River Road

One of our favourite drives is along River Road from where it veers off Main Street north of Winnipeg to follow the curves of the Red River 10 kilometers north to Lockport.

The Red flows north.

It is not unusual that it flows north. Rivers flow in one direction all over the world – downhill.

Across the central and eastern United States, it is rare for rivers to flow north because the slope of the land is toward the south. Almost all flowing water in the Great Plains and Upper Midwest flows downhill into the Missouri-Mississippi River system, which flows into the Gulf of Mexico.

The Red River is one exception because downhill is up to Hudson Bay. Most rivers in northern Canada flow north toward the Bay.

Anne-Shirley, my partner, drives because I don’t anymore. It allows me to see more sights than her. She has to keep her eye on the curves.

There are many points of interest including picnic sights and beautiful big homes. We sometimes stop at one or two of them, in addition to the main historic sites.

Well, most of them are historic, but the tour starts with Larter’s Golf and Country Club, built in 1989, with its fine restaurant.

The next stop is a building where we always pause and say we should have bought it years ago and converted it into a Bed and Breakfast. We did not know each other then, of course, but what the heck!

The structure is Miss Davis School for girls where governors and officers at Lower Fort Garry sent their daughters for schooling and etiquette. About 20 years ago it was on sale for $450,000. There’s a plaque on the road to read. The school is not far from Lower Fort Garry. In 1850 it was an upriver canoe trip at the beginning of the school term, sand downriver later on. Or maybe the trips were made in a Red River cart.

The oldest stone church in western Canada still being used is next on the list, with its rectory beside. Local Anglicans who live in St. Andrews go to church there, but many parishioners also come from Winnipeg and outlying areas to be members of this historic church. They are mostly history buffs.

Not far north is Kennedy House, a Gothic structure built in 1866 of stones from the Red River. It was occupied by Captain William Kennedy (1814-1890). He was an Arctic explorer, Anglican missionary, employee of the Hudson’s Bay Cimpany and for a short while the storekeeper at Lower Fort Garry.

During the last decade Kennedy House was a great place to go for tea and crumpets, as well as great lunches. I often took visitors from far away to this historic spot for a meal. Alas, it ceased having a kitchen and serving.

So I would take them to Skinner’s beneath and off to the side of the Lockport Bridge for a hot dog and milkshake.

And that’s what Anne-Shirley and I still do today. With our food we order an extra bag of French fries to feed the gulls. You don’t feed them bread because it expands and may kill them.

Before the locks were built in 1910 (it took 10 years) the Red was very low in dry season. So low, in fact, that you could walk across on stepstones. The Little Rapids, that place was called.

We go to Lockport often. Sometimes there are barely a dozen gulls, especially if we are there toward dusk.

But the last time we went was in fall. There were hundreds. We knew from a bit of research they were gathering for their migratory flight probably to the Pacific Coast, although if they have nested east of Manitoba they fly to the Atlantic Coast.

The River Road stretches north to Selkirk and places on the east side of Lake Winnipeg, but the short section described is our favourite part. We don’t talk as much as we often do during those day trips. The beauty all around captures us and renders us dumb.

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