The Interlake has many places where wildlife & nature are protected and flourish, so you may “just come across” your special place to connect with nature in Manitoba’s Interlake!
Around every corner in the Interlake is a natural haven for species of all kinds – Eagles to white-tailed deer, elk to black bears, wolves to grouse, moose to goose. Slow down, take time to breathe, and check out the sites you see on your next drive along an Interlake highway! Take a walk along a country lane or on one of our numerous trails. You’ll see the small animals in nature, and the many varieties of plants and insects that keep an ecosystem alive. We’re on the flyway of a wide variety of migratory birds; here in the Interlake, we are a birder’s paradise. Open your eyes to the world around you, and enjoy the gifts of nature. Here are some natural highlights of this magnificent area.
- Lockport Provincial Park (Map) – A small provincial park located on the east bank of the Red River at Lockport, next to St. Andrews Lock and Dam. The park offers good viewing of American White Pelicans and Double-crested Cormorants fishing below the dam as well as a good variety of waterfowl, gulls, and terns. During migration, we can see raptors such as Osprey, Bald Eagles, and Red-tailed Hawk as well as several species of small songbirds such as Chimney Swift and swallows.
- Netley – Libau Creek Marsh (Map) – Access from Hwy 9 at Netley or Hwy 59 at Libau. Netley- Libau Marsh, at the south end of Lake Winnipeg, extending from Netley (in St. Andrews) to Patricia Beach (in St. Clements) on the Libau side of the marsh, forms an important link between the Red River and Lake Winnipeg. Ongoing research in this marsh is vital to improve the quality of these inland coastal wetlands, one of the largest in Canada. Historically, it’s nature’s cleaning machine for a nutrient overload of the water from the Red River before it enters Lake Winnipeg. Vital to the health of Canada’s 6th Great Lake, (designated a Manitoba Heritage Marsh). Netley- Libau Marsh provides a habitat for waterfowl & is excellent for bird watching and is designated as an Important Bird Area (IBA) by Bird Studies Canada and the Canadian Nature Federation. It is in danger of falling to nutrient overload and misuse over the years with research and efforts ongoing to bring it back to its glory. As an outdoor enthusiast, this is a spot you will return to time and again.
- Brokenhead Wetland Ecological Reserve (Map) – Along Hwy 59, east of Brokenhead Ojibway Nation Reserve. Over 1240 hectares [3,064 acres], a unique area containing rich, calcareous (limestone, chalky) fens (marshes & lowlands), springs within a white cedar forest. This calcareous fen is considered rare in North America. The area also contains a high diversity of plant species including 23 provincially rare & uncommon plants. Twenty-eight (28) of Manitoba’s 36 native orchid species, including the rare ram’s head lady’s slipper, is found here, along with eight (8) of Manitoba’s ten species of carnivorous (insect-eating) plants. Long used by the local First Nation communities for collecting medicinal plants and for cultural activities, which continue today, this area is an eco-tourist delight. An interpretive trail and boardwalk on Crown Land adjacent to the ecological reserve allow the public safe access to visit without causing further damage to the native plants and their habitat. Visit the Brokenhead Wetland Interpretive Trail or see the Brochure.
- Sandy Bar (Map)- This site is a long sand peninsula that stretches eastward into Lake Winnipeg towards Hecla Island near the community of Riverton. The sand and gravel islands beyond the peninsula are partially colonized by grasses, willows, and aspen. The site has been designated as an Important Bird Area because of the significant populations of Ring-billed Gulls and Common Terns. You can also see nesting Herring Gulls. This is also a good site to see Red-necked Grebe, American White Pelican, Bald Eagle, Herring Gull, Ring-billed Gull, Common Tern, and Forster’s Tern. In migration, look for Snow Goose, Canada Goose, Sanderling and Ruddy Turnstone. Watch for migrating warblers in the vegetation along the spit.
