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Chapter 2: Location, Borders, and Lakes


Manitoba’s location in Canada is best shown on high level satellite images with some cartographic enhancement to show the position of its borders (Figure 2.1). In the case of Figure 2.1, a satellite 900 km above the earth’s surface obtained the individual images used in its construction. Manitoba has borders with the United States to the south; Saskatchewan to the west; Ontario to the east; and Nunavut to the north. These have been added to the image and are not, of course, represented by any physical barrier on the ground. Differences of land use on either side of the international border may make it recognizable even on small-scale satellite images (Figure2.5) as well as on larger scale air photographs (Figures 2.6 and 2.7). However, the border is not always marked by land use differences (Figure 2.8), and in some cases, although there is a clear tonal difference from one side to the other, it is not obvious what this represents on the ground (Figure 2.9).

The inter-provincial borders and the border with Nunavut cannot be distinguished on the basis of land use differences because none exist. In wooded areas (Figure 2.10) the border is often represented by a cut line, but in agricultural areas (Figure 2.11) the border is merely an abstract line symbolically represented on maps.

A high proportion of Manitoba’s total area (15.6 percent) is water including some very large lakes, for example, Lake Winnipeg, Lake Winnipegosis, Lake Manitoba, and Cedar Lake These and many smaller lakes can be identified on satellite images (Figure 2.2, and 2.3). Not only their location can be seen but also information can be obtained about their depth and sediment content (Figure 2.3).

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.

2.2: Manitoba’s Lakes

The image was produced by assembling the best Landsat images—those with little or no cloud cover—obtained before 1980. The sensor used was the Multispectral Scanner (MSS) which recorded four spectral bands: band 4, green (0.5 to 0.6 micrometres); band 5, red (0.6 to 0.7 micrometres); band 6, infrared (0.7 to 0.8 micrometres); and band 7, also infrared (0.8 to 1.1 micrometres). Any three of these bands can be combined to make a colour image. In this case the infrared bands were used; hence live healthy vegetation, which reflects large quantities of infrared radiation, appears red. Wooded areas such as Turtle Mountain 1, Riding Mountain 2, and Duck Mountain 3 are prominent. Clear water bodies such as the north end of Lake Winnipeg 4 appear as dark green, whereas sediment-laden water bodies such as Playgreen Lake 5, Kiskittogisu Lake 6, and Kiskitto Lake 7 north of Lake Winnipeg appear milky blue.

During the 1980s, car license plates in Manitoba referred to the province as the “land of 100,000 lakes” and “taking the province as a whole, 15.6 percent of the total area is water… Of 505 lakes in Canada over 100 km2 in area, 74 are wholly or partly located in Manitoba.”[i] Manitoba’s “great lakes” include Lake Winnipeg 4 (by area the sixth largest in Canada), Lake Winnipegosis 8 (the eleventh largest), Lake Manitoba 9, and the Cedar Lake reservoir 10.[ii] Cedar Lake is partly natural but increased in size with the damming of the Saskatchewan River to produce hydroelectricity at Grand Rapids 11. Lake of the Woods 12 lies mostly in Ontario and the U.S.A. but part of it—in the west—lies in Manitoba; in fact, Winnipeg gets its water supply from Shoal Lake, a northwestern embayment of Lake of the Woods.

Other lakes visible in southern and central Manitoba are Whitewater Lake 13, Oak Lake 14, Clear Lake 15, Jackfish Lake 16, the Shoal Lakes 17, Dauphin Lake 18, Lake St. Martin 19, Pelican Lake 20, Swan Lake 21, and Red Deer Lake 22.

The lakes of northern Manitoba are less well known, but have been important in the history of the province and many continue to be important to the native economy of the north as well as the general economy of the province. One series of lakes exists along the course of the Nelson River: Cross Lake 23, Sipiwesk Lake 24, Split Lake 25, and Stephens Lake 26. Several of the lakes immediately north of Lake Winnipeg along the Nelson River system are light blue indicating suspended sediment, probably related indirectly to hydroelectric power developments along the river. North Moose Lake 27 and Hargrave Lake 28 are a similar light blue—although there are no hydro developments near them—and contrast with the dark blue of South Moose Lake 29, Cormorant Lake 30, and Clearwater Lake 31, the latter a deep clear lake, the centerpiece of Clearwater Lake Provincial Park. Granville Lake 32 and Southern Indian Lake 33 are part of the Churchill River system in north-central Manitoba, and to the west is Reindeer Lake 34 most of which is in Saskatchewan. Further north are Tadoule Lake 35 on the Seal River and Nejanilini Lake 36 just south of the Nunavut border.

