Situated halfway between the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans, Manitoba is often nicknamed the “keystone province” because of its location in Canada’s heartland. It is the most easterly of Canada’s Prairie provinces, and is bordered by the U.S. states of North Dakota and Minnesota to the south, Ontario to the east, by the province of Saskatchewan to the west, and the Northwest Territories and Hudson Bay to the north. Its vast expanse stretches over 650,000 square kilometers (251,000 square miles), approximately one-sixth of which is covered with rivers and lakes. It has a population of just under 1.2 million, half of whom live in the capital city of Winnipeg, the province's only major city.
Manitoba has the smallest area of prairie land of the three Prairie Provinces of Canada. Its wheat-growing belt is confined to its southwest corner. Beyond the prairies lies the great lakes of Manitoba, Winnipeg, and Winnipegosis. Further beyond is a vast and rugged wilderness of rocks, bogs, forests, and lakes that extend all the way north to the Arctic coastline of Hudson Bay, encompassing approximately half of the country. Manitoba definitely offers a lot more than just wheat fields such as some 100,000 lakes, numerous parks and routes leading to the wilderness, the desert-like landscape of Spruce Woods Provincial Park, and the Northern Lights and polar bears of Hudson Bay.
Manitoba’s bread-and-butter is agriculture. It plays a crucial role in the province’s growth and economy. Wheat is the primary crop, although there are also other grains as well as cattle-raising that serve as important sources of revenue. Manufacturing and food processing are also significant industries, as is mining thanks to the rich mineral deposits of the Canadian Shield.
Tourism has also developed significantly in recent years. Outdoor enthusiasts are attracted to Manitoba’s wilderness of lakes and forests, which offer abundant opportunities for all kinds of adventurous activities. The climate, however, poses a challenge sometimes. In the summer, it is extremely hot; temperatures soar into the 90’s, especially in the southwest. In the winters, the weather is bitterly cold, often reaching temperatures well below freezing.
Englishman Thomas Button was the first European to explore Manitoba. In 1612, he sailed into Hudson Bay, spending the winter at the mouth of the Nelson River. Coming in search of the fabled Northwest Passage to the Orient, Burton was initially disappointed in finding the mass of land today known as Manitoba. However, he soon discovered that the land was teeming with furry animals and the rivers brimming with fish. In 1668, the ketch Nonsuch sailed into the Hudson Bay and returned to England with a ship full of furs. Not too long afterwards, the Hudson’s Bay Company was founded and granted the vast territority by King Charles II. Back then, it was known as Rupertsland. Trading posts were set up throughout Manitoba.
In 1738, Frenchman Pierre Gualtier de la Verendrye founded a trading post at the confluence of the Assiniboine and Red rivers in southern Manitoba in the same land as present-day Winnipeg. The first white settlers in the prairies were French trappers, who fathered the Metis race – half-French, half-Indian. The Metis held to their Catholic faith, but also led Indian lives. The fur trade blossomed, but many of the French posts were eventually captured by the British. In 1812, the Hudson’s Bay Company decided to grant land in the Red River valley to Lord Selkirk, who intended to settle the area. He brought several of his Scottish Highland compatriots with him, establishing the area as a supply center for fur traders.
The success of the fur trade and the area’s importance as a transportation center helped open up the province. The success, however, also brought new threats to the Metis way of life. In 1870, the new Dominion of Canada bought the land in the province from the Hudson’s Bay Company and immediately commissioned surveys to prepare the land for allotment to new settlers. The Metis rose up in defense of their property rights, led by the young Louis Riel. He established his own provisional government. Through his actions and negotiations, he secured a small area of land around the Red River valley for the Metis. In 1870, Manitoba was incorporated as a province of Canada. The North West Mounted Police were formed in 1873 to enforce law and order throughout the country.
In the 1880’s, the Canadian Pacific Railway welcomed a period of great change. Immigrants from Eastern and Western Europe, Iceland, the Ukraine, and Ontario arrived in search of a new life. In 1912, the province was extended to its present-day boundaries. Manitoba grew rapidly thanks to a strong agricultural industry. As the center of Canada, Manitoba also served as a communication and supply link between the West and the East, furthering contributing to the strengthening of the province’s economy.
The main tourist destinations in Manitoba are Winnipeg, the province’s capital, the Hudson Bay port of Churchill, and the regions around Lake Winnipeg and Lake Manitoba – a wild frontier that draws many outdoor enthusiasts and anglers. This area teems with thousands of lakes – some 100,000 and offers the intriguing sight of polar bears, timber wolves, beluga whales, and tundra.
Carroll, Donald. Insider’s Guide Canada. Edison: Hunter Publishing, Inc, 1996. ISBN: 1556507100.
“Lake Manitoba.” < http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lake_Manitoba>
“Lake Winnipeg.” < http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lake_Winnipeg>
Simpkins, Mary Ann. Canada. New York: Prentice Hall Travel, 1994. ISBN: 0671882783.
 Simpkins, 247
 Carroll, 155
 Id. at 155-56
 Id. at 156
 Lake Manitoba and Lake Winnipeg