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.