- Hecla Provincial Park Wildlife: Cited from “Into the Island” by “Naturalist, Dr. Heather Hinan…(Map) Just an hour up the road from Gimli, the farmland transforms into more rugged terrain. The land falls away and before you know it, you are surrounded by water; you have crossed over to Hecla Island. The park is a nature lover’s paradise, packing several habitats in about 1,000 square kilometers. Being home to over 200 species of birds, avid birders can watch pelicans and eagles patrolling along the lakeshore, listen to songbirds flitting through the forest, or search for waterbirds among the reeds. You’ll find other critters that call the park home- moose, deer, and beaver, along with garter snakes found in crevasses in the limestone bedrock. Nighttime may bring the chilling howl of a wolf or the call of an owl through the background chorus of frogs. Wildflowers and butterflies are found along with the myriad well-established trail systems, offering ways to explore Hecla by bicycle or on foot.
- Oak Hammock Marsh – Harry J. Enns Wetland Discovery Centre (Map) – Award-winning facility at Oak Hammock Marsh embarks on a new era of wetland experiences. Oak Hammock Marsh is one of the North American birding hotspots and a must-see for any birding adventure. More than 100 species of birds breed in or near the marsh, and some 300 species have been recorded here. During migration, the number of waterfowl using the marsh can exceed 100,000 daily. The marsh is part of a Wildlife Management Area that includes the restored marsh, aspen-oak bluff, artesian springs, remnants of tallgrass prairie, and 30 kilometers of trails. Several gravel islands called loafing bars have been created in the marsh near viewing blinds and trails to provide excellent viewing opportunities. (Facility closed until further notice, but the trails are open!)
- Megwaakwaang Nature Trail (Map)– Hwy 17 north of Fisher Branch. Megwaakwaang Nature Trail is a loop trail to the south of the parking area of the Interlake Interpretive Centre off Hwy 17 north of Fisher Branch. It features a variety of habitats including wetlands. Long-bracted Frog-orchid and Loesel’s Twayblade orchids can be found along this trail. Visit Think Trees, Manitoba Forestry Association, or on Facebook [GPS-N50 59.648 W097 40.385
- West Interlake Area along Lake Manitoba (Map) – If you are traveling north along Lake Manitoba stopping for bird watching is so easy- check out the Marshy Point Goose Refuge for viewing of the Canada geese population that nest and summer here (please call ahead). Up in Lundar at the Provincial Park walk the Lundar Beach Marsh Trail for a variety of songbirds. Farther north along Lake Manitoba provides watching for colonial waterbirds such as white pelicans, double-crested cormorants, great blue herons, great egrets, and various gull species. Along Hwy 68 towards the Narrows and in the Dog Lake area is a wonderful place to see these birds, even as you drive along the highway. Seek the marshy areas that provide nesting locations for these birds.
- Manitou Island (Map)– North on Hwy 6 to Hwy 68, west to the Narrows of Lake Manitoba. Manitou Island is north of the bridge, accessible by water or ice only. In the beginning, the waves beat upon the limestone shingles of this island in a great lake, echoing with the sounds of the spirits. Legends and stories, the oral history of this land, passed from clan to clan, throughout the generations. The Great Spirit, Manitou, was said to talk through the rocks. If you listen very carefully by these rocks on the west side of the island… you may hear it too! Discover the sound of the spirits; hear what they say to you as you explore this island. Listen with your heart as you capture the ancient feelings of this land, the Narrows of Lake Manitoba, the Land of the Spirits, of Manitou- this amazing lake and our province would share the name: MANITOBA. Read MORE
- Little Steep Rock Trail (Map) – West off Hwy 6 on PR 239, [north of Moosehorn] to the Village of Steep Rock. Little Steep Rock Trail is 4.4 km long, where you will discover signs of over 350 million years of natural history that have shaped the world around you. Keep an eye out for the current and fossil wildlife of the old Lafarge Quarry. Search some of the northernmost aspen/oak parkland forests for signs of its elusive residents. The new trail emerges just south of Little Steep Rock point, a short walk from the campground. Find new interpretive signage along the way that adds to your knowledge of the land you traverse. Trail access at the parking lot. Area to the cliff lookout is not paved.
Top tips to respect wildlife and stay safe!
Excepts Written by J. Bourgeois- Oak Hammock Marsh & H. Hinam Second Nature, Creative Interpretation