Most of the large lakes of northeastern Manitoba are part of the Hayes River System—Molson Lake 37, Oxford Lake 38, and Knee Lake 39—and the Gods River System, which includes Island Lake 40 and Gods Lake 41. These lakes are free of suspended sediment and appear dark on the image.

Figure 2.2: Manitoba’s Lakes

Figure 2.2: Manitoba’s Lakes

Figure 2.2

LANDSAT mosaic of images obtained between 1972 and 1979

Bands used included those recording a portion of the infrared part of the spectrum

Scale: 1:5,600,000


[i] Welsted, J. “Manitoba’s Water Resources” in The Geography of Manitoba: Its Land and Its People eds. J. Welsted, J. Everitt and C.Stadel. Winnipeg: The University of Manitoba Press, 1996, 266.

[ii] McGinn, R.A. in Welsted, Everitt and Stadel op cit., 1996, 6-7.

2.3: Lakes of West Central Manitoba

On this LANDSAT image the radiation recorded from the earth’s surface is processed so that vegetation appears red/brown and water bodies appear as shades of blue.

In the southwest is Riding Mountain National Park 1 with orange/brown patches 2 representing coniferous woodland (radiating infrared radiation at the time of the image). A lighter coloured area in the west 3 is the location of a forest fire that destroyed much of the vegetation. Also seen is the eastern edge of Duck Mountain 4 with some patches of coniferous trees 5. Another area of coniferous woodland (red/orange) can be seen in the northeast 6.

North-northwest/south-southeast lineations in the north 7 are grooves etched by southward moving glaciers. Agricultural land is located east of Duck Mountain 8 and Riding Mountain 9 as well as between the two highlands 10. Northwest/southeast trending lines, particularly noticeable east of Duck Mountain, are Lake Agassiz strandlines 11.

Variation in the shades of blue in the water bodies is an indication of the amount of suspended sediment in the water. Where there is a lot of suspended sediment (usually in shallow lakes) the water is imaged as milky blue, but where there is little (usually in deep lakes) the water appears as dark blue; compare for example Whitewater Lake 12 with Clear Lake 13. Shallow lakes with large suspended sediment concentrations include Dauphin Lake 14, Lake Manitoba (both north 15 and south 16), Dog Lake 17, and Jackfish Lake 18. Intermediate (medium blue) are Lake St. Martin 19, Waterhen Lake 20, and Sturgeon Bay 21 off Lake Winnipeg. Lake Winnipegosis is mainly dark blue 22 indicating little suspended sediment, but two lighter patches, one off Red Deer Point 23 and one near Duck Bay 24, may be ice remnants. Perhaps the northern part of Lake Winnipegosis has only recently become clear of ice leaving little time for sediment to be stirred up.

Figure 2.3: Lakes of West Central Manitoba

Figure 2.3: Lakes of West Central Manitoba

Figure 2.3

LANDSAT image: May 16, 1973

Bands: 4 0.5-0.6 micrometres (green)

5 0.6-0.7 micrometres (red)

7 0.8-1.1 micrometres (infrared)

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

2.4: The International Border at the Northwest Angle

In the 1783 Treaty of Paris the United States and Great Britain agreed that the U.S. border in this area would extend from the northwestern corner of Lake of the Woods due west to the Mississippi River. But the source of the Mississippi River, Lake Hasca, at Latitude 47º 12' N and Longitude 95º 10' W is south of Lake of the Woods. The Anglo-American Convention of 1818 solved the issue by redrawing the border to run south from the northwest corner of Lake of the Woods to the 49th parallel and from there along the 49th parallel to the Pacific. One result is that the Northwest Angle is cut off from the rest of the contiguous U.S.A.; it can only be reached by land by passing through Canada.

The borders have been superimposed on the image obtained from NASA’s Terra Satellite on May 19, 2002. The Manitoba/Minnesota border 1 runs south from the northwest corner 2 of Lake of the Woods 3. It extends into the lake until it reaches 49º N 4 and then turns west 5. The Ontario/Minnesota border 6 runs south-southeast through Lake of the Woods.

