Portage la Prairie in Manitoba

Saturday, 24 September 2022 - 11:00 am (CET/MEZ) Berlin | Author/Destination:
Category/Kategorie: General
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Municipal Building National Historic Site © Amqui/cc-by-sa-3.0

Municipal Building National Historic Site © Amqui/cc-by-sa-3.0

Portage la Prairie is a small city in the Central Plains Region of Manitoba, Canada. As of 2016, the population was 13,304 and the land area of the city was 24.68 square kilometres (9.53 sq mi). Portage la Prairie is approximately 75 kilometres (47 mi) west of Winnipeg, along the Trans-Canada Highway (exactly halfway between the provincial boundaries of Saskatchewan and Ontario). The community sits on the Assiniboine River, which flooded the town persistently until a diversion channel north to Lake Manitoba (the Portage Diversion) was built to divert the flood waters. The city is surrounded by the Rural Municipality of Portage la Prairie. According to Environment and Climate Change Canada, Portage la Prairie has the most sunny days during the warm months in Canada. It is the administrative headquarters of the Dakota Tipi First Nations reserve.

The 1870s was a decade of rapid growth for Portage la Prairie, as many more settlers moved to town establishing farms and opening new businesses. By this time, the village had an operating flour mill, a local newspaper, and a community fair; just to name a few of Portage’s highlights. From the 1870s to the 1880s, the community increased in population by approximately 10 times (from 300 to 3,000). Freight and supplies were transported by oxcart and steamboat until the arrival of the Canadian Pacific Railway (CPR) in 1880, the year after Portage was incorporated as a town. Thomas Collins was the first mayor of Portage la Prairie. In 1907, Portage was incorporated as a city, and from that point on, managed to keep a gradual rate of growth and development, serving as a regional hub for agriculture, retail, manufacturing and transportation in central Manitoba. During World War II, the Royal Canadian Air Force constructed Canadian Forces Base Portage la Prairie in support of the British Commonwealth Air Training Plan. The station was controlled by the RCAF but used naval personnel as high-frequency direction finding operators. The station’s priority was German U-boat traffic. This site and CFB Rivers located at Rivers, Manitoba helped to increase the fix accuracy immensely. Commercial cultivation of industrial cannabis was banned in Canada in 1938. However, in 1928, 1,640 acres (660 ha) of industrial hemp was grown in Canada, with 1,200 acres (490 ha) of that being in Portage la Prairie.

The city became a major transportation centre due to its proximity to the river, and later, the location of the main lines of the country’s national railways passing through the community. The CPR and Canadian National Railways (CNR) intersect in Portage; one of the few places in Canada where the two railways meet. This has made Portage la Prairie one of the most ideal places for railway aficionados to view trains; approximately 72 trains pass through the city each day. The Trans-Canada Highway, a major national transportation route, runs past the city and provides the community with business if highway travellers decide to make a trek into Portage. The post-glacial flood plain surrounding Portage la Prairie is highly fertile, with rich, clay-loam soils abundant in nutrients. Portage la Prairie is therefore a major agricultural centre in Manitoba, and in Canada. The rural land surrounding the community is undoubtedly a breadbasket in North America, boasting some of the best soils on the continent for the production of a wide array of vegetables, berries, grains, and lentils. The city has an aggressive tree-planting program and is known for its mature urban forest. A collection of some of the largest cottonwood trees in Canada line the west end of the main street known as Saskatchewan Avenue (as well as Crescent Road which runs adjacent to Crescent Lake), and, along with many other species like Manitoba maple, bur oak and green ash, are present throughout the city. It is the home of former Prime Minister of Canada Arthur Meighen; a school and an avenue are named in his honour.

The local economy is largely dependent on agriculture and supporting industries (trucking, transportation, chemical/fertilizer, farm machinery dealerships, etc.). Portage la Prairie is also home to the McCain Foods and Simplot potato processing plants, which provide French fries for McDonald’s, Wendy’s, and various other commercialized restaurant chains. Viterra, owned by Glencore Xstrata and previously known as Can-oat milling, one of the largest oat mills in the world, and is now owned by Richardson International, is also located in the municipality. McMillan Industrial Park, located on the eastern fringes of Portage, also plays a major role in the city’s economy. Numerous industries including food science labs and food processing facilities, construction companies, and manufacturing sectors are located in this expanding industrial area, beneficial for the creation of jobs in the community. The city has developed into a regional retail service centre as large big box style stores began to operate on the west end of the city in 2007. The west end will continue to see future development with new retail outlets lined up. Many small towns and Native reserves use this as their primary shopping destination. Since Portage la Prairie is a commercial hub for the Central Plains Area, it serves some 50,000 people living within an approximately 50 km radius. Portage la Prairie is a farming city, with an average of 122 frost free days, and a USDA Plant Hardiness Zone of 3a. Agriculture is the city’s main industry.

