Page 1: Introduction

When you think of the prairies what images come to mind? The tourist brochures, when they focus on it at all, focus on endless fields of wheat, dusty small towns with grain elevators, pickup trucks on gravel roads, and of course the uniqueness of the prairie sunset in it's wide open sky. And although the images are somewhat dated, they are for the most part reflective of the reality. True, the wheat field has been somewhat replaced by a variety of other crops as farmers struggle to remain competitive in the"global" marketplace, the grain elevators are disappearing - replaced by huge ungainly grain "terminals" , and the pickup truck has taken on a sleek new look that makes it seem quite at home in the big city streets, but prairie is... prairie.

 Even those of us that grew up here see it that way. But it's the exception that proves the rule, and hidden away in the midst of the prairie flatness of southwestern Manitoba, is a rather significant exception that many people miss.

What about an image of a river valley winding it's way through miles of uninhabited wilderness, with no sign of elevators, pickup trucks, hydro lines, farm houses or even wheat fields? An image of a golden eagle soaring hundreds of feet above a dark blue stream? An image of miles of twisting river rubbing first against one side then against the opposite side of a mile-wide valley? An image of rapids coursing through rock gardens with enough force to take a canoe and break it in half? An image of a river maki

Taken from the edge of the escarpment at the northern edge of the Souris Bend Wildlife Management Area, near the site of the Gregory Mill.

True, the tourist brochures have noted such places...perhaps in the remote, sparsely settled corners of southwestern Saskatchewan or southern Alberta. But what about the well-settled southwestern corner of Manitoba with it's mile upon mile checkerboard of flat, fertile, easy-to-till, farmland? 

You can stand on one end of the fifty mile wide Souris Plains and see to the other. Well, you could except for a few wooded areas, a few dusty towns, and the slight curvature of the earth. But cutting through these plains, in most places hidden until you are almost upon it, is a surprisingly deep and wide river valley. And the best part of it is well hidden from even the back roads.