Our 8.5 km route circles through town and then takes you out & back along the banks of the Red River under a canopy of giant elms & cottonwoods to historic Fort Dufferin.
Event fee is $5. for members* and $15. for non-members. Fees are collected at the beginning of hike.
After the hike, we'll enjoy a fine fall supper at Emerson's community hall (approx cost $12 cash / pay at the door)
some history - Emerson has always been plagued with floods. There is much evidence of years of high water along the Fort Dufferin trail with old elms & cottonwoods dying off from prolonged immersion.
Emerson’s first major flood was in 1882 when the waters rose to such a height that a steamship sailed right up the main street to unload its cargo. After the disastrous flood in 1950 when the town was evacuated, a ring dike was built and Emerson took on the feel of a walled city. This dike served them well in 1975 but in 1997’s ‘flood of the century’ two more feet needed to be added to the top. As you walk along the top of the dike, think of the mighty Red River a scant 24 inches beneath your feet.
From the outset, Emerson was destined for great things. It was a boom town - a rival to Winnipeg. Steamships traveled up from the States, trains arrived daily, and settlers poured through town on their way to southern Manitoba. Manufacturing flourished, elaborate public buildings were erected, and by 1883 Emerson’s population numbered 10,000. Its destiny as a great metropolis seemed assured, but the town was staking its future on a rail line. In those days, the railway ruled the political and physical lives of communities and many a town found their bright hopes dashed when the rail lines passed them by. Emerson’s bid for the CPR transcontinental line turned out to be a reckless and costly gamble. It lost the line and the town went bankrupt.
Evidence of ‘boom town’ Emerson remains to this day. There are several private residences from that grand era still standing - Bryce House at 99 Assiniboine, Fairbanks Mansion at the corner of 3rd & Rouseau and Kelvinside (Aunt Maude’s Tea Room) at 57 - 4th St. The elaborate public buildings from Emerson’s boom period were however lost to fire or flooding. The present Town Hall / Court House was erected in 1917. It is now a provincial heritage building. The 1870 log Customs House, the first in western Canada, still stands at the edge of town.
Fort Dufferin, two miles north of Emerson, was built by the Canadian Boundary Commission in 1872 and was later home to the North West Mounted Police. The NWMP used the fort in the spring of 1874 as the marshalling area for their great ‘March West’ to bring law & order to the Canadian West. They used it again in the winter of[masked] as the headquarters of ‘D’ Division. One officer of ‘Company D’ was a Frank Dickens, third son of writer Charles. Frank wrote many letters home to England describing his impressions of Canada. Of Fort Dufferin, he wrote, “This climatically petrified post is positioned precisely on the planet to be the only place in the world where a person warms of the prospect of being sent to H--l!” Frank’s unspectacular career was marked by laziness, recklessness and heavy drinking, and one can only imagine the citizenry of Emerson as unimpressed with him as he with their town. Fort Dufferin’s final role was as an immigration depot when the wave of Mennonite settlers embarked to take up their homesteads.
* Participants who have a current $25. annual Prairie Pathfinder walking club membership are eligible for the discount event price of $5.