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Chapter 17: Parks, Recreation, Sports

17.5: Pelican Lake

Pelican Lake 1, part of the Pembina River 2 drainage system, occupies part of the floor of the Souris-Pembina glacial spillway. At 14.5 miles (23 km) long by 1.5 miles (2.4 km) wide it is the longest lake in southwest Manitoba, the only lake in the area big enough to accommodate filling water-bomber planes used to fight forest fires.[i]

Although it is shallow and has little through-flow of water, it has always been a popular recreation spot. By 1906, a 60 foot (18 m) tour boat and two 40 foot (12 m) cargo launches plied the lake, the latter delivering mail and supplies to camps around the lake at Manhattan Beach 3, Strathconal Park 4, Balmy Beach 5, and Sunnyside Beach 6.[ii] The steep sides of the spillway made land access difficult, but trains (as many as three per day) brought day-trippers from Brandon to Ninette 7 at the north end of the lake.

Fluctuations in lake level have caused problems over the years. After a burst of activity in the first 10 years of the 20th century, a period of low water levels resulted in the removal of steamboats the last one leaving in 1916.[iii] Attempts were made to regulate the lake, but during the dry 1930s it continued to fall. Climate conditions were also dry during the 1950s, and the post-war boom in cottage developments led to requests for a system to regulate the lake. However, a return to wetter conditions in the 1960s quietened these demands, but the resulting high water levels caused erosion and flooding along the shore. Renewed requests for regulation now had the aim of keeping the water level down. Finally a regulation project was completed during the 1990s. The project at the southeast end of the lake (off the photo) has both an inlet and an outlet component. The former involves a weir on the Pembina River to divert water into a channel leading into Pelican Lake. The weir is designed to divert some Pembina River water into the lake but also to allow some flow along the Pembina River at all times. The outlet channel mainly occupies the old outflow channel from Pelican Lake. In essence the project diverts water into Pelican Lake when the lake level is low and allows water out of the lake when it is high.

Yachting on the lake is popular. The Pelican Lake Yacht Club was established in 1969 at the north end and hosted the sailing events of the 1997 Canada Summer Games.

Figure 17.5: Pelican Lake

Figure 17.5: Pelican Lake

Figure 17.5

Vertical air photograph: A21749-43

Flight height: 25,000 feet a.s.l.; lens focal length: 88.29 mm

Scale: 1:80,200 (approx.)

Date: July 27, 1970

Location: Townships 3, 4 and 5; Range 16W1 and 17W1

Map sheets: 1:250,000 62G Brandon

                    1:50,000 62G/5 Dunrea


[ii] Ibid.

[iii] Welsted, J. “The Ups and Downs and Ins and Outs of Pelican Lake” in Proceedings of the Prairie Division of the Canadian Association of Geographers. ed Wilson, M.R..  Saskatoon: University of Saskatchewan, 1993, 221-232.