The word ‘Winnipeg’ means ‘muddy ‘ or ‘dirty’ river in Cree. We have two muddy rivers (muddy, on account of all the clay in our valley) and where they meet, that’s Winnipeg – or at least that’s our starting point, our centre. These two rivers, the Red and the Assiniboine (there’s that word again!) define not only our city, but also our traffic flows. (It’s always a good idea not to have to cross too many bridges for your daily commute – especially in the summer, aka, ‘construction’ season.) The Red River pushes upward from North Dakota, through the low-lying Red River Valley (you know the song) northwards – emptying into Lake Winnipeg (which links up to Hudson’s Bay and finally, the Arctic Ocean).
The Red can be ferocious in the springtime and has caused much flooding. (Read about 1997’s Flood of the Century.) The Assiniboine River, on the other hand, flows west to east, beginning in eastern Saskatchewan near Preeceville. It’s a slower, more shallow, lazy kind of river – creating oxbows as it meanders.
Nowadays, this river junction is marked by a dynamic downtown site called ‘The Forks.’ It’s a place I take most visitors because it offers a bit of everything. Restaurants, markets, a hotel, a children’s theatre and museum, etc. Being on the river, the site also has water taxis and boat tours. In the winter, it rivals Ottawa for the longest ice rink. You can also watch dogsled racing and there's even a toboggan run. There's fireworks on special holidays, outdoor concerts (I got to see a Randy Bachmann and Burton Cummings reunion), and we're all anticipating the new Human Rights Museum which is now under construction.
My one pet peeve of the place (not that anyone’s listening) – is that the place didn’t become a car-free zone. Considering it’s historical significance, a more timeless place could have been created if traffic had been banned. But don’t let my criticism stop you from visiting. Please come meet a Winnipegger at The Forks, down where the rivers converge – like it’s been done for hundreds, if not thousands, of years.
Please visit more My Town Monday posts and enjoy the trip.