The Northwest Angle is isolated from the rest of the U.S.A., so much so that in the late 1990s some of its residents expressed a desire to secede from the U.S.A. and become part of Manitoba “The announcement resulted from frustration over border-crossing rules and differences in fishing regulations between the two countries[i].

On this false colour image the healthy vegetation appears red. Both the Northwest Angle and that part of Manitoba shown here, except for the area occupied by Buffalo Point First Nation 7 and a grey marshy area 8 north of Buffalo Bay 9, are heavily wooded. In contrast much of the area of Minnesota south of Lake of the Woods 10 has been cleared for agriculture. In Manitoba the route followed by PR 308 11 leading into Minnesota 12 is clearly seen.

Figure 2.4: The International Border at the Northwest Angle

Figure 2.4: The International Border at the Northwest Angle

Figure 2.4

Terra Satellite Image

Advanced Spaceborne Thermal Emission and Reflection Radiometer (ASTER)

May 19, 2002

Scale: 1:320,000 (approximately)

Location (in Manitoba): Townships 1, 2, 3, 4 and 5; Range 17E

Map sheets: 1:250,000 52E Kenora

1:50,000 52E/2 Big Island


2.5: Southern Manitoba, Northern North Dakota, and the Canada/U.S.A. Border

Other features to note on the image are Whitewater Lake 6 (orange) and the string of lakes in the Pembina Valley, from west to east: Bone Lake 7, Pelican Lake 8, Lorne Lake 9, Louise Lake 10, Rock Lake 11, and Swan Lake 12. The difference in colour between Whitewater Lake and the others is probably because the former is very shallow and carries stirred-up sediment, whereas the others are deeper and carry less suspended sediment. The white patches in the northwest 13 are fair-weather cumulus clouds, whereas the white streaks across the centre 14 are probably high-level cirrus clouds.

The two most obvious features on the Landsat image are Turtle Mountain 1 in blue just off the centre of the image and the great southern loop of the Souris River 2, starting at the western edge, extending almost to the southern edge, and then bending to flow north into Manitoba. A straight line 3 separates the northern part of Turtle Mountain (dark blue) in Canada from the southern part (lighter blue) in the U.S.A. where more clearing of woodland has taken place. East and west of Turtle Mountain, land use on both sides of the border is similar; consequently, the border cannot be easily distinguished, except by extension of the line that runs through Turtle Mountain 4. At the northern edge of Turtle Mountain Provincial Park, woodland clearing to the north results in a line 5 similar to that along the border.

Figure 2.5: Southern Manitoba, Northern North Dakota, and the Canada/U.S.A. Border

Figure 2.5: Southern Manitoba, Northern North Dakota, and the Canada/U.S.A. Border

Figure 2.5

Landsat 1 image, September 19, 1973

This is a colour composite of bands 5 – wavelength 0.6-0.7 micrometre (red), 6-wavelength 0.7-0.8 micrometre (infrared) and 7 wavelength 0.8-1.1 micrometre (infrared).

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

2.6: The Canada-U.S.A. Border in Ranges 18, 19, and 20WI

The photograph shows the eastern flank of Turtle Mountain that straddles the international border. In Canada much more of the original woodland remains, making it possible for the interpreter to locate the border. In this area, the Cretaceous bedrock is overlain by thick hummocky moraine with numerous hollows many of which are lake-filled. Some of the larger lakes are named on the 1:50,000 topographic map: Beaver Lake 1, Adams Lake 2,Charlton Lake 3, and William Lake 4. The last is the centerpiece of William Lake Provincial Recreational Park, a favourite venue for windsurfers. Lakes appear in various tones ranging from almost black 5, to dark grey (William Lake 4), to light grey (Charlton Lake 3) to almost white 6. The variation from very dark grey to almost white is a result of the relationship of sun angle, water surface and camera angle, with the almost white tone being the result of specular reflection. The variation from very dark grey to light grey is a result of lake depth and sediment content: deeper lakes with little suspended sediment are very dark toned, whereas shallow lakes with suspended sediment are light toned.

North and east of Turtle Mountain the characteristic checkerboard pattern of the DLS system that covers most of southern Manitoba can be clearly seen. Roads follow the section lines of the system 7, but in Turtle Mountain light-toned lines 8 representing access trails are much more haphazard.

