Stops on the Journey

Chapter 1:  Coulter  & Sourisford
Chapter 2: Melita & Napinka
Chapter 3: The Lauder Sand Hills Chapter 4: Hartney and Menteith
Chapter 5: Souris Chapter 6: Bunclody
Chapter 7: Riverside Chapter 8: The Souris Bend
Chapter 9: Gregory's Mill
Chapter 10: Souris City & Wawanesa
Chapter 11:  Treesbank - Millford Chapter 12:  Souris Mouth

The region today

A Map from 1885 - Note some of the Place Names are no longer there and some have moved.

Chapter 1: Coulter, Sourisford & the Crossing


The Souris River, seen here near Coulter,  enters Manitoba from North Dakota and runs through level prairie for the first part of its journey. The village of Coulter, while not situated along the river, does have a role to play in the story. Local blacksmith, team engineer, and master mechanic Hunt Johnston Rolston Large built a steamboat to ply the river. It was launched in 1909 and served for a short while before being moved to Brandon and put to other commercial use.

On this flat land, even a minor flood can cover quite a bit of farmland. Higher water can do real damage to roads and bridges.

A damaged bridge east of  Coulter.


South Antler Creek enters the Souris in Coulter Park.

Today, Coulter Park is the location of one of the earliest regularly used recreation sites in rural Manitoba. On July 1, 1882, the first Pioneer Picnic was attended by a few settlers and local aboriginals.  A tradition was established as each year a larger group attended the Picnic. Since then, picnics have been held in the grove every summer.

High water at Coulter Park - also prone to damage from floods.

Sourisford Crossing

The Crossing at Sourisford just downstream from Coulter Park, and used for centuries by Aboriginals, Metis Hunters and Traders, was also used by the International Boundary Commission, beginning in 1873. It became a hub of local settlement - and the beginnings of a village.  The Boundary Trail descended to the valley here.

Boundary Commission Photo Collection.

The Boundary Trail - Vantage Points

The path of the Boundary Trail.

The Crossing

The Boundary Commission built a temporary bridge. A few years later settlers used a ferry service.

"Sourisford: The History of a River Crossing."
"Kitchen Table Surgery" - Vantage Points

"Sourisford"  - Vantage Pointsk
"Against All Odds" - Vantage Points

Chapter 2: Melita & Napinka

The Brockinton Site

Also in the Sourisford neighbourhood, The Brockinton archaeological site is located along the Souris valley wall south of Melita. This site was occupied by three different cultures over the last 1600 years. These occupations left behind rare and archaeologically invaluable finds.


An Interpretive Sign outlines the importance of the location

"The Brockinton Site" - Vantage Points

Bison bones are readily found along the riverbank.


The Souris  at the Highway #3 Bridge east of Melita.

The original site of Melita (Called Manchester until the residents were informed that the name was already taken) was not alongside the river, but when the CPR crossed the Souris they decided that that was where they would be building their station - so the town moved.

The busy corner of Main Street and Railway Avenue.

This early sketch evokes a community conscious of its riverside location.


About 15 kilometres downstream from Melita we come to the next community. In this case Napinka was not located along the banks.

A bridge for road traffic connected Melita and Napinka.

Another view of the bridge west of Napinka
Napinka Photo Collection

Chapter 3: The Lauder Sand Hills:

The Bridge on Road #254

South of the village of Lauder the river enters the Lauder Sandills, and we see the first transformation in the topography. Note the sand on the low banks.

As the river proceed into the area, the banks become higher as the river twists through dunes that were wind-shaped on a huge delta.

"The Lauder Sandhills"  - Vantage Points
"The People of the Lauder Sandhills"  - Vantage Points

The Fort Desjarlais Site

Fort Dejarlais was situated here from 1836 until 1856. The commercial centre of the district, it was home to up to 75 people.

"Fort Desjarlais"  - Vantage Points

The river between Lauder and Hartney was a busy spot in the 1800's

"The Souris River Fur Trade"  - Vantage Points
"Fort Mr. Grant"  - Vantage Points
River Journeys

Hartney historian, Larry Clarke, sketched the fort, based on his extensive research.

