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stream issues from the forest through an excavated valley filled with balsam poplar, and an undergrowth of chokecherry, dogwood, and cranberry, with thickets of roses, raspberry bushes, wild peas, vetches, convolvuli (Calystegia sepium), and wild hops. For the greater part of its course this is the character of the valley, but below Minnedosa and Odanah wood is not so abundant as higher up. All the district drained by this stream is generally fertile but much broken by ponds and hay marshes; these, however, can be easily drained in most cases, and lands now rejected from this cause will be sought for in the future. Ponds and lakes are numerous; wild fowl in great numbers visit them every spring and fall, and the river itself abounds in fish of which great numbers are caught in the spring. The waters of the river are beautifully clear and of sufficient depth to float down logs from the Riding Mountains, for the use of the settlers on its banks or the country on either hand. The rising towns of Rapid City, Minnedosa, and Odanah have been located in this valley and the country around is fast filling up with an intelligent and generally well-to-do class of settlers.
Between the Little Saskatchewan and Bird Tail Creek, on the west, is an extensive tract of very excellent land in the midst of which is Shoal Lake, described by a writer in a recent publication as follows :
“ Shoal Lake is distant about one hundred and seventyfive miles from the city of Winnipeg. On reaching it, the eye of the traveller is suddenly caught with the view of a magnificent sheet of pure, crystal-like water stretching away to his right some four miles, surrounded by gravelly and sandy shores, and fringed here and there with thick belts of timber, mostly poplar. This is said to be only one of a succession of beautiful lakes stretching from the Riding Mountains, some twenty-five miles to the north, to the Assiniboine River about thirty miles to the south. In spring and autumn
especially, myriads of wild fowl are to be seen popping over the surface of these waters, which also abound with fish. All of this, in connection with deer hunting (which can be had within easy distance), affords excellent pastime for the sportsman. The advantages for settlement, particularly for stock-raising, although the excellence of the soil for agricultural purposes cannot be doubted, are not only numerous, but strongly inviting. The picturesque and undulating country for many miles around, thickly dotted with bluffs of poplar, with occasional large marshes intervening, afford abundance of both fuel and hay for the settler. There is also a Post-Office and mail station, established here in connection with the mail line between Winnipeg and Edmonton. It is also a station of the Mounted Police, and will no doubt become very soon a place of some importance. The large increasing immigration continually moving westward, will create an excellent market at this point.”
Bird Tail Creek, a fine stream of pure water, takes its rise in the western part of the Riding Mountain, and enters the Assiniboine some distance east of Fort Ellice. This stream passes through a very rich section of country, which is far less broken with ponds and marshes than the tract along the Little Saskatchewan. In its northern part, it is almost all forest, but after the stream leaves the “ Mountain,” the country becomes more diversified, and prairie and aspen bluffs give it a park-like appearance. The village or town of Birtle is situated on the creek, twelve miles east of Fort Ellice, in the midst of a very rich section, and at present surrounded by fine farms, though the first house was erected in the settlement in 1879.
Between Bird Tail Creek and Shell River, in a northwesterly direction, is a magnificent tract of country where a few settlers have gone in, but where there is room for thousands. The land is of the very best quality, and there is abundance of wood and water.
“ From Shell River to within ten miles of Fort Pelly, on the left bank of the Assiniboine, is a tract of country unsurpassed for beauty of situation and richness of soil in the North-West. Issuing from the Duck Mountain, are numerous streams, which meander through a beautiful and fertile country. This area may be said to commence at Two Creeks ten miles from Fort Pelly, thence on to Pine Creek, fifteen miles further. The vegetation is everywhere luxuriant and beautiful from the great abundance of rosebushes, vetches, and gaudy wild flowers of many species. After passing Pine Creek, the trail to Shell River pursues a circuitous route through a country of equal richness and fertility. Shell River is forty-two miles from Pine Creek, and in its valley small oak appears, with balsam poplar and aspen, covering a thick undergrowth of raspberry, currant, roses, and dogwood.”
Numerous settlers are located in the Shell River country, and all express themselves highly pleased with it. During the past summer the writer examined the Indian Farm north of Pine Creek and obtained samples of wheat so fine that they were the wonder of all beholders.
About one hundred days ripen wheat in this region, which is between lat. 51 and 52'.
The general character of the soil in Manitoba, west of the Pembina Mountain, is a rich sandy loam, often varying to a very rich black loam, and at other times passing into sand as the Souris is approached. In no section of this district is frost injurious, as the land is generally dry and the soil warm. On the Souris Plain, both east and west of Turtle Mountain, the early explorers found short grass and little water and called it a desert. Practical men break up the dry and apparently sandy soil and produce crops that astonish the world. To-day South-Western Manitoba is called the garden of the Province; five years since it was supposed to be a barren, irreclaimable waste.
North of the Assiniboine the surface is more broken in many places, the soil is deeper and richer, wood is more abundant, but late-sowed grain is in danger of frost in unsheltered situations; water is abundant and good, and every requisite for successful settlement is at hand. There is no part of Manitoba where an immigrant cannot find good land, but it is advisable at this early stage of settlement, when land is abundant, to keep clear of wet lands, as drainage at present in most localities on the lower plain is out of the question.
Abundance of timber for building purposes can be obtained on the Riding and Duck Mountains. At present it is floated down the Little Saskatchewan to Rapid City, down Bird Tail Creek to Birtle, where it is sawn into lumber for the use of settlers On Shell River, in the Duck Mountains, there groves
spruce, from which large numbers of logs were cut and floated down to Brandon last year. Around Lakes Manitoba and Winnipegoosis there are quantities of spruce of large dimensions, which up to the present remain untouched, except on the Fairford River, at the outlet of Lake Manitoba, where Mr. Pratt, who owns the saw mill at Totogon, obtains his logs.
Fine groves of elm, ash, maple (Negundo aceroides), balsam poplar, with occasional spruce and tamarac, are still to be found in the Assiniboine Valley, and outside of the river flats there are large quantities of fine aspen in many places. Although there exists areas where wood of any kind is scarce, still it is a mistaken notion that there is a general scarcity of wood in Manitoba.
Stony Mountain, as its name implies, is largely composed of rock. It is a whitish limestone, lying in horizontal beds of varying thickness, very easily worked and said to be uninjured by frost. As the quarries are only about six miles from Winnipeg, it is of inestimable value to that city. About twenty-five miles above Portage la Prairie, on the
Assiniboine River, there is a fine outcrop of limestone of another variety, which will be easily worked and ought to be a source of supply for Portage la Prairie and possibly Brandon. A few other localities where rock is exposed have been noted, but up to the present no action has been taken regarding them.
Up to 1873 no brick clay was supposed to exist in the country, but since that year knowledge in this line has so increased that practical brickmakers now say that Winnipeg bricks are unsurpassed in any country for hardness and durability. As towns increase, brick clays will be found without difficulty, and each locality will produce its own brick as the variety worked at Winnipeg is known to exist in other parts of the province.
One difficulty, which has been a serious one in the past, has about disappeared, that is, the power to get good sweet water in Winnipeg and its neighborhood. At first all wells sunk into the clay invariably gave brackish water, and owing to this the supply for drinking purposes had to be drawn from Red River. Last season a number of wells were bored through the clay into a stratum of gravel below, and in every case good water was obtained. It is now a matter of certainty that excellent water exists in abundance under the clay, and when this is struck and the surface water kept out, pure water will be assured.