Your Guide to FortWhyte Alive in Winnipeg

Paddle, Hike, and Unwind: Your Guide to FortWhyte Alive in Winnipeg 

If you’re craving a break from the hustle and bustle of city life, I’ve got just the spot for you: FortWhyte Alive.

Imagine a serene escape just minutes away from the urban jungle, where the air is crisp and the landscape unfolds into a tapestry of greenery. 

FortWhyte Alive is not just a nature reserve; it’s a sanctuary that beckons you to explore, breathe in the fresh Manitoba air, and immerse yourself in the tranquility that only Mother Nature can provide.

In this guide, we’ll go on a virtual journey through the wonders of FortWhyte Alive, uncovering the best paddling spots, hiking trails, and relaxation spots that this natural haven has to offer.

About FortWhyte Alive

Website: https://www.fortwhyte.org/ 

Address: 1961 McCreary Rd, Winnipeg, MB R3P 2K9, Canada

Contact number: 204 989 8355 

Operating hours: Monday to Sunday: 9 am – 5 pm 

Nestled in the tranquil southwest corner of Winnipeg, FortWhyte Alive is an expansive environmental education center and wildlife preserve that spans over 660 acres. 

Conveniently located just minutes away from Downtown Winnipeg, the preserve follows the migratory path of Canadian geese.

At FortWhyte Alive, nature takes center stage, offering a harmonious blend of forests, lakes, and trails that beckon visitors to immerse themselves in the beauty of the outdoors. 

The preserve is a thriving habitat for a diverse array of wildlife, including bison, whitetail deer, and various species of waterfowl.

Visitors to FortWhyte Alive are invited to engage with the environment through a myriad of activities. You can explore winding forest trails, where each step reveals the wonders of the natural world. 

Also, you can participate in interpretive programming that unravels the secrets of the wilderness or partake in nature-inspired activities and exploration events.

FortWhyte Alive goes beyond just providing a scenic escape; it equips visitors with the means to fully enjoy their outdoor experience. The center offers equipment rentals, ensuring that everyone can embrace the spirit of adventure. 

Meanwhile, the Nature Shop beckons with locally-made, environmentally-friendly gifts, and the Buffalo Stone Cafe serves up delectable fare sourced from local producers.

FortWhyte Alive is driven by a noble mission. With a commitment to connecting humans with nature, the center strives to foster environmental stewardship. 

This commitment is reflected in their policy of complimentary admission for Indigenous peoples, including First Nations, Inuit, and Red River Métis. 

As visitors explore the preserve, they are not just witnesses to nature’s beauty but active participants in the ongoing narrative of conservation and connection.

Can dogs go to FortWhyte Alive?

Dogs are not allowed at FortWhyte Alive. This policy is in place to protect the diverse range of wild animals that call the property home and to reduce the risk to farm animals. 

It’s always important to respect the rules of nature to ensure the safety and well-being of all animals. If you have a pet, it might be best to leave them at home when you visit FortWhyte Alive.

Does FortWhyte Alive have an admission fee?

FortWhyte Alive has admission fees. It was waived for Indigenous Peoples; however, for non-members, the admission fee is $10 per person.

If you plan to visit FortWhyte Alive frequently, you can consider becoming a member. By joining their community of more than 8,000 members, you support FortWhyte Alive programming and contribute to environmental education and stewardship. 

Membership prices start at $75 for individuals aged 18–64.

Best Time to Visit FortWhyte Alive in Winnipeg

The best time to visit FortWhyte Alive in Winnipeg is from late spring to early fall (June to September) for optimal weather, vibrant flora, and active wildlife. Avoid extreme winter temperatures for a more enjoyable outdoor experience.

Things to Do at FortWhyte Alive

This environmental education and recreation center seamlessly blends the beauty of the outdoors with a myriad of engaging activities. 

If you’re an avid nature enthusiast, a family looking for a day of fun, or someone seeking a peaceful escape, FortWhyte Alive has something for everyone. 

Here are some captivating things to do at this vibrant oasis, where every step unveils a new connection to the wonders of the natural world.

1. Explore interpretive exhibits. 

One not-to-be-missed exhibit is “A Prairie Legacy,” a mesmerizing experience that introduces visitors to the profound significance of massive bison in the life of Manitoba. Discover their vital role for both Indigenous Peoples and European settlers in the area.

