The Storming of Fort Whyte

When it was first decided that we were relocating to Winnipeg, I made a mental list of places that I HAD to go to with my kids before the snow fell. Grand Beach, Manitoba Children’s Museum, Assinaboine Zoo, The Royal Canadian Mint and Fort Whyte Alive were on the top of the heap. Unfortunately, being tied up with finding a home, moving, acclimatizing, unpacking, dealing with various house snafus upon moving into the house and having kids in school and extracurricular activities has quashed most of my attempts to get out and explore the tourist-y side of Winnipeg.

Until yesterday, that is.

Finding myself with a vehicle, great weather and some spare time (all rarities) I decided to shake of a bad case of the sleepies, and took the kids down to Fort White Alive for a hike and peek-a-boo. I had pumped them up about seeing Fort Whyte’s bison herd, and they were itching to get out and spy on the tasty, hairy hoof’d buggers.

Not knowing Winnipeg well, I had assumed that Fort Whyte was going to be a long haul driving excursion. Mercifully, as it turns out, Fort Whyte is only about 12 minutes away from our house by car. Yay!

When I pulled into the parking lot, the kids immediately noticed something on the lawn:

For those who are not familiar, this is a Prairie Dog. These fleshy rodents live in a network of tunnels in front of the Fort, predominantly in an area called “Prairie Dog Town.” The kids were smitten, and thought that the whistling and chirping noises the Prairie Dogs made were amazing.

After pulling the kids away from Prairie Dog Town, we meandered along the trails until we came to the replica Sod House. Sod off, wankers! The house is built with…wait for it…sod! The interior was decorated with era appropriate furniture and equipment. Honestly, I’ve lived in apartments that were not as well-lit or spacious. When I was a student, I would have gladly lived in a sod house if it meant cheap rent.

In Manitoba and Saskatchewan, this is what is commonly referred to as a ski resort. What? You think I’m kidding, British Columbians? Ski resort. Just you wait. A tow bar is all that it lacks.

Photo interpretation for British Columbians: this is a prairie swamp and what people in Winnipeg call a “forest.” Isn’t that cute? Forest. Photo interpretation for Winnipegers: Swamp…what a great place to put a housing development!

This is Fort Whyte’s Tipi Encampment area. The kids started running down the trail at this point, because they knew they were going to get to play in a tipi. (Yes, they call it a tipi, not a tee pee.)

Gratuitous photo of The Baby in Warrier Pose by one of the tipis. The Big Kid was becoming ornery at this point, and refused to get in the photo. The Baby thought that the tipi was the schiz.

Inside view of the tipi. Mmm. Dead things. Stroke the furry wall?

We had joy, we had fun, we had tipis in the sun! But the grass that we smoked was ripped off that settler’s house…(with apologies to Terry Jacks and the Poppy Family.)

…and these are the fabled bison. Sadly, we were not able to get any closer to them. I had been warned by several other ‘Peg people that they had never been close to the bison either, because the herd was always on the other side of the field.

A tree stand, for your enhanced bison viewing pleasure.

Sadly, it didn’t get me a better view or closer to the bison herd. I did, however, note a lovely pile of bones inside the circular enclosure. I’m not sure what the reasoning is behind the buffalo bone pile.

It was very, very windy up that high above the prairie. The Big Kid seized the moment and pretended she was soaring in the air.

Wood sprites?

Peeping at small fry swimming in the bullrushes from a float across from the research station on one of several lakes at the Fort.

How awesome is it that Manitoba LIQUOR MARTS sponsor boating facilities? /irony

Wood pecker hole! (Heh, heh, she said “wood pecker hole” Beavis!)

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2 thoughts on “The Storming of Fort Whyte

  1. Decided to take one last peek online before I headed to bed and so glad I did. Thanx for the giggles!
    When I was in high school, we traveled to Sask and saw a ‘ski hill’. I think my driveway was steeper/taller. fun times fun times.

    • When we were first looking at houses out here in June, we went to Stony Mountain, which is about 15 minutes north of Winnipeg. There were some houses out there we wanted to look at. We got up there, and at the very top of the “mountain” (BC translation: mound) was a huge prison. Below the prison at the foot of the “mountain” was a suburb. So, no matter where you went in the community, all you saw was this fortress and barbed wire on the hump above. We drove to the back of the “mountain” and there it was: a chair lift. Seriously? In Chilliwack, our street was 200% more steep than their ski hill! OY.

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