Alive With Flora, Fauna, and Fun at a Winnipeg Nature Preserve
Connect with nature at FortWhyte Alive in Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada: nature trails, wildlife viewing, outdoor recreation
FortWhyte Alive is a 640 acre nature preserve in south-west Winnipeg, Manitoba. On the site of what was once a cement quarry, it features prairie, forest, lakes, and wetlands. FortWhyte Alive is dedicated to providing environmental education and outdoor recreation. It promotes awareness and understanding of the natural world and actions for sustainable living.
Although I visited FortWhyte Alive many times when my daughter and step-daughters were young, this summer was my first visit back in a lot of years. The facility had expanded its offerings. There was a new building and restaurant. The natural beauty and appeal remained. There is much to see, do, and learn here.
You can hike or cycle on several paths through the park. Bicycles are available for rent. Watch for wild flowers and wildlife along the way. Listen to the birds and the crickets. Smell the freshness.
Outdoor exhibits include a sod house as would have been built by early settlers and a couple of tipis. The 12 by 20 foot sod structure housed 6 to 8 family members and possibly a couple of oxen in winter. Although the holes were plugged, tiny visitors like mice and bugs were common. Tipi is a Dakota word for “place where one lives”. The plains tribes were a nomadic people following the bison and homes needed to be easily moved and assembled.
A herd of 30 bison, aka buffalo, roam the 70-acre Bison Prairie. These animals are known both as bison and buffalo. Bison is the genus name given by scientists. Early North American settlers called them buffalo because they compared them to water buffalo. The bison were far off in the field and barely visible when I visited. If you want to be sure of getting a better view of the bison, take one of the hour-long Bison Safaris offered once or twice a week May through September. The safaris sell out weeks in advance, so plan ahead.
Displays inside FortWhyte Alive provide facts about bison. Here is a sampling:
- A bison’s natural life span is 40 years
- A bison’s eyesight is poor, but its sense of smell and hearing are excellent. It can smell water miles away and can live without water for days in a prairie drought.
- In a blizzard, herds face the snowy wind in a V-shape with biggest bulls at the front. When the animals at the rear get covered over, the whole herd moves ahead and takes a new stand.
- Cows, not bulls, lead the herd.
An interpretive centre houses an indoor aquarium displaying local freshwater fish, a burrowing owl and prairie dog exhibit, several dioramas, and the Touch Me museum of mounted wildlife.
FortWhyte Alive is open year-round. The fall Sunset Flights are spectacular. Arrive before sunset to watch thousands of geese flock in and land on the lakes for the night. The winter offers ice-fishing, skating, cross-country skiing, and tobogganing. I remember winter deer sightings as well.
FortWhyte Alive offers many educational and recreational programs, special events and seasonal tours. Visit their website for information.
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This post is linked to Travel Photo Discovery
What a beautiful and tranquil place. Love the fauna and flora, and I’d like to have a squizz inside the Tipis as well.
You just taught me a new word. I had to look up squizz. And yes, Fort Whyte Alive is a tranquil place.
They have really done a great job of turning the quarry into a great educational and nature experience! I enjoyed all your photos too!
They have done a good job Marilyn. I was pleased to see that it had gotten even better over the years.
It’s hard to believe that people survived Manitoba winters in sod houses and tipis. Fort Whyte Alive looks like a wonderful asset to have and a nice place to spend a day.Do they have hiking/walking trails requiring various degrees of exertion?
It is hard to believe how people used to survive the winters. The walking trails are all fairly gentle. There is one long trail, but it isn’t much more strenuous than the others except for taking more time.
What a lovely way to spend the day, wandering around in nature, and conveniently close. I am always amazed at the size of bison. Just enormous, thundering herds indeed.
It would have been intimidating to see those thundering herds when they roamed the prairie freely.
Thanks for sharing your walk. How sensible to have benches along the way~
The benches provide a place to rest along the way, but I think are used more just to sit for a while and take in the nature around.
Very nice, love the tree house.
I’ve never heard of the place and I’m just back from a quick trip to Manitoba looking for adventures. Loved the Spirit Sands hike in Spruce Woods PP and canoeing the Caddy Lake Tunnels in Whiteshell Prov’l Park. Thanks for putting this on the map.
It’s been a number of years since I visited Spruce Woods. We took a wagon tour of Spirit Sands and it was fascinating. Sadly, the sandhills are in danger of disappearing due to encroaching vegetation.
This is an amazingly well developed area and museum. I had to chuckle at the comment that the cows, not the bulls, lead the way – you go girls.
Yes, I liked that fact about the bison as well. I knew when I read it I would have to include it in my post.
Thank you for the tour through the Fort Whyte Alive nature preserve. It’s amazing how nature can be reclaimed from an old cement quarry. Seeing the chokecherry tree made me think of my grandparents in Saskatchewan, as they always had my grandma’s chokecherry syrup on the breakfast table.
Chokecherry jam is also very nice.
What a beautiful way to spend a day! There is nothing I like more than being around all the nature in your photos. The picture of the squirrel is awesome!
I love the picture of the squirrel too. He was definitely trying to give me a message!
So much about Fort Whyte Alive really appeals to me – the beauty, nature, history and even the convenience of a restaurant. I’d especially like to rent a bike there. The trails look great for a ride.
I’ve never biked there, but the trails are good for biking. We had several families pass us on bicycles as we walked.