s just about 30 minutes away and is worth the drive.
On its own, the old Pinawa Dam has earned a right to its status as a Provincial Heritage Park.
The Pinawa Dam was the first hydroelectric generating station in Manitoba in 1906. It was decommissioned in 1951 to make way for the Seven Sisters Hydro Station.
Activities here include boating, fishing, picnicking, swimming, sunbathing, and hiking along the Old Pinawa self-guiding trail.
10. Hiking Trails
Apart from the self-guiding trails at the Alf Hole Goose Sanctuary, the Bannock Point Petroforms and hiking to Rainbow Falls, we did not do a lot of hiking during our one-day trip.
That said, there are several trails in the Whiteshell you can embark on, including sections of the Trans-Canada Trail.
Some of the popular trails include:
- McGillvray Falls Self-Guiding Trail (3.4 km)
- Falcon Creek Trail (1.9 km)
- Pine Point Trail (9 km)
- Whiteshell River Bridge Trail (4.2 km)
- Amisk Trail (6.3 km)
- Top of the World Trail (4 km)