As you delve into the Prairie Legacy exhibit, you’ll gain insights into the fur trade, stepping back in time to understand its impact. 

The experience seamlessly integrates elements like a Voyageur canoe adventure, providing a hands-on encounter with the historical aspects of Manitoba’s past. 

In addition, the exhibit sheds light on Plains Cree Tipi construction, allowing visitors to appreciate the traditional practices that shaped life in the region.

2. Visit the Aquarium of the Prairies. 

As the largest freshwater aquarium in the province, it unveils the intricate tapestry of life teeming within local lakes.

Unlike conventional aquariums that showcase exotic marine life, the Aquarium of the Prairies takes pride in its focus on indigenous species. 

You can dive into the depths of the exhibit to encounter the majestic northern Pike and the elusive Walleye, gaining a profound appreciation for the rich underwater biodiversity that flourishes in Manitoba.

Let the serene ambiance of the aquarium envelop you as you meander through its exhibits, each unveiling a unique facet of the province’s aquatic ecosystems. 

You can also discover the interplay of life within the lakes, fostering a connection to the local environment that is both educational and awe-inspiring.

3. Experience the Prairie Partners live exhibit. 

Explore the captivating Prairie Partners live exhibit at FortWhyte Alive, where you can immerse yourself in the dynamic world of endangered species navigating the evolving Canadian prairie grasslands. 

As you leisurely stroll through the exhibit, witness the resilience of threatened and endangered species as they adapt to the challenges posed by the changing environment. 

This unique experience offers you a rare opportunity to encounter these remarkable creatures up close, providing a deeper understanding of their struggle for survival. 

FortWhyte Alive provides a welcoming environment where visitors can connect with nature and appreciate the beauty and fragility of the Canadian prairie ecosystem.

4. Engage in hiking, biking, and skiing activities. 

You can take a leisurely stroll, energizing hike, or exhilarating bike ride along the well-maintained trails that meander through captivating landscapes such as marshes, aspen forests, prairies, and lakelands, covering a total of over 7 km.

These trails are accessible throughout the year, welcoming hikers, cyclists, and families with strollers. Remarkably, they are designed to be wheelchair-friendly, ensuring that everyone can enjoy the natural beauty that FortWhyte Alive has to offer. 

As winter blankets the surroundings, the trails transform into a winter wonderland, attracting enthusiasts for activities like winter hiking, fat-biking, and cross-country skiing.

For families, the marsh boardwalks provide an immersive experience, allowing kids to wander amidst the thriving ecosystems. 

You can delight in the close encounters with frogs, turtles, and various bird species, creating memorable moments in the heart of nature. 

FortWhyte Alive promises not just physical activity but also a connection with the vibrant wildlife that inhabits its scenic trails.

5. Enjoy fishing and dip-netting. 

An engaging three-season fishing experience awaits in FortWhyte Alive for both seasoned anglers and beginners alike. 

With over 50 years of catch-and-release tradition, the property boasts five lakes, each stocked annually with an array of aquatic treasures, including Northern Pike, Yellow Perch, Walleye, Common Carp, and Black Crappie.

For those eager to try their hand at fishing, FortWhyte Alive offers a welcoming space to learn the art of casting and reeling. Fishing novices can take advantage of convenient rentals, providing access to rods, tackle, and fishing nets for a nominal fee of just $10.

This ensures that everyone, even those without their own equipment, can fully enjoy the experience.

You can come in mid-December; the frozen lakes of FortWhyte Alive beckon ice-fishing enthusiasts. The chilly season opens up a unique opportunity to try your luck at catching a variety of fish beneath the ice-covered surface.

Not solely reserved for fishing aficionados, FortWhyte Alive extends its allure to those seeking a different aquatic adventure — dip-netting. 

This delightful activity invites participants to dip small nets into the water, unveiling a hidden world of fascinating bugs, larvae, and marine insects. 

The chance to inspect these creatures up close adds an extra layer of excitement, making it a captivating option for those who prefer to stay dry while exploring the wonders beneath the water’s surface.

6. Go on paddling adventures. 

Explore the tranquil waters of FortWhyte Alive by going on a paddling adventure across its five picturesque lakes. This experience offers a peaceful perspective, allowing you to connect with nature in a serene environment.

It’s worth noting that outside boats are not permitted within the park to prevent the introduction of invasive species. 

