Go West, Day 6 – Gimli, Manitoba

Author: Larry St Aubin

Today we are driving from Dryden, Ontario to Gimli, Manitoba. Gimli is of Icelandic heritage. In fact, it is the largest Icelandic community outside of Iceland. After we tour Gimli, we are heading north to Hecla-Grindstone Provincial Park where we will be staying at the Lakeview Resort on Lake Winnipeg.

Manitoba Possible operates throughout Manitoba and is located on the traditional territory of the Anishinaabe, Cree, Oji-Cree, Dakota, Dene and Metis people.

I wanted to get an early start as it is a 5 hour drive and want to have time to explore Gimli. The new tent is easy to pack up. Sunrise is at 5:30 am but managed to get a photo of the pre-dawn before we leave.

I make a detour to Kenora – “where the sun always shines”. Actually it was raining when we left Dryden. But when we arrived at Kenora for coffee, the rain had stopped. The one mural tells how Kenora was called Rat Portage because of all the muskrats.

Across the street was another mural – quite the artsy town. Of course the big attraction is the lake.

Iron and Clay Coffee. There was a great coffee shop open at 7 am. They had fresh muffins – Wild Blueberry for me, Bacon and Cheese for the pugs. I would like to visit Kenora again and explore.

Selkirk Bridge/Red River. The mighty Red River – 880 Km long. It is Manitoba’s answer to the Mississippi. We cross the Red River at the Selkirk Lift Bridge. The bridge was built between 1934 and 37 as part of the 40 million dollar federal infrastructure spending to employ workers during the Depression. The reason for the delay in opening it was that no one wanted to take ownership for the regular maintenance and upkeep. A meeting in Winnipeg with federal, provincial, city and county officials resulted in an agreement for all level to contribute. In 1992 there was a 2 million dollar major restoration.

It was a good place to stop for a pee break. The bridge looked a bit ratty as we drove over it. Maybe time for another restoration. We are going to visit the Red River again at the end of the month when we stay in Winnipeg.

Viking statue Gimli, MB. “A 4.6 metre (15 feet) fibreglass statue of a Viking in Gimli was created as a Canadian centennial project by the Gimli Chamber of Commerce. Designed by Gissur Eliasson of the University of Manitoba, it was constructed by sculptor George Barone at a cost of $15,000. It was unveiled in 1967 by then-President of Iceland Asgeir Asgeirsson. A new Viking Park around the statue was unveiled on 5 August 2017 in recognition of the Icelandic Festival of Manitoba’s 125th anniversary and in honour of Canada’s 150th birthday. Around the pathways are monuments of various Icelandic persons and families from the area.” Manitoba Historical Society.

Around the base are small houses nestled among the rocks near the walking path. They are there for the huldufólk or Icelandic elves, these mysterious creatures are said to be harmless when treated with respect but can get quite mischievous if you do not treat them well. There was a gardener tending the plants.

Eve channels her inner Viking and gets ready to explore Gimli.

Greta just wants to sit on his foot.

Lake Winnipeg in the background. We are going to learn a lot of it at the New Iceland Museum.

New Iceland Heritage Museum. I wrote to them and asked if the museum was pet friendly and they said YES (gotta love those Icelanders). The town was established in 1875 as a “reserve for Icelanders,” many of whom were fleeing poor living conditions. New Iceland was a part of a series of reserve schemes set up by the federal government in the 1870s to establish populations of European ethnic minorities — Mennonites, Doukhobors and Icelanders — both in Manitoba and what was then the North-West Territories. The area where they first settled was named New Iceland.

The girls at the admissions desk fell in love with Eve and Greta. The one asked to take their pictures. I was then directed to the theatre where they had a 12 minute video introduction. I had Greta in the sack and Eve had a nap on the carpet.

“Unlike reserves established for First Nations through the Indian Act, where political enfranchisement was withheld from those living on reserve, inhabitants of New Iceland, created through the Dominion Lands Act, were eligible for full Canadian citizenship over time. The immigrants were favoured by the Canadian government in part based on ideas about who they were in terms of their racial fitness to be colonists in the northwest”.

Ironically, given that New Iceland’s establishment displaced many First Nations people, New Iceland’s early successes were largely thanks to cooperation with local Anishinaabe, Cree and Métis, who passed along valuable knowledge that helped the newcomers survive.

One of the main reasons they left Iceland were the volcanoes. 1/3 of the lava flowed on earth since being recorded has been on Iceland. Here is the snake myth on Norse legend.

There was a lot of both Iceland and the immigrants who came to Canada. They had there own community, laws and culture. Eventually they were incorporated into the province of Manitoba.

Many in the community left after the first winter. Eventually those that stayed relocated to Gimli which means “heavenly abode”.