Chapter 4: Hartney & Mentieth

Hartney in 1908 - note the bald prairie

The original "Hartney" was a Post Office/Store on the James Hartney homestead located about two kilometres north of the river. The CPR was persuaded by local residents to locate a town nearby. They placed it closer to the river, and to the bridge they constructed. Locomotive steam engines required water and the railway companies often would build a dam to ensure a stable supply.

The Hartney Dam

CPR Dam near Hartney - under construction

The Pumphouse

A fine collection of archival photos of Hartney is available on the Grassland Heritage Website


The site of the little village of Mentieth, at the first railway Railway Crossing south of Souris.

Chapter 5: Souris

Two views of the iconic Souris Swinging Bridge, one from 2015, and one of the original.
Souris Swinging Bridge Photos

The Souris River entering Souris from the southwest.

 Overviews in 2001. Many riverside town constructed dams, as river levels can be very low in the fall.

The first traffic bridge.

Crescent Avenue overlooks the steep valley wall. Until this point, where Plum Creek enters the Souris from the northwest, the river has wandered through flat plains and gentle rolling county, contained (or sometimes not contained, within low banks and almost non-existent valleys. For the rest of its journey there are spots where the valley is deep and the valley walls have been etched into steep cliffs.

Squire Sowden established the settlement in 1880. It was called Plum Creek.

Souris saw serious flooding in 2011. The rising water eventually detroyed the Swinging Bridge. It has since been replaced.

Chapter 6: Bunclody

Steep cliffs, like those seen along Crescent Avenue in Souris, can be found as the river approached the tiny village of Bunclody.

Bunclody was established as a Post Office in 1884 and became somewhat of a village in 1906 when a railway line linking the U.S. and Brandon crossed the Souris River near the site.

The previous picture was taken prior to 2011, when flood waters undercut valley walls and caused slumping such as seen here.

Looking east from the Bunclody Bridge.

This shot shows the Brandon, Saskatchewan and Hudson's Bay Railway line, which operated from 1906 until 1936. In this photo, the railway bridge which was top left, has already been dismantled.

Bridge Construction

The bridge from the west.

Bridge construction

A view of the crossing site with the rail bed still very visible along the bottom of this photo. The elevator and station were just to the right.

The Great Northern Story

Bunclody Photos

River Journeys

Chapter 7: Riverside

Almost directly south of Brandon Highway #10 dips through the wide deep valley. This spot was the site of Sheppard's Ferry in pioneer times, and three successive bridges. The remains of the first bridge were visible in the early 2000's just to the right of this photo. Flood waters seem to have since washed all signs away. The bridge in the middle served from about 1929 until the 1960's. It is still intact and used for local traffic.

The new bridge at the left now carries the Highway #10 traffic.

The view east from the Old Bridge


Built at a cost of $34,528 by the Winnipeg construction firm of Macaw and MacDonald, this concrete arch bridge was formerly the primary crossing for Provincial Highway No. 10 over the Souris River. It has been superseded by a newer bridge to the west but is still used for local traffic.

The view west from the "New" bridge.

The "New" bridge.

Valley view from the south.

Riverside Park

Liskum Campbell resided in Riverside District 1890 – 1947. He built a cable ferry, store, gas pumps, and dance hall known as Riverside Park. The remains of the Dance Hall can be seen along the riverbank to the right of the "Old Bridge"

A Public Park on this side of the river, between the two bridges, has recently been renovated after the flood of 2011.

High water.

Recreational activities.

Chapter 8: The Souris Bend

As the last glaciers retreated the meltwater form a huge river flowing east. The speed of the earth’s rebounding crust finally overtook the stream’s effort to entrench itself and it found its path blocked, or rather, it found an alternate route.  It was “captured” by a northward bound tributary of the Assiniboine, and abandoned it’s ancient spillway at a point called the Souris Bend or the Souris Elbow of Capture, just north of present day Margaret.
A road, visible in the aerial photo twists down the wide deep valley and crosses the Souris.

McKellar's Bridge.

The view west from McKellar's Bridge.

The "Elbow of Capture"

A small stream flows in from the southeast,  along the route that the Souris once took in the other direction.

The "Elbow of Capture"

Lang's Crossing, at the foot of these rapids, was a level shallow spot that horses and wagons could cross except in the early spring.

A modern use of the crossing. The extensive trails in the Souris Bend Wildlife Management Area are maintained by an Equestrian Club.

Souris Bend Trails

The "Crossing" was near the right side.