However, worry not, as FortWhyte Alive provides rentals equipped with lifejackets and safety kits for your convenience. This precaution ensures a responsible and enjoyable experience on the water.

7. Engage in wildlife watching. 

If you’re captivated by the graceful flight of migratory birds or the stately presence of the resident bison herd, there’s a diverse array of wildlife waiting to be discovered here in FortWhyte Alive.

You can take a stroll through the vibrant landscapes, where each step brings you closer to the heart of nature. 

Keep an attentive eye on the surroundings, as you may chance upon the enchanting sight of migratory birds gracefully navigating the open skies.

As you continue your exploration, encounter the majestic resident bison herd, a testament to the rich biodiversity of FortWhyte Alive. Witness their serene grazing and appreciate the harmony they bring to this natural sanctuary.

Sights to See at FortWhyte Alive

This urban oasis offers a plethora of sights to explore, making it a must-visit for nature enthusiasts and adventure seekers alike. 

From tranquil lakeshores to lush forests and interactive exhibits, FortWhyte Alive promises a diverse array of natural wonders waiting to be discovered. 

Let’s delve into some of the captivating sights that make FortWhyte Alive a truly enchanting destination for those seeking a connection with the great outdoors.

1. Interpretive Center 

The Interpretive Center at FortWhyte Alive is a place where visitors can learn about the history and ecology of the area. 

The facility spans 10,000 square feet and includes exhibits like the Aquarium of the Prairies, Prairie Partners Room, Touch Museum, Climate Change Greenhouse, and Prairie Soils dioramas, focusing on the environment and sustainable development.

It is also home to the Richardson Interpretive Center, which has been a meeting place for countless families to connect over a love of nature since 1983. 

2. Buffalo Stone Cafe 

Website: https://www.fortwhyte.org/visit/dining/ 

Address: 1961 McCreary Rd, Winnipeg, MB R3P 2K9, Canada

Contact number: 204 989 8355 

Operating hours: Monday to Sunday:9 am – 4:30 pm 

The Buffalo Stone Cafe is a restaurant located at FortWhyte Alive that serves locally sourced food. 

The cafe is operated by Spruce Catering, which is part of Diversity Food Services Inc., an award-winning food company that has served Manitoba for over a decade. 

The cafe offers sit-down service between 9 a.m. and 3 p.m. daily and grab-and-go options until 5 p.m. 

What sets this culinary haven apart is its dedication to crafting dishes from scratch, showcasing the finest in-season, local, organic, and sustainably produced ingredients. The menu unfolds like a culinary tapestry, featuring a diverse array of options. 

You can sink your teeth into the rich flavors of bison burgers, indulge in vibrant salads, relish the satisfaction of hearty sandwiches, and warm your soul with soulful soups.

For those with a sweet tooth, a delightful selection of desserts awaits, each a testament to the cafe’s commitment to quality and taste.

3. Aquarium of the Prairies

The Aquarium of the Prairies is Manitoba’s largest indoor freshwater exhibit. It invites visitors to explore and appreciate the diverse aquatic life thriving in the region. 

From the graceful lake sturgeon to the elusive northern pike, the aquarium proudly showcases a rich tapestry of species, including walleye and whitefish.

You can step into this year-round haven and go on a journey through interactive exhibits and captivating displays that transcend the boundaries of traditional aquarium experiences. 

Also, you may want to delve into the intricate web of freshwater ecosystems, where each species plays a vital role.

You can even discover the profound significance of these ecosystems and gain insights into the challenges they confront.

More than just a collection of fish tanks, the Aquarium of the Prairies is a dynamic space where visitors of all ages can deepen their understanding of the delicate balance that sustains aquatic life. 

Through seamlessly integrated exhibits, the aquarium fosters an appreciation for the interconnectedness of these ecosystems and the importance of conservation efforts.

4. Burrowing Owl Enclosure 

Nestled within the grounds of FortWhyte Alive, the Burrowing Owl Enclosure is a dedicated habitat for the preservation of burrowing owls, a species teetering on the brink of endangerment in Manitoba. 

This carefully crafted enclosure mirrors the natural surroundings these owls call home, providing a secure haven where they can thrive and propagate.

Open year-round, the enclosure invites visitors to witness these enchanting birds in action, all while respecting a safe distance to ensure the well-being of both the observer and the owl. 

