Table of Contents
2: Location, Borders, and Lakes
3: Geologic Structure and Landforms
6: Pre-historic and Early Historic Settlements
7: Survey Systems
8: Southern Hamlets, Villages, and Towns
9: Mennonite and Hutterite Settlements
10: First Nations Settlements
11: Northern Settlements
12: The Southern Cities
13: Mining and Oil Extraction
15: Industry / Manufacturing
16: Water Resources
17: Parks, Recreation, Sports
18: Transport and Communications: Past and Present
19: Legal Issues and Law Enforcement
16: Water Resources
Click for chapter introduction
Manitoba has an abundant supply of surface water with many large lakes and thousands of smaller ones (chapter 2). However, much of the water is in the north or drains to the north where there is a sparse population. In the south dams and reservoirs have been constructed to conserve water in some areas, whereas in other places projects were designed to drain water from the land to make it suitable for cultivation. The province’s rivers offered enormous potential for hydroelectric power, much of which has now been exploited, starting with a small-scale project on the Little Saskatchewan River and progressing to large projects on the Winnipeg, Saskatchewan and Nelson rivers. Two thermal power stations at Brandon and Selkirk on the Assiniboine and Red rivers illustrate the need for an assurred water supply. Flooding has been a problem since the earliest days of the province, especially along the Assiniboine and Red rivers culminating in the 1997 “Flood of the Century” in the Red River Valley. Dams, diversions and ring dikes are used to divert the floodwaters to less critical areas.
16.48: Flooding in Central Winnipeg in 1950
In the 1950 flood on the Red River Plain “almost 1,700 km2 along the river were inundated and all towns were evacuated…. In Winnipeg 10,500 homes were flooded and more than 100,000 people relocated, despite the seven-week diking operation by thousands of military and civilian personnel…. Direct costs of flood fighting and damage claims were about $30 million, and true costs may have exceeded $100 million.”[i] Shown here is the situation in central Winnipeg on May 7, 1950. Winnipeg’s three major rivers are visible. The Red River 1 meanders northwards through the city; water can be seen rushing under the Provencher Bridge 2 and a railway bridge to the north 3. The Red is joined from the west by the Assiniboine, lighter in tone 4, and crossed by Bridge of the Old Forts 5 and two railway bridges further downstream 6, 7. The Seine River enters the Red from the south; its channel though is visible only near the southern edge of the photo 8. Nearer the Red floodwaters—light grey-toned—obscur the channel 9. It is in this area and south of the Red River west of the junction of the Seine and Red 10 that flooding is most widespread.
The light grey-toned floodwaters cover mostly parks, for example along the Seine 11, Whittier Park 12, Stephen Juba Park 13, and Norquay Community Centre 14; and industrial areas, for example at the Forks 15 and the northern part of Point Douglas 16, as well as along the Seine River 17. However, some residential areas close to the river channels are affected, for example, on the west side of the Red River west of Point Douglas 18, the area west of Whittier Park 19, and on the east side of the Seine 20.
Winnipeg’s main roads are easily identified; Portage Avenue 21 intersects Main Street 22 west of the Red. The western approaches to Provencher Bridge 23 are flooded as is Provencher Boulevard where it crosses the Seine 24. Both CP 25 and CN 26 railway lines can be seen; as they are built on embankments, they are not flooded.
The photo illustrates the usefulness of air photos in documenting past conditions. The rail yards at the Forks 27 have been replaced by a park area (see figures 12.19 and 12.20), and only the western of the two railway bridges across the Assiniboine is still in use. The reservoir in the east 28 is now abandoned. Although it was close to flooded land, floodwater did not get into the municipal water supply, sparing Winnipeg a much greater disaster than what occurred. The Redwood Bridge 29 and the Louise Bridge 30 were in existence but there was no Disraeli Bridge which now exists between the two 31. St. Boniface Basilica, cross-shaped in plan 32, was destroyed by fire in 1968 and never replaced in its original form.
At the time the photo was taken wind was from the southeast, evidenced by the northwestward drift of smoke plumes in the eastern part of the photo 33.
Figure 16.48: Flooding in Central Winnipeg in 1950
Vertical air photograph: A12445-146
Flight height: 8,900 feet; lens focal length: 6 inches
Scale: 1:16,300 (approx.)
Date: May 7, 1950
Location: Township 11; Range 3E
Map sheets: 1:250,000 62H Winnipeg
1:50,000 62H/5 Roland
[i] Rannie, W. F. op. cit. 1996, 283.