PTH 10 9, which continues in some form or another southward to the Gulf of Mexico, crosses the border near the western edge of the photograph. At the border crossing is the International Peace Garden 10 created to recognize the traditional harmony between Canada and the United States. Running diagonally across the north is a long-abandoned railway line 11.

Figure 2.6: The Canada/U.S.A. Border in Ranges 18, 19, and 20WI

Figure 2.6: The Canada/U.S.A. Border in Ranges 18, 19, and 20WI

Figure 2.6

Vertical air photograph: A21821-45

Flight height: 24,000 a.s.l.; lens focal length, 85.55 mm

Date: August 10, 1970

Scale: 1: 74,000 (approx.)

Location: Townships 1 and 2, Ranges 18, 19 and 20 WI.

Map sheets: 1:250,000 62 G Brandon and 62 F Virden

1:50,000 62G/4 Killarney

62F/1 Deloraine

2.7: Large-Scale Photograph of Part of Turtle Mountain Provincial Park and the International Peace Garden

The photograph shows even more clearly than Figure 2.6 the difference in land cover north and south of the international border. North of the border the vegetation consists mainly of mixed deciduous and coniferous woodland, but the dark patches 1 are coniferous plantations. In Canada, Turtle Mountain Provincial Park is located west of PTH 10 2. The customs control buildings are seen north and south of the border 3. Along the border west of PTH 10 are the formal gardens of the Peace Garden 4 with a peace arch 5 located at the entrance to the park. Most of the lakes are natural, resulting from the hummocky nature of this moraine-covered area, but some are at least partly artificial and ornamental 6. In contrast to figure 2.6 all the lakes are dark-toned.

A peripheral roadway 7 circles the park on both sides of the border, making it easy for visitors to do a quick motor tour. In the southeast corner is a runway for light aircraft 8.

Figure 2.7: Large-Scale Photograph of Part of Turtle Mountain Provincial Park and the International Peace Garden

Figure 2.7: Large-Scale Photograph of Part of Turtle Mountain Provincial Park and the International Peace Garden

Figure 2.7

Vertical air photograph: A 19903-28

Flight height: 9,900 feet a.s.l; lens focal length 152.14 mm

Date: May 16, 1967

Scale: 1: 15,800 (approx.)

Location: Township 1, Range 20 WI

Map sheets: 1:250,000 62F Virden

1:50,000 62F/1 Deloraine

2.8: Part of Turtle Mountain Provincial Park

Although some wood clearing has taken place in North Dakota, the only clear indication of the international border is a cut line 1 through the woodland. A track runs east/west just inside Canada 2. The photograph illustrates well the wooded, lake-strewn nature of Turtle Mountain Provincial Park. One of the lakes, Cauldwell Lake 3, is large enough to be named on the 1:250,000 map (62F, Virden) of the area. Several lakes are smaller than they used to be, white encrustations indicating former shorelines 4. Other lakes have either dried up completely or are seasonal 5.

Figure 2.8: Part of Turtle Mountain Provincial Park

Figure 2.8: Part of Turtle Mountain Provincial Park

Figure 2.8

Vertical air photograph: A 19903-18

Flight height: 9,900 feet a.s.l.; camera focal length, 6 inches

Date: May 16, 1967

Scale: 1:15,000 (approx.)

Location: Township 1, Range 21 WI

Map sheets: 1:250,000 62F Virden

1:50,000 62F/1 Deloraine



2.9: Part of the Red River Plain and the Canada/U.S.A. Border

Culturally, the distinctive pattern of the DLS system (in Canada) is obvious. In the U.S.A. a very similar system (on which the DLS was based) is used on almost identical land. In Canada are numerous Mennonite villages of the western reserve: Neuhorst 4, Rosengart 5, Reinland 6, Schoenwiese 7, Kronsthal 8, Rosetown 9, Blumenfeld 10, Hochfeld 11, Neuenberg 12, Grandenthal 13, and Friedensruh 14. PTH 32 15 in Canada crosses the area from north to south with a slight kink 16 at the border, because the American section lines do not coincide exactly with those in Canada. In the north, the faint light-toned line that crosses the area from west-northwest to east-southeast 17 is a buried oil pipeline.

Land south of the border shows as a darker tone, but what does this represent? There must have been some variation in land use north and south of the border when the photos were taken. More light-toned fields 1—probably harvested cereal crops—can be seen in Canada and more east/west field shelterbelts of trees 2 can be seen in the U.S.A., but neither fact fully explains the tonal difference. This is a very flat region, part of the area covered by Lake Agassiz in immediate post-glacial times. Poorly developed strandlines can be seen in the south 3.

