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Chapter 16: Water Resources

16.47: Flooding in the Southern Red River Valley in May 1950

“From the beginning of written records, flooding has been a major hazard for the occupants of the Red River Valley. Accounts from the Red River settlement period describe numerous floods.” Major floods occurred in 1826, 1852, and 1861. “Ironically, however, because most of Manitoba’s population growth occurred during a period of little flooding, by 1950 few people were aware of the potential threat.”[i]. The 1950 flood that profoundly affected Winnipeg was the first major flood of the 20th century. Flooding is, of course, no respecter of arbitrary political boundaries. On this photo medium grey-toned floodwaters cover much of the eastern half of the area shown 1 both north and south of the Canada/U.S.A. border 2. The very light-toned area in the west 3 is the result of specular reflection from floodwaters; but the light tones 4 in the channel of the northeast-flowing Red 5 probably result from floating ice.

The town of Emerson, the community of West Lynn, and the transport routes in the area are profoundly affected by the flooding. The eastern part of Emerson 6, including the railway marshalling yards 7 and the business district 8, is mainly above the flood level with only patchy flooding indicated by dark tones 9. The cemetery in the east 10 is flooded with surrounding trees projecting above flood level 11. The worst effect is seen in the west where most of the residential area is flooded 12. West Lynn west of the Red River is almost completely flooded 13.

The effect on transport routes is well illustrated with roads being more drastically affected than railway lines. PTH 75 14, the main north/south road in the Red River Valley, is covered in several places 15; at one location water can be seen rushing northward across the highway 16. Several vehicles are stranded on the road 17 between flooded areas. A secondary road west of the river channel 18 disappears completely beneath floodwaters, as does another minor road 19 south of PTH 75. Railway lines usually located on embankments are not so drastically affected. The CN line 20 and marshalling yards 21 in the west are above water, and further east the line runs like a causeway 22 across the valley; there is, though, a break 23 just west of the river channel. Many train cars are located on the lines 24, some of which are almost certainly delayed by flooding.

In this area the long lot system of land division is in operation; field boundaries running generally east/west can be seen 25, some of which project just above the water in flooded areas 26.

Figure 16.47: Flooding in the Southern Red River Valley in May 1950

Figure 16.47: Flooding in the Southern Red River Valley in May 1950

Figure 16.47

Vertical air photograph: A12445-212

Flight height: 8,900 feet a.s.l.; lens focal length: 6 inches

Scale: 1:16,200 (approx.)

Date: May 7, 1950

Location: Township 1; Range 2E

Map sheets: 1:250,000 62H Winnipeg

                    1:50,000 62H/6 Morris


[i] Rannie, W. F. “Flooding and Flood Protection on the Red River Plain” in Welsted, Everitt and Stadel, op. cit. 1996, 283-284.