The Trail Lady
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A Secret Discovered – Pinawa!

Disclaimer: this blog entry represents my own personal opinion, and does not represent any particular organization I may belong to or even be President of.

I’ve lived in Pinawa for a quarter century now, twenty-five years of listening to, and sometimes being personally involved in marketing Pinawa as a tourism destination. Relatively suddenly, we are finally seeing a little success and our little town has gone crazy!

Why Tourism?

The most obvious question we as a community should ask ourselves is why we wanted tourists in the first place. Why would we beg people to Discover Our Secret? Pinawanians grow accustomed to our little town and it’s beautiful, wild amenities but visitors are rightly shocked by our lack of normal town services. We have no “downtown”, no bar or restaurants and not even one shop-lined street to stroll down. For a while our only gas station shut down, remember how that felt? We live at the end of the road here, so no one will be driving by and need to stop for anything. The only population we serve is our own. The thought was if Pinawa could become a destination for tourists, maybe we could support a real town,  and so we pursued tourism as an economic benefit for us all.


This latest explosion of tourism in Pinawa didn’t happen overnight. Over the past two decades there has been a slow growth in people “discovering” a certain picnic table along our shores for their family picnic, or launching their boat at one of our free boat launches for a day of fishing on the river. Every year there were a few more discoverers. The two campgrounds in town, Pioneer Bay and Relax Ridge started to bring in more people than we have residents, and these campers love our community so much some of them have bought homes and become residents themselves. Most of them shop here. It is my opinion that we are in desperate need of a transient campground so even more people can stay even longer.

One of the most promising developments  recently are the creation of several eco-tourism companies. These are exactly the kind of tourists we should be trying to attract. That Pinawa Channel Float is for sissies really, Pinawa has SO much more to offer than sitting in a tube for 3 hours drinking beer and we now have people equipped with rentals and guides.

I read on Facebook that our trails are full of garbage now. That’s when I saw red and started writing. That’s simply not true! I walk the trails every day and they are pristine. Sometimes on Monday there is garbage neatly piled beside a garbage can that was full, or inadequately designed for the trash but there’s nothing lining the trails.

We’ve had years of promotion to get ready for this, and honestly we’ve done pretty well. Our garbage cans along the riverbank gets emptied more frequently now, and there are more of them. There are more bathrooms around town and they are cleaned more often. It seems every year a new picnic table or two pops up along the Ironwood trail. It’s not just visitors enjoying this. I heard the restaurant at the golf course is constantly inundated with tubers and we’ve gained a new food truck.


Change is hard. Our little Pinawa has to adapt to a new reality. The Pinawa Channel float has become a true challenge. The sheer numbers and nature of this activity has led to trash along and unfortunately in the channel.  I had the opportunity to dive around the flat rock by the golf course for a lost camera, and in the space of 20 minutes I razed 20 rusty beer cans. Only beer cans. It’s irresponsible drunks littering our waterway, not well-meaning tourists. Consuming alcohol on the channel is illegal. Enforcing the law would go a long way to cleaning up that problem, and we as a town should insist on an RCMP presence there on weekends.

The trails are crowded with people these days; cycling, jogging, strolling, swimming … Every picnic table is in use, every public dock is enjoyed. There are lineups at both riverbank food trucks, good for them.

The Cusp

Believe me when I say, this is the calm before the storm. What did you think would happen when we let the secret out? We all know how special Pinawa is, now they all know. The tourists aren’t going to stop coming (I hope) but the amenities that come with a healthy economy are going to benefit us all. We should all just relax a little bit and welcome those tourists with open arms. We have, after all been inviting for them for a long time.

  1. Denis Sabourin says

    Very well said Donna!

  2. Nancy says

    Hi Donna, for the most part I agree with you on your stand. It has taken too long for the town to figure out how to handle the tourists. But as you say it is coming along. The day Blair helped me pick up garbage in the parking lot at the suspension bridge should have put the lack of facilities on a higher priority. That day we were hosting travel writers from Canada and Europe and I had facilitated a better tour with the operator that was doing a kayak tour. Must’ve been in 2014 or one year earlier so that is at least five or more years. A long time not to figure out what was needed.

  3. Steffen says

    …well I pretty much enjoy that Pinawa has basically no significant tourism. But maybe I shouldn’t!?

    I like having the trails nearby, but due to lack of opportunities, it seems that for many tourists on the trail it is a mere coincidence that Pinawa is on the other side of the highway.
    Pretty much like any other trail in the Whiteshell.

    They often do not even enter the town of Pinawa and the same can be said for people coming to play at the golf course.

    As a previous volunteer for maintaining the suspension bridge, I am seriously worried that there seems to be no coherent plan for maintenance. The only excuse I hear in this regard is that there would be no standard valiable.
    It can’t be, that a few people come along privately in the spring to replace or re-tighten a bolt here or there.

    The good thing, I am proud of, is that many people from Pinawa pick up trash the moment they see it, others just complain about it.

    However the trash (not only cans) I discover and remove while fishing along the Pinawa Channel has dramatically increased, it is also washed down the channel or simply sinks down.

    From my personal observations I can also tell that flora and fauna have taken a toll already in the upper Pinawa channel. It used to be easy to find large amounts of invertebrates and clean water flora.
    This will have effects on the foodchain for all sorts of animals along the channel. In particular with the low water level we had for many years, the channel is a rather fragile ecological system.

    Maybe a “dock like” entrance to the channel could fix tis to a degree.

    I can’t help myself but it feels like a wild tourism development.

    Looking at the other side of Pinawa and the Winnipeg River,…well it is a famous stretch of water,…but famous for wrecking your boat.
    For years I argue that a proper marking of hazards is necessary, but to no avail.

    But than again, could we handle much more boaters, do we want more boaters?

    It seems unclear to me.

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