The Lake and its People


A PRAIRIE OCEAN SAGA from Paul Sigurdson on Vimeo.

Lake Winnipeg is the origin and setting of much of Vikings of a Prairie Ocean. Its shores became home to Icelanders in 1875 when, forced from their country by a volcanic eruption, build a complex new society on the Lake.

The vast, freshwater lake runs for more than 416 kilometers from north to south. At its narrowest, the lake is still two and a half miles across, narrowing to two points known as the Dog Heads where the expansive northern section meets the narrower south.

As if by a knife, the geology of Canada is split, granite to the east and limestone to the west. Small granite islands and inlets reach out from a jagged shoreline to form the eastern point, East Dog Head. To the east, the lakeshore is a sea of undulating swamps, interspersed with granite cliffs. To the west, a short shale bar of flat, white, rounded rocks beckons like a crooked finger from a long, sweeping bay. Behind this are flatlands and swamps that become the Prairies, and then the long push to the Rocky Mountains.

If you could reach down to the mud below Lake Winnipeg, 6o feet in some places, more than 80 in others, you would be touching the bottom of the mightiest lake the world has ever known, with fifteen times the volume of Lake Superior and so vast that it once spread over the entire centre of the continent. When the glacial ice dam that formed the shores of Lake Agassiz broke up and disintegrated 8,500 years ago, it released a monumental torrent of fresh water into Hudson Bay, lifting global sea levels by as much as three meters. Some have linked this momentous event to the great flood in the time of Noah. Today, the legacy of a glacial past is a massive patchwork of lakes and rivers, now the catch basin of an expanse stretching across the interior of North America from the Rockies to the Canadian Shield, from the cornfields of the Midwest to the tundra of the North. The centre of this inland empire of water and land, Lake Agassiz’s greatest legacy, is Lake Winnipeg.

The curious name Dog Heads may make one ponder, but still ahead to the north are Black Bear Island, Lynx Harbour, Rabbit Point, Catfish Creek and Poplar Reefs. The names are echoes of a far older story reaching deeply into the history of this place and its Aboriginal inhabitants since time immemorial. Names like Matheson Island, Cox’s Light, Berens River, Humbug Bay, Hecla, Gimli and Selkirk are signposts of the arrival of European colonisers and settlers.lake-winnipeg-satelite-comp2

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“Sometimes, when the evenings are bright and the lake dead calm, the cottage gang goes out into the Channel to bid the day goodbye. The mystery of the lake lives on. On nights like these, it has a mystical inner peace. Every star shines brighter than you see it anywhere else. The Northern Lights dance with a dazzling fury, darting across the sky in curtains dripping with light and colour. The surface is alive with the glow of the moon. To the east are the granite rocks of the Canadian Shield; there it begins or ends, depending on where you stand.”

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One thought on “The Lake and its People”

  1. Glenn
    My name is Gordon Lawrie and our Family boated on Lake Winnipeg from 1956 thru to 2000. Mom and Dad had a pleasure cruiser named Venture and we travelled all over our Great Lake. Around circa 1964 we met your Dad (I think or your Grandpa) in Hecla Village and he took us over to Hollow River as it was our first time in there. I have seen the boat he used on your website. Also didn’t realize your Family owned the JR Spears. Amazing!! Our last trip on the Venture was in 2000 and we went from Winnipeg Beach to Princess Harbour with stops in Gull Harbour and West of Grindstone Point in that bay. I remember all the Freighters on the Lake with great admiration. Actually we were at the Mouth of the River when the Suzanne E came along and we had to make room for her at the South end of the dock and the Captain nosed into the bank and the stern stuck out in the river on the start of that illfated trip in 1965. Would love to hear from you
    We now are retired and live in Whytewold, MB on the Lake.
    Sincerely
    Gordon Lawrie

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