Figure 2.9: Part of the Red River Plain and the Canada/U.S.A. Border

Figure 2.9: Part of the Red River Plain and the Canada/U.S.A. Border

Figure 2.9

Vertical air photograph: A21821-65

Flight height: 24,000 feet a.s.l.; lens focal length, 85.55 mm

Date: August 10, 1970

Scale 1: 84,500 (approx.)

Location: Township 1 and 2, Ranges 2, 3 and 4WI in Canada

Map sheets 1:250,000 62H Winnipeg

1:50,000 62H/4 Altona




2.10: The Manitoba/Saskatchewan Border in Townships 29 and 30

The photograph shows part of Duck Mountain, that straddles the Manitoba/Saskatchewan border. The area is almost completely wooded, principally by deciduous trees (aspen-Populus tremuloides and birch-Betula papyrifera) with a scattering of white and black spruce (Picea glauca and Picea mariana) and balsam fir (Abies balsamea) as an understory.[i] The border is marked by a north/south cut line 1. An east/west cut line 2 indicates the boundary between townships 29 and 30, and in Saskatchewan the southern edge of Duck Mountain Provincial Park. There are no major roads in the area, but a light-toned gravel road 3 and a forest path 4 can be seen. The main drainage feature is Little Boggy Creek 5 that drains southwest to join the Assiniboine River (off the photograph). The expansions in the creek 6 result from a series of beaver dams that produce a staircase effect.

Figure 2.10: The Manitoba/Saskatchewan Border in Townships 29 and 30

Figure 2.10: The Manitoba/Saskatchewan Border in Townships 29 and 30

Figure 2.10

Vertical air photograph A23349-237

Flight height 9,980 feet a.s.l.; lens focal length 153.275 mm.

Date: June 23, 1973

Scale: 1:16,000 (approx.)

Location: Townships 29 and 30, Ranges 29 and 30 WI

Map sheets: 1:250,000 62 N Duck Mountain

1:50,000 62N/2 Kamsack


[i] Information from Bob McKenzie, Resources Technician, Manitoba Department of National Resources, February 16, 1981.


2.11: The Manitoba/Saskatchewan Border in Townships 2 and 3

The provincial border follows the range line between ranges 29 and 30 WI 1. The correction line at the northern edge of township 2 2 can be seen, and as the area is far to the west of the principal meridian, the correction is almost a section and a half (a mile and a half or 2.4 km) in length.

Natural vegetation has been almost completely removed for agriculture. Two small agricultural communities exist: Pierson in Manitoba 3 and Gainsborough in Saskatchewan 4. In the latter, roads run north/south and east/west in harmony with the DLS system, whereas in Pierson roads are parallel, and at right angles, to the CPR line 5 that enters the settlement from the northeast and then runs parallel to the township line and PTH 3 in Manitoba 6 (highway 18 in Saskatchewan). Sewage lagoons at 7 and 8 are located just outside each community.

Doughnut-shaped mounds 9 left by melting stagnant ice cover the area. Although they are very clear from the air—even on this small-scale photograph—no more than 2 metres height difference exists between the raised rim and the bowl. Rain splash erosion has removed dark-coloured, small-sized fragments from higher areas resulting in a light-toned rim surrounding a dark-toned basin.

In the west, Gainsborough Creek 10 loops around Gainsborough and then drains southeast to the Souris River (off the photo). A reflection of the semi-aridity of this area is the existence of field shelterbelts southeast of Pierson 11. These belts of trees are a PFRA (Prairie Farm Rehabilitation Administration) response to the severe wind erosion that occurred across the southern prairies in the 1930s.

Figure 2.11: The Manitoba/Saskatchewan Border in Townships 2 and 3

Figure 2.11: The Manitoba/Saskatchewan Border in Townships 2 and 3

Figure 2.11

Vertical air photographs: A21749-66

Flight height: 25,800 feet a.s.l.; lens focal length 88.29 mm

Date: July 27, 1970

Location: Townships 2 and 3, Ranges 29 and 30W1

Scale: 1:82,300 (approx.)

Map sheets: 1:250,000 62F Virden

1:50,000 62F/3 Gainsborough