Last stretch of Winnipeg’s Nestaweya River Trail shuts down for season

The last remaining section of the Nestaweya River Trail has closed, ending the season for Winnipeg’s popular winter attraction.

And it came to a close on a record-setting note. This is the latest it’s ever been open, according to a tweet from The Forks.

The trail, with its skating section and adjacent biking and walking section, had been in use since Jan. 4 but an official, ceremonial opening wasn’t held until Jan. 24.

Nestaweya, the original Cree name for the site of The Forks and broader area now known as Winnipeg, was six kilometres in length this year, linking the Hugo dock site on the Assiniboine River to Churchill Drive along the Red.

Closed signs are now up at entrances to The Forks port and Nestaweya River Trail. (@TheForks/Twitter)

But it didn’t stay that long for the entire time. It was cut short in bits and pieces, starting around Feb. 22, when the section from Hugo to The Forks port was barricaded due to slushy and dangerous conditions.

The province had increased the amount of water flowing out of the Shellmouth Dam, near the Saskatchewan border, ahead of the spring runoff. That increased the flow of water downstream, which washed across the top of the frozen Assiniboine.

It was then concealed by fresh snowfall, causing an unsafe situation.

The Red River portion of the trail, from The Forks to Churchill Drive, remained open. But around March 8, a chunk of that was closed, from the Norwood Bridge to Churchill Drive.

That left just a short span from The Forks port to the Norwood Bridge.

There are still some places to lace up and skate at The Forks. The canopy rink remains open, as well as the upper trails that meander around lighted trees to the CN Stage, as well as across the old train bridge. 

Those might not last too long, however. After a long, cold winter, Environment Canada is now calling for sun and daytime highs around 3 C for the next several days.

Trail conditions can be found online.

Open for 70 days

Though this year was latest the trail has ever stayed open, it was not the longest duration.

It lasted 70 days this winter, just short of the 75-day record set in 2019 and the second-place mark of 72 set in 2018.

As for the record length of the trail itself, that was first set in 2008 when it reached 8.5 kilometres, going from Voyageur Park on the Red to Omand’s Creek on the Assiniboine.

That put it in the Guinness Book of World Records for the longest naturally frozen skating trail, edging Ottawa’s Rideau Canal trail at about 7½ kilometres.

The following year, Winnipeg’s trail hit 9.3 kilometres and then tapped out at 10 kilometres in 2018 when stretched from Arlington Street to the St. Vital Bridge.

Last year’s trail, hampered by mild conditions, only went five kilometres and lasted less than 50 days before it was cut short on March 1.

The earliest the river trail has ever closed was Feb. 18, in 2017, after just 33 days.