It takes just over 1000 miles (1665 km) to explore Western Canada’s best 8 open air museums — a trip that takes you as far back in time as the fur trade’s historic forts, right through to the threshing machines that made Saskatchewan the bread basket of the world. From the voyageurs who paddled the rivers, to the English aristocrats and their fox hunts, to the sod huts of Canada’s oldest Ukrainian settlement, you’ll find the story of the prairies in these museums.
Let’s start our journey through time and place in Manitoba, at the Lower Fort Garry National Historic Site. (See map at the bottom of the page)
The Hudson’s Bay Company was formed in 1670 by England — its purpose — exercise exclusive trading rights on all the rivers that flowed into Hudson’s Bay from five Canadian provinces (with a watershed of over 1.5 million square miles). The stream of adventurers traversed all of the North, eventually building Lower Fort Garry on the Western bank of the Red River in 1830. Today, nearly two centuries later, the Fort is a National Historic Site situated just 20 miles (32 km) from Manitoba’s capital city, Winnipeg.
You don’t have to imagine what life was like in the Fort either, as there are costumed interpreters who step into their roles with the ease of professional stage players. Sixteen areas take you through various activities of a day in the Fort, starting from the docking area where the York boat brigades left to trade for furs every June, to the only original wooden structure on site, the Doctor’s Office, built in 1855. Surrounding it all, the stone walls make it the oldest intact stone trading post in North America.
My favorite area was the stone furloft/saleshop built in 1831, one of the first — and most necessary buildings. T