By now you know my story: July 2009, 8000 km road trip, 3 generations, 1 van. Crazy? Yes. Lomographically limited? In no way whatsoever! I took along 10 cameras and 40 rolls of film. We passed through 10 American states and 3 Canadian provinces, and drove through my hometown for the first time in a couple of years…
The “Forks” has been a meeting place for a few thousand years. That’s pretty significant by Canadian standards considering the country is only 142 years old. It was a meeting place before Canada was a country, before Winnipeg was a European settlement, before Europeans had even set foot on the continent. Before all that, this was an important spot at the confluence of two rivers; where the Assiniboine flows into the Red.
I’ve been coming to this meeting place for over two decades myself. I discovered it on an elementary school field trip in the early 1980s before it was developed as a retail/tourist destination. Much like an unemployed worker, the site seemed to be “between jobs”. I was there as part of a French class field trip – the location was significant to our curriculum because it was a key area for the French Voyageurs in the fur trade activities between the natives and the Hudson Bay Company. Beaver pelts were the currency of the day, and the two rivers were a trade highway. When I was here in the 80s there were a few historical markers and a sculpture indicating the importance of the area. There was also a couple of abandoned and fenced off railway garages and other similar structures.It was a fairly dangerous and unused old railway hub tucked in between the rivers and the busy Canadian National Railway terminal. Many of the buildings on the site now are part of the railway infrastructure of the late 19th and early 20th centuries.
I started spending a lot of time here in the summer of 1990 after the river walk pathways had been developed and the train garages had been redeveloped into “The Forks Market”. I came here regularly in highschool to people watch, walk along the river, and enjoy the variety of food from the vendors.
Now, whenever I’m back in Winnipeg, I make a point of stopping here even if it’s only for a few minutes. Now the once boarded up Johnston Terminal is 3 levels of retail space, another old railway building is a Childrens’ Museum, and other interesting buildings and monuments have been added.
A prominent feature of the grounds are the various monuments and markers of past floods. Nearly the whole city of Winnipeg is in the rivers’ flood plain. There are blue lines on the walls along the river walk marking the various ‘highwater’ marks of times past – some of them are very high up! The walkway still floods nearly every year.
The best part is climbing up the 6 storey glass tower to take a look around the grounds to see what is new, and to remember running up and down the stairs as an awkward 15 year old just beginning to discover the vastness of the world.