Fort la Reine National Historic Site © Kimpayant/cc-by-sa-3.0 Municipal Building National Historic Site © Amqui/cc-by-sa-3.0 Portage la Prairie is home to the world's largest Coke can, formerly a water tower © KenShirriff/cc-by-sa-4.0 © Shahnoor Habib Munmun/cc-by-3.0 © Shahnoor Habib Munmun/cc-by-3.0 Fort la Reine National Historic Site © Amqui/cc-by-sa-3.0
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Portage la Prairie is home to the world's largest Coke can, formerly a water tower © KenShirriff/cc-by-sa-4.0
Fort la Reine Museum is a heritage museum and Manitoba Star Attraction located on the east end of Portage, operational since Canada’s Centennial in 1967. Today, the museum is home to an array of buildings from Portage and the surrounding region, and covers cultural and natural prairie history (local and regional) from the 18th century (the period of French exploration) to the present day. There are 25 buildings open to the public, each containing tens or even hundreds of artifacts, on display in an immersive history format. Some of the highlights of the museum include a replica of the historic Fort la Reine and Hudson’s Bay Company York Boat; a railway caboose and the 1882 official rail car of Sir William Cornelius Van Horne, builder of the Canadian Pacific Railway; a fully restored Ukrainian Pioneer Church; a number of houses that are more than 100 years old; a firehall with a fully restored 1931 Seagrave Fire Truck; the Old Officers Mess from the now-retired Canadian Forces Base in Southport; and a schoolhouse and church built in the 1880s from West Prospect (a pioneer farming community that no longer exists); and a Sioux tipi. The museum also brings in interactive travelling exhibitions from across Canada and beyond, set up in the main gallery to educate visitors on topics covering anything from prehistoric cultures in Canada to climate change. The museum also hosts a number of annual cultural and theatrical events, including the National Indigenous Peoples’ Day celebrations, Canada Day festivities, heritage-themed tea parties, holiday celebrations, and other seasonal events. Portage la Prairie celebrates a number of annual events and festivals, which include the Portage Exhibition & Fair (“Portage Ex”) held every July since 1872, the Portage Potato Festival which takes place in mid-August, Whoop & Hollar Folk Festival in late August, and the Manitoba Air Show in June at Southport (held bi-annually). Concerts in the Park is a weekly summer concert series that is held in Island Park in July and August. Heritage Square, located downtown, is an outdoor community event plaza and centre of the community’s arts and culture district with murals on some of the nearby buildings. Surrounding Heritage Square are the Prairie Cinema Centre, Portage la Prairie Regional Library, and Prairie Fusion Arts &Entertainment. Prairie Fusion houses the William Glesby Theatre, a popular performing arts facility, and the Portage & District Art Gallery, featuring a new display of the works of local visual artists every month. Prairie Fusion is considered to be one of the primary cultural gathering places of Portage, and brings in many theatre, dance, and musical performances and events.

In central Portage la Prairie, residents and tourists can enjoy the amenities and beauty of the renowned Island Park. The sprawling city park is located on a peninsula, known as “The Island” (though not officially an island), and bounded by Crescent Lake, an ancient oxbow lake that is popular among birdwatchers, photographers, and canoeists/kayakers. Together, Crescent Lake and Island Park form one of Manitoba’s most recently-designated Star Attractions. For much of the year, the lake serves as a major nesting site for flocks of migratory waterfowl, most notably the Canada goose. Island Park features a network of walking trails, tennis courts, a large playground, picnic areas, two bandstands, a duck pond, deer sanctuary, various monuments, and an extensive arboretum. Nearby recreational opportunities include an 18-hole golf course, the Portage Fairgrounds, an outdoor water park (Splash Island), and Stride Place—home of the Portage Terriers hockey club and an indoor wave pool. Just south of the Portage la Prairie by-pass is the Portage Spillway, where the Assiniboine River empties into the Portage Diversion. Not only does this area mark the importance of the river in Portage’s history, but it is home to Portage Spillway-Wayside Provincial Park, a park that is especially popular with fishermen in the summer months. Also not far southwest lies Spruce Woods Provincial Park and not far north lies St. Ambroise Beach Provincial Park. The city is also home to kilometres of multi-use recreational trails running through the parks and forested areas, which provide an oasis for sightseers to view wildlife. Geocaching has become popular in these areas, as people are finding more innovative ways to get out hiking in this scenic urban forest. Aside from parks, the Portage la Prairie/Central Plains Region features many fine campgrounds located within a 15-30-minute drive of the city, and offers a few public beaches including Delta Beach, home to the Delta Marsh Field Station/Wildlife Reserve (part of this beach/area was destroyed due to flooding in the spring of 2011), Jackson Lake (located 2 mi (3.2 km) southeast of Sidney, Manitoba, about a 35-minute drive west of Portage la Prairie) and Twin Lakes Beach, an hour northeast of Portage, also on Lake Manitoba.

