Explore Portage la Prairie's picturesque Crescent Lake and Island Park. Beginning with a walk through the arboretum on Island Park, our route takes you out around the Lake, skirting the pleasant residential area of Koko Platz and then out through the beautiful strawberry fields of Mayfair Farms.
hike length - 8.5 km loop
At the end of the hike we'll picnic in the Island Park Arboretum (Please bring your own picnic lunch) and we'll supply a special treat of freshly picked Mayfair Farms strawberries and ice cream.
Club members* pay $5. / Non-club members pay $15.
(Event fees will be collected at the beginning of the event) * Participants who have a current $25. annual Prairie Pathfinder walking club membership are eligible for the discount event price of $5.
some history -
Since the beginning of human history on our continent, the site of Portage la Prairie has been a strategic location in Canada. Its name and history go back to French explorer LaVerendrye who established his fort two miles from the present city in 1738. First Portage la Prairie was important for exploration and fur trade and later it was a magnet for early settlement. Metis farmers from the overcrowded Red River Settlement were the first farmers here. Later in the century they were largely shunted aside by settlers from Ontario and Britain who made a beeline for the rich farmland. With the interest and enthusiasm of Ontarians & British, it is not surprising that by 1880, when the railway reached Portage, most of the Portage Plains were settled. Within a few years the area was producing a grade of wheat unsurpassed on the world market. Sitting in the heart of the fertile Portage Plains, this is the richest farming belt in Manitoba.
One early British settler, Robert B. Hill, went on to become a ‘mover and shaker’ whose influence continues to this day. Hill was a blacksmith and carriage maker by trade. He came to be recognized as Portage la Prairie’s first historian and a preeminent authority on Manitoba’s early settlement. In his books, he amused readers with his ‘behind the scenes’ tale of Portage la Prairie’s experiment as a republic. Of more importance to us today is the outcome of his influence to create Crescent Lake & Island Park.
The Assiniboine River had created an oxbow which most people saw as ‘just a slough’. The ever creative Hill sparked citizens’ imagination about what the area could become when he began renting row boats in the summer of 1892 (He probably built them too). This boating ‘on the slough’ became very popular with the young people. Up until that time, the island was considered a primitive section of town. By 1896 there were park and exhibition grounds and a turf club. Later, water was pumped in from the Assiniboine to raise the level of the lake, and a bridge was built. The semi circular lake then effectively created the ‘Island’. A history of ‘Island Park’ tells us that Hill himself was out plowing and harrowing the soil in readiness for sodding and seeding the public park.
Island Park is now the centrepiece of the city. A four acre arboretum has a collection of prairie hardy trees, shrubs and vines. Descendants of R.B Hill live on Island Park to this day, operating the large and prosperous Mayfair Farm and one of the prettiest u-pick strawberry patches in the province.
* Participants who have a current $25. annual Prairie Pathfinder walking club membership are eligible for the discount event price of $5.