They had a display setup for visitors to try on Viking wear. I wanted to wear the helmet, hold a sword and Greta as my battle pug. But no one was around to take the picture so had to settle for a selfie.

Europa We head to the Europa restaurant for lunch. There was a couple with a young Shi Tzu sitting on the patio. I asked them to look out for the pugs while I went inside and ordered. I told them about the road trip. They were surprised that I came to Gimli. They were from the village of Hecla – which is near where the hotel I was going to be staying. They said there is an historical walking tour in Hecla. I did go there before the hotel, but the black flies were in the thousands. I didn’t even get out of the car because they swarmed it. It seemed like they could smell human blood through the glass. Think of Hitchcock’s The Birds but with black flies.

H.P. Tergesen & Sons is an institution in Gimli. The store was established in 1899 as a general store and has been passed down through four generations of Tergesens. It is now a Manitoba Heritage site with two plaques to commemorate it. They were just putting up the Pride flags with the ladder.

We walked around the town heading to the harbour to check the art at the sea wall.

The Harbour. In 1900, with the assistance of the federal government, Icelandic contractor J.J. Vopni, built the first permanent pier at a cost of $9,000.  In the decades that followed, the Gimli Harbour became a destination and a safe haven for commercial vessels and pleasure craft, and an important processing centre for the fishers who work on the lake.

The lake offers excellent sailing conditions and the Gimli Yacht Club has hosted many national and international sailing races, including the 1967 and 1999 Pan Am Games, and the 2017 Canada Summer Games. 

The Gimli Sea Wall Art Works. In 1997, the Gimli Art Club started to paint murals on the sea wall. These images show Gimli’s history, important events and what life looks like in the Interlake area. The Art Club’s artists and members work to create and maintain the murals, creating an outdoor art gallery that is open all year round. Today, the original 36 murals have expanded to 72.

Some of the works are the original. Others have been upgraded and re-worked by other artists. Both names are identified in the painting.

The sea wall is quite long which makes for a big gallery. Greta was in the pack which is why you don’t see her.

Pelicans Created in 1998 by Nicolle Verrier

The Gimli Glider depiction.

The Gimli Glider. We stop outside the museum to learn about this event. Due to a combination of technical issues and human error, an Air Canada Boeing 767 ran out of fuel at 41,000 feet. The pilots glided the plane to a former airfield turned race track. Miraculously, they landed without any severe injuries to passengers or crew. Even the aircraft itself went on to serve another 25 years with the airline.

Even though the decommissioned base had no emergency services, it was deemed to be the safer option. However, neither of the pilots was aware the base had been turned into a race track, with a race scheduled for that day.

The Captain was Robin ‘Bob’ Pearson, 48 years old, with 15,000 hours of flying time. With him in the cockpit was First Officer Maurice Quintal, aged 36, with 7,000 hours of flying time. By a stroke of luck, Captain Pearson was also an established glider pilot, and First Officer Quintal had trained at Gimli while serving in the army.

Lakeview Resort. There were no pet friendly hotels available in Gimli. This was surprising considering the number of visitors they get. However, one hotel manager directed me to try the Lakeview Resort in Hecla-Grindstone Provincial Park. Yes, it is pet friendly. It is an hour’s drive north and located in a beautiful nature setting. It is a 3 star hotel so a little more luxury tonight. They have the pet friendly rooms way at the back. There is an exit door near us that leads to a grassy area. The floors do not have carpet – easier to wash.

Seagulls Restaurant. Well it was a choice between the Lake Winnipeg pickerel fish tacos or the stone fired pizza. Considering the Lake Winnipeg was a stone’s through from my table, I went with the fish. A Jameson’s Cold Brew Irish Whisky cocktail.

I don’t usually order desert but did a lot of walking today so ordered a chocolate peanut butter cheesecake.

Tomorrow we drive to Winnipeg. I have an appointment with a vet to have Greta’s eye checked. Tonight I gave Greta her medication then had a hot bath. I was thinking of a massage after all that driving but they were booked up for spaces.


  1. I’m so enjoying your blogs Larry. Your meal at the end of the day was well deserved especially that cheesecake. YUMM!

    Hope Greta gets an all clear from the vet.

  2. What an fascinating/exciting, edge of my seat story about the Boeing landing, Larry! Who woulda thunk it all in little ole Grimli! Loved the art work along the harbour and of course your scrumptious meal, and dessert! Could’ve tucked into that myself! I just love looking forward to you and the pugs’daily adventures, Larry! Thanks again….and off you go!! 👍❤️❤️🐾🐾

    • One of the reasons I wanted to explore the smaller cities of Western Canada is because of stories like the Gimli Glider. Also I find the people are friendlier and open – especially when I have a pug in a stroller as a conversation starter. I’m glad you are enjoying the adventures.

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