Pisew Falls Provincial Park
| is North of 53 in Manitoba, approximately midway between the small community of Wabowden and the much larger industrial and service centre of Thompson, Manitoba.
Its creation is due to the intensive geological activity in the area hundreds of thousands of years ago, when violent tectonic effects caused the creation of first a fault, and then an upheaval of the southern side of the fault-line.
The name, "Pisew", is translated from the local Cree language meaning "Lynx", and the sound of the hissing water bearing a resemblance to the sound of this wild, northern Feline.
Flora and fauna
Because of the continuous flow of water over the falls, the localized area has developed its own micro-climate. A wide variety of mosses, lichens, and fungi can be found in the immediate area around the base of the falls. There are also a variety of ferns whose origins date back to before the last Ice Age. The dominant winter feature downstream and to the right of the falls is the ice that builds up on top of a small island there. This island only rises a few feet above the downstream water level in Summer, but by late-February, the accumulation of ice builds to approximately 3-5 metres thick with the months-long accumulation of freezing spray.
At the periphery of this barrier between liquid water and frozen surroundings, lies a thin ridge of plant growth that continues to survive throughout the harshest of the -45 degree Centigrade days in this frigid northern wilderness, while normally, the process of photosynthesis ceases in the surrounding area.
It is common to see one or more of the local otters using the large ice buildup as a "slide", providing the otters and lucky spectators with hours of amusement.
Located approximately 700 km North of Winnipeg, Manitoba, 0.5 km off of Manitoba Provincial Highway 6, Pisew Falls is near Kwasitchewan Falls, the site of the highest elevation, naturally occurring, year-round waterfall in Manitoba.
Entry into Manitoba Provincial Parks is free without the need for a vehicle permit until April 30th, 2011.
The park is quite small, and not intended for the use of recreational vehicles. There is a well maintained boardwalk surrounding the west side of the falls, and a broad path which leads to the rapids downstream as well as a suspension bridge which crosses the Grass River.
Not everyone has the experience and fortitude to enjoy a 22 km hike while carrying enough food and water for the duration of your experience on your back, with the possible exception of those involved in some branch of military service, or devout outdoors-persons. As the map of the Kwasitchewan Falls trail shows, the campsites are also accessible by water and a short portage via the Grass River and Phillips Lake.
Larger, motorized boats (over 14') are generally not recommended because of the lack of adequate boat launching facilities.
There are no shops, stores, or vending machines at the park. There isn't even a park office. If you might need it, bring it with you.
The Falls are a lovely picnic area, and a great place to stop for lunch if travelling further North, or South, after exploring further into northern Manitoba.
There are no accommodations available at Pisew Falls. There is, however, a Campground located 10 km south at Sasagiu Rapids.
Camping is not permitted at the Falls themselves. There are no shower facilities, no electrical services, and the only toilet facilities are of the outhouse variety.
Officers of Manitoba Conservation ask only that visitors keep the area clean, and stay well away from the areas below the falls, which are clearly marked as Environmentally Sensitive. As long as everyone co-operates in this respect, this remarkable piece of geography will be here for many generations to come.
Rarely is it necessary to destroy wild animals when they encounter humans. They usually have little interest in people, and are much more interested in the food they carry.
As beautiful and picturesque as this location may seem, there are dangers. There are a number of Black Bears who reside in this area, in addition to Wolves, and quite possibly Cougars which have been spotted as far north as Thompson, Manitoba. Warnings about wildlife bear repeating.
Caution must be exercised to avoid confrontations with wildlife, especially bears. As a general rule, it is their home year-round, and you are a guest in it. For safety sake:
Additionally, because of the relatively high humidity present year-round, there is plenty of fresh, wet, greenery to slip on in the Summer, and slick ice in the Winter. Do not stray far off of the clearly marked path.
There has been one fatality at the falls in recent years, and a Memorial Trail-Marker is there to attest to that fact. The ledges are steep, the fall is long, and the current below is swift. Exercise caution at all times.
Pisew Falls is the trail-head of a 22 km hiking trail to Kwasitchewan Falls. Phillips Lake drains over Kwastichewan where it carries on to join the Grass River downstream of Pisew Falls.