Rugged country and isolated wilderness typify the valley for several kilometres.

A long view of the Souris Bend.

"The Souris Bend Story"

Lang's Crossing Photos

River Journeys

Chapter 9: The Gregory Mill

One of the Hiking Trails in the Souris Bend Wildlife Management Area takes you along the valley's edge and down to the site of Gregory's Mill.

The site today...

The site in earlier times - taken from the same high hill to the south of the site.

A few remnants of walls and piles of stones are hidden in dense bush.

The 300 metre long millrace took diverted water to the mill. It is now part of the Hiking Trail and visible on  Google Earth.

The Gregory Mill Story

Chapter 10: Souris City & Wawanesa

The Souris City Site

The river enters a horseshoe bend as it approaches Highway #2 near Wawanesa.

In the flats surrounded by the bend the village of Souris City was established in 1881. It soon became one of the most important villages in the southwest corner - but for a short time.

The Souris City Story

The Bridge on Highway #2. It was re-built after the flood of 1976 and withstood the floods of 2011 and 2013.


In1889 the residents of the well-established village of Souris City hoped that the new rail line being built from Morris to Brandon might pass through their town, but the railway engineers found a route that suited them better.

Crossing the deep valley of the Souris River was a challenge and the engineers were willing to take a few twists and turns to avoid a difficult crossing. Note the twisting path they took.

Approaching Wawanesa

Looking back as one approaches the town.

Another view of the town. Note the slumping that occurs from time to time as the river cuts into the banks.

Eroding Valley Wall Photos

The National Headquarters of the Wawanesa Mutual Insurance Company, founded here in the 1890's.
To the left of the prominent brick building is the United Church, built as St. Andrews Presbyterian in 1892. Nellie McClung was married there.

Views like the one above were noted by the Hind Expedition in 1859 - see the sketch below.

The Railway Bridge

Visit the Wawanesa Heritage Website
River Journeys

Chapter 11:  Treesbank - Millford


The little village of Treesbank was established along the north bank of the Souris River about two kilometres west of the CPR crossing established in 1891. 

This bridge was built in 1921. The span on the left was rebuilt after a flood.

The flood of 2011 destroyed the bridge entirely and it hasn't been replaced.

The Treesbank Bridge (Historic Sites of Manitoba)

The Millford Site

The first village of any size in Southwestern Manitoba was Millford, established in 1880 on the south bank of the Souris just a few kilometres from the Assiniboine.

Six-year-old Helen Mooney, who we know as Nellie McClung, came with her family to  Millford in 1880. In her excellent  memoir “Clearing in the West”, she recalls that they crossed the Assiniboine a short ways above the Souris Mouth and her recollection captures the site perfectly: “The Souris was a pretty little stream with deep pools connected by an amber current that twisted around the sand bars.”

This plan was registered in 1879.

The village was just under Oak Creek near the centre of this photo.

Like all new villages in those times, the hope was that a railway line would pass nearby.
In the case of Millford, it came too late. The line got as far as Glenboro in 1885 and businesses gave up or moved
to the rail line. The line was extended in 1890 and the crossing was close to the village site, but by then the village was nearly deserted.
Treesbank, a few kilometres away, was established.

The Millford Bridge was one of the largest on the prairies at the time.

The Millford Story

The standard method of crossing wide valleys was to build a trestle bridge then fill in as much as possible to add stability.

The bridge was replaced with a more modern structure.

It was seriously damaged in the 1976 flood.

The rail line has been abandoned, but the re-built bridge still stands.

Millford was to the left of the river.  What remains of Treesbank is on the top right.

River Journeys

Chapter 12:
Souris Mouth

After Millford, the river takes a few twists and turns before emptying into the Assiniboine.

Note the difference in the colour of the water.

Souris Mouth, or alternatively, Two Rivers, was the location of the first Land Titles Office and Post Office south of the Assiniboine.
The building still exists and has been moved about a kilometre to a farm site. Two Rivers School was on this side of the Assiniboine.

Fall colours and fall river level.

Spring conditions

A sketch from the Hind Expedition 1859.

Souris Mouth was an important Fur Trade Era crossroads. As many a five Trading Posts existed
on the Assiniboine a few kilometres upstream.

The Souris Mouth Story
The Souris River  - Vantage Points
Souris Mouth Photos
River Journeys