Burrowing owls, distinguished by their diminutive stature and unique behaviors, are ground-dwelling creatures whose distinct charm captures the hearts of those fortunate enough to witness them.

The primary threats they face, such as habitat loss and various other factors, underscore the critical importance of spaces like the Burrowing Owl Enclosure.

5. Bison Prairie 

Bison Prairie is a sprawling 70-acre expanse that serves as a haven for a remarkable herd of bison. In fact, this sanctuary boasts the distinction of being home to the largest urban bison herd globally. 

The origins of this extraordinary assembly trace back to 1999, when the Manitoba Bison Producers generously contributed five bison, complemented by an additional 17 from Riding Mountain National Park.

Since its inception, the herd has flourished, welcoming a burgeoning population with the arrival of as many as a dozen calves each spring. 

This natural cycle of life has become a captivating spectacle, drawing families, avid photographers, and curious out-of-town visitors seeking an unforgettable Manitoba experience.

For those yearning for an intimate encounter with these majestic creatures in their natural habitat, the Bison Safari presents an ideal opportunity. 

A summertime favorite, these safaris provide participants with an up-close and personal experience, allowing for a deeper appreciation of the bison’s beauty and behavior. 

To partake in this adventure, pre-booking is essential, with the added option of arranging private sessions for groups of at least 10 participants.

Beyond the thrill of the Bison Safari, FortWhyte Alive offers the Prairie Legacy Tour, an enriching exploration that delves into the historical significance of bison in Manitoba. 

This guided tour not only unveils the profound impact of bison on the region’s history but also sheds light on their role in the lives of Indigenous peoples and pioneers. 

It’s a journey that transcends mere observation, inviting visitors to connect with the cultural and historical tapestry woven by these iconic creatures.

6. Saturn Family Tree House

The Saturn Family Tree House offers a captivating perspective high above the forest floor. Named in homage to Saturn, the Roman god of agriculture, this unique treehouse seamlessly melds with its natural surroundings. 

Enveloped by lush foliage, it is a testament to thoughtful design and a harmonious blend with the environment.

From this vantage point, a panoramic spectacle of the forest canopy unfolds, providing a mesmerizing vista for those who seek solace in nature’s embrace.

Its design not only invites admiration for its aesthetic integration but also fosters a deep connection with the natural world. 

Beyond the structural marvel, the treehouse offers a respite, a haven where one can unwind and appreciate the quiet beauty that envelopes FortWhyte Alive.

7. Tipi Encampment 

The Tipi Encampment at FortWhyte Alive is a place where visitors can learn about the indigenous culture of the area. The encampment features several tipis, which are traditional dwellings of the Indigenous peoples of the Great Plains. 

As you explore the encampment, you’ll discover more than just the physical structures; interactive exhibits and thoughtfully curated displays offer a profound journey into the history and cultural heritage of the Indigenous peoples. 

These exhibits serve as windows into a bygone era, inviting visitors to deepen their understanding of the customs and traditions that have shaped this unique way of life.

The tipis, standing proudly against the backdrop of FortWhyte Alive, are living vessels of history, echoing the resilience and resourcefulness of the Indigenous communities. 

Engaging with the exhibits provides a nuanced perspective on the intricate relationships between the land, people, and traditions that have endured through generations.

Tips When Visiting FortWhyte Alive

To make the most of your experience, here are some tips to ensure you have a memorable and enjoyable visit to this captivating environmental education and recreation center.

1. Wear proper footwear. 

The trails at FortWhyte Alive can be uneven and muddy, so it is important to wear sturdy shoes or boots.

2. Be prepared for the weather. 

The weather in Winnipeg can change quickly, so dress in layers and bring rain gear, even if it is sunny when you leave home.

3. Take your time. 

There is a lot to see and do at FortWhyte Alive, so don’t try to do it all in one day. Take your time and enjoy the scenery.

4. Respect the wildlife. 

FortWhyte Alive is home to a variety of wildlife. Be respectful of their habitat, don’t feed the animals, and stay on the trails.

5. Leave no trace. 

Please help keep FortWhyte Alive clean by picking up any garbage you see.

6. Take a guided tour. 

If you want to learn more about the history and ecology of FortWhyte Alive, take a guided tour. Tours are available year-round and can be booked in advance.