Aside from Island Park, Fort la Reine Museum, and Prairie Fusion Arts & Entertainment (William Glesby Theatre), Portage la Prairie is home to a variety of other attractions to visit, including: One of Portage la Prairie’s most popular attractions, the Community Walkway, which parallels Crescent Lake’s waterfront, is a 5.2 km (3.2 mi), multi-use trail used for walking, bicycling, skateboarding and rollerblading, running past many grand heritage homes and the tranquil, picturesque sites along the lake. The World’s Largest Coca-Cola Can has also put Portage on the map and can be seen from the Trans-Canada Highway by-pass. It was constructed from an old water tower and is now located at the city’s west end between the local Canadian Tire and Canad Inns hotel on Saskatchewan Avenue West. Stride Place, formerly the PCU Centre, opened in February 2010 and features two National Hockey League regulation-size indoor arenas, one with seating capacity for 1,680, an indoor waterpark, and conference/event facilities. During the winter months, the Stride Place atrium is also home to the Portage Farmers’ Market (taking place at various outdoor locations in the summertime). The BDO Centre for the Community is another local arena in the city’s north end, used predominantly for youth and children’s activities like hockey and ringette practice. Portage la Prairie’s City Hall is a limestone structure that was designed by Thomas Fuller, who also designed the Parliament Buildings in Ottawa. It was opened in 1898 as a Dominion Post Office and became City Hall in 1960. The building was declared a historical site in 1986. On the roof is a large, 1,000-pound bell that tolls for a few seconds daily at 9:00 am, noon, and 6:00 pm. Portage la Prairie is also home to many other heritage buildings, some of greater architectural significance than others, highlighted on a historical walking tour organized by the city’s Heritage Advisory Committee. St. Mary’s la Prairie Anglican Church, first established in 1854 with its current sanctuary erected in 1898, is located downtown. Saskatchewan Avenue (the city’s main thoroughfare) is home to several historical structures, as well as Tupper Street and Royal Road (named after the Royal Visit of Queen Elizabeth The Queen Mother and King George VI in 1939). Crescent Road, which follows Crescent Lake for over 5 kilometres, is lined with many large, grand heritage homes dating back to the late 19th century and early 20th century. Portage’s largest hotel, part of Canad-Inns, is located in the west end of the city. This hotel includes the rink of the Portage Curling Club, Aalto’s Garden Cafe, a pub known as Tavern United, and many banquet halls. The community of Southport, located about 5 km (3.1 mi) south of Portage la Prairie, is home to the Southport Recplex featuring a fitness centre with a rock-climbing wall, gymnasium, and 5-pin bowling alley; aside from the proudly displayed military/air force history throughout the town and airport.

Read more on Portage la Prairie, Wikivoyage Portage la Prairie and Wikipedia Portage la Prairie (Smart Traveler App by U.S. Department of State - Weather report by weather.com - Global Passport Power Rank - Travel Risk Map - Democracy Index - GDP according to IMF, UN, and World Bank - Global Competitiveness Report - Corruption Perceptions Index - Press Freedom Index - World Justice Project - Rule of Law Index - UN Human Development Index - Global Peace Index - Travel & Tourism Competitiveness Index). Photos by Wikimedia Commons. If you have a suggestion, critique, review or comment to this blog entry, we are looking forward to receive your e-mail at comment@wingsch.net. Please name the headline of the blog post to which your e-mail refers to in the subject line.




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