Discovering Manitoba

Steep Rock: Breathtaking Limestone Cliffs and Bluffs

The bluffs overlooking the lake, carved by tens of thousands of years of erosion, are simply breathtaking.

It ought to be the duty of every Manitoban – in fact, every visitor to the province – to visit the sleepy little village of Steep Rock, a 2 1/2 hour drive north of Winnipeg on the shore of Lake Manitoba. The bluffs overlooking the lake, carved by tens of thousands of years of erosion, are simply breathtaking. You don’t have to take my word for it, of course; the pictures tell the story.

The nearby vegetation sprouting between the rocks and atop the bluffs is also worthy of closer inspection. Dwarf roses, ground-hugging emerald-green juniper and contrasting silver tufted artemia (silver mound) can all be found among the greenery. As well, a myriad of differently coloured lichens cling to the rocks, creating rich textures from considerable distances. Come spring, the rocks are blanketed with a canvas of crocus flowers, a shimmering purplish declaration of winter’s end.

What’s so good, too, is that there is no sign that anyone even goes there, except for maybe one large rock I noticed with initials painted on it. The hike among the rocks, down the shore and through treed and grassy fields above the bluffs is bracing and, at times, challenging. But it’s all doable. Then out on the lake are mini-islands that offer another visual treat.

The interesting thing is that there’s no readily visible signage such as “See bluffs here” – the kind of thing you see when visiting other tourist-type spots. That’s Steep Rock’s charm. Before you drive into the village, in fact, there’s a big sign on the left (I can’t remember what was written on it) where you should turn  down a gravel road that leads you through trees to a kind of dead-end where you park your car and begin your hike among the natural treasures. If this seems a tad vague, the locals will certainly help you. But there’s much more to do than just taking in the scenic beauty. The sandy beach a little ways away offers a recreational break. I swam there and it was wonderful.

What wasn’t wonderful when I was there – but this was no fault of anyone there – was what I called a camping night from hell. Waves of torrential rain and thunder made sleep almost impossible in a tent that had rivulets of water running through it, the only refuge being a thin sponge mattress where one curled into a ball and hoped bolts of lightening wouldn’t send a tree toppling onto the tent. At least Steep Rock didn’t suffer the deluge of hail that damaged buildings and dented almost every vehicle in the town of Dauphin, west of the lake, that summer.

The visit to the limestone cliffs made the trip more than worthwhile, though. Another popular attraction, although I didn’t go there, are the limestone caves. Camping is popular – either in open areas or very private areas separated by thickets of bushes and trees. The Beachside Cafe with a deck overlooking the lake offers full meals or just ice cream, soda and other snacks. Walking trails are abundant. A nine-hole chipand- putt course is another pleasant diversion. Volleyball and tennis are also offered.

Steep Rock is a 202 km (126 mile) trip northwest of Winnipeg on PTH #6, with a left turn on PR #239, where it’s a short 15 km drive to the village and the provincial park encompassing 160 acres of natural parkland.

-by Brian Gory

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