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Chapter 2: Location, Borders, and Lakes

2.1: Manitoba’s Location in Canada

Manitoba, the Keystone Province, is centrally located within the Canadian Confederation that extends from sea (the Atlantic Ocean) to sea (the Pacific Ocean) to sea (the Arctic Ocean). It is also centrally located in North America, between the Arctic Ocean and the Gulf of Mexico: indeed Rugby, North Dakota, 60 kilometres south of the Manitoba border, claims to be the geographic centre of North America. The designation “Keystone Province” reflects Manitoba’s central location as well as its shape that widens from south to north, resembling the central stone of an arch.

At first glance, Manitoba’s boundaries seem simple, consisting of a series of straight lines. Certainly the southern and northern boundaries, which follow lines of latitude, are simple enough. In the south, latitude 49º N 1 separates Manitoba from the U.S.A. (North Dakota and Minnesota). The boundary is mainly on land but in the east it extends into Lake of the Woods 2 as far as the unlikely longitude, 95º10'W.[i] The northern boundary with Nunavut follows latitude 60ºN 3 eastward from longitude 102ºW until it reaches Hudson Bay 4.

The eastern and western boundaries are more complex, although both are geometrical. The eastern boundary with Ontario follows longitude 95º10'W 5 as far north as latitude 52º50'N 6, which was the province’s northern boundary between 1881 and 1912 when the present boundaries were established. From this point it veers off to the northeast 7 along a line that represents a compromise between the land claims of Manitoba and Ontario. A proposal to continue the Manitoba/Ontario boundary north along longitude 95º10'W was rejected because this would have left Manitoba with no access to Hudson Bay. Another proposal for the northeastern boundary had it following the height of land between the Hayes River (now in Manitoba) and the Severne River (now in Ontario). This idea was jettisoned because of the indefinite nature of the drainage divide. Careful inspection of the present boundary reveals that it has a kink in it 8, because it was drawn to touch the eastern end of Island Lake from where it continues to Hudson Bay to reach it at another unlikely longitude - 88º53'W 9.[ii]

Nor is the western boundary with Saskatchewan one continuous straight line. In the south it follows the stepped line between ranges 29 and 30W1 10 of the DLS system as far north as 55º50'N 11. Here it comes into contact with the 102ºW line of longitude 12 which it follows as far as 60ºN 13.

So Hudson Bay 14 is Manitoba’s only non-geometric boundary. It gives Manitoba the right to claim that it is a maritime province, and it can be argued that as the land is rising out of Hudson Bay—a result of isostatic rebound[iii]Manitoba is slowly increasing in size.

Figure 2.1: Manitoba’s Location in Canada

Figure 2.1: Manitoba’s Location in Canada


Figure 2.1

Landsat 1 mosaic, 1975

Constructed from band 6 images (0.7-0.8micrometres, infrared) obtained during the period 1972 to 1974.

Scale: 1:25,500,000 (approx.)



[i] This is the longitude of the headwaters of the Mississippi River.

[ii] For an explanation of the significance of this longitude and that mentioned in note 1 see Nicholson N.L. The Boundaries of Canada, Its Provinces and Territories. Ottawa: Department of Mines and Technical Surveys, Geographical Branch, Memoir 2, 1964. The memoir gives a complete account of the evolution of Manitoba’s boundaries.

[iii] During the Pleistocene the earth’s crust beneath what is now Hudson Bay was depressed by the weight of the ice sheet covering it. When the ice melted the pressure release resulted in the crust rising—a process known as isostatic rebound. The process is not complete and over time Hudson Bay will shrink as the coast rises from the sea.