Afternoon turns into night. Time lapse photography from the porch of Yurt #4 at Spruce Woods Provincial Park. Click pic to watch my video
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Last Friday I took a drive out to Spruce Woods Park to see how the little park overwintered. Park workers have cleaned up most of the debris that cluttered the ditches. The plastic and metal grid dams that were washed away and strewn about the park have been removed. Some infill in wash-out areas, such as around the park sign and in ditches where water stood all last year, has been done. The huge pile of trees next to the bridge has been removed, likely providing the park with firewood for the next five years. The low road to the campground is still impassable and there remains plenty of evidence of the flood’s impact on the landscape.
According to Manitoba Parks, the entire lower campground (bays 1 – 7) and all the campground buildings at Kiche Manitou in Spruce Woods were completely destroyed by the floodwaters. Currently the department is assessing damages and planning reconstruction, however, the lower campground will NOT be open for the 2012 season. The upper campground and yurts will still be available.
I stopped at the trailhead of Spirit Sands and took a few pictures. Though they never moved all last summer, the three covered wagons await their horses and a flood of tourists to carry out to the dunes. Other than the lower campground closure and most of the trail system needing repairs, the park will operate more or less as usual this year. I’m looking forward to watching the natural changes the park will undergo this summer.
The status of several other provincial parks damaged by flooding last year remains uncertain. The department is reporting that availability of parks around Lake Manitoba inundated by high lake levels will vary. Since its campground and park infrastructure were completely destroyed, camping at St. Ambroise Park will not be offered this year. Also on the lake, Watchorn Park was damaged badly and assessments are currently underway, but it’s uncertain whether camping will be available this year. The campgrounds at Rainbow Beach and Manipogo Parks are now under repair with the intent that they’ll be open on May 11. Lundar Beach Park suffered extensive damage and, although repairs are underway, availability of camping this summer is uncertain. Slowly our parks will bounce back.
There have been changes this year in Manitoba Parks. Camping fees have increased slightly, between $1.05 and $3.15 depending on services offered. Park entry fees will be charged this year, ending three pleasant years of free park entry. Annual permits are just $30, amongst the lowest in Canada. Three-day passes are $8 and single day is $4. Permits are required after May 1 and can be purchased by mid-April at any Manitoba conservation office including campground offices, large stores like Canadian Tire and small stores that cater to fishers and hunters.
The Manitoba Provincial Parks Reservation System kicks into life tomorrow, April 2, 2012 at 7:30 a.m. They should have the latest information on campground availability around the province. In Winnipeg call 948-3333, elsewhere toll-free 1-888-482-2267. Their website is manitobaparks.com
The mighty Assiniboine that caused havoc last year at this time is a much more peaceful river today as you can see. Here it’s rounding the bend at Spirit Sands trailhead. I’ll have many more reports on Spruce Woods Park and my other travels this summer on my blog. Stay tuned. Happy trails!
Friday, August 12, 2011
Manitoba Hwy 5 is now open through Spruce Woods Park but there is limited access to park facilities and trails. When I drove through the newly-opened highway today I was horrified by the damage the little park suffered from the raging Assiniboine River. The shape and tenure of the park has been changed by the waters, the ongoing unknowable script of Nature writ new and large on a familiar landscape.
Marsh Lake access has been restored, the area mowed but the trail is flooded and closed; the picnic area is covered in grey flood goo. It feels under repair. The entrance to Spirit Sands trailhead is still washed out but there are piles of materials to rebuild the entrance and give access to the sacred place again…a miracle waiting to happen. The lower Kiche Manitou campground is still flooded and the access road is closed due to a major washout. The upper campground and yurt area is accessible by a detour route. I feel more hopeful for the park than I did on my last visit in mid July. It is very encouraging to see the highway is now open. I shot this video of the area today.
There has been little change in the status of Spruce Woods Provincial Park since my last update. Most of the park’s amenities remain closed and inaccessible due to flooding, including Spirit Sands and Punchbowl, Ispuitinaw Trail, Marsh Lake, the lower area of Kiche Manitou Campground, concession stand and canoe campground.
The upper campground and yurts at Kiche Manitou Campground are open and accessible with the parks call centre taking reservations. Access to these campground sites is only via Hwy #2 from the south, but not the Trans Canada Highway. This map shows the detour. By the way, for the third year in a row, there is no entry fee to visit Manitoba’s provincial parks. They are free! Great deal! Camping fees still apply.
There’s not much to do this year at Spruce Woods but a few of the trails are open or partially open. Using Carberry and TCH access from the north, Epinette Creek is partially open, that is to cabin #2 and Juniper Loop but the trail is closed at start of Tamarack Loop. Arriving from the south, the Hogs Back Trail is open, Spring Ridge Trail is partially open with some flooded sections. This trail has been expanded. Warning signs are posted. The Trans Canada Trail east of upper campground is open, equestrian trails are open with some sections flooded and the main equestrian campground is open.
The prognosis for the park reopening is not good. Ominously, the Souris River joins the Assiniboine just upstream from Spruce Woods and, with the volume of water rolling down the Souris today, it is conceivable Highway #5 through the park will remain closed for the summer, and, depending on the extent of damage, possibly for the year. Though the bridge is still holding, there is massive wash-out of the highway on either side.
As one who hikes Spirit Sands at least a dozen times every summer, I’m having hiker withdrawal this year not being able to walk the land. Linda’s beautiful photographs of the sands in this post will have to do for now. The Assiniboine has probably inundated the low-lying Punchbowl but the sands themselves are at a much higher elevation and escape flooding. I’m imagining how pristine and pure the untrodden dunes must be, how delicately the rivulets of water have drawn their paths down the sloping trails and how the log ladders are buried from disuse.