Regular, intercity travelers along the Trans Canada Highway between Brandon and Winnipeg will be familiar with the halfway trees, trees that local lore says mark the midpoint between the two cities.
The halfway tree on the north side of the highway is about 14 kms west of Portage la Prairie, right next to the road and protected by a steel guard rail.
This tree is a 40-foot common willow and is the last survivor of a willow planting next to a drainage swale. Twinning the TCH caused the other willows to be removed but this, the largest one, was spared. This tree is a Manitoba Heritage Tree and is listed prominently in Heritage Trees of Manitoba, a publication of the Manitoba Forestry Association.
The other halfway tree, situated about 23 kms west of Portage on the south side of the TCH, is a gigantic, old cottonwood. This is the tree most recognized as halfway despite lacking heritage status. I have often seen the lower reaches of this tree decorated with an occasional Christmas ornament, ribbons, shoes and assorted stuff. It has been the scene of various life-changing events over its 100 year history including at least one marriage proposal.
So we have two trees nine kms apart that both claim to be halfway between Winnipeg and Brandon. Fact is, neither tree is exactly halfway but, by actual miles, the cottonwood is closer to claiming that title than the willow. I suspect building the Portage bypass and twinning the TCH changed the mileage between the two cities, thus neither tree is pivotal. The cottonwood certainly merits heritage status and the Manitoba Forestry Association is taking nominations now to update the protected tree list. See their website for details on the process.
This moody photograph of the cottonwood at night was taken by Brandon photographer and videographer Derek Gunnlaugson. Thanks, Derek. Check out his website, Dex.
How To Measure the Height of a Tree
Have someone stand next to the tree. (It doesn’t have to be a person but should be something of a specific height.) Holding a ruler vertically, walk backwards from the tree until the person is one inch tall on the ruler. Note where the top of the tree is on the ruler. Take that number and multiple it by the height of the person (or object) next to tree and you have the tree’s height. Easy!