Get your feet wet unraveling the mysteries of the marsh

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Photos provided by Oak Hammock Marsh   Story by Tania Moffat

Oak Hammock Marsh may be on a birder’s list of must stop places in Manitoba; it should be on your list, too. A short drive north from Winnipeg will bring you to a wetland wonderland.

Relish in the marvels of a whole new world. Sure you’ve seen cattails on the side of the road and maybe even caught tadpoles as a kid, but you likely haven’t seen the beauty and intricate details of a wetland ecosystem like this before. Friendly staff are like walking encyclopedia’s bursting with fun facts about the oddities of the marsh and its inhabitants. Meet the usual suspects but learn what makes them unusual. Do you know the difference between dippers and divers? Do you know how many parts of a cattail can you eat? Come explore. You’ll be amazed at what you will learn by taking one of the daily tours or presentations.

The centre is about learning through interaction, and in addition to interacting outdoors visitors are welcome to wander through either of the two large discovery rooms. Meet some of the marsh inhabitants up close, see how wetlands prevent flooding, or learn how different beaks are suited to catch different treats. Kids will revel in the countless activities offered inside.

A trip to the roof offers a bird’s-eye view of the magnificent wetlands, and if you’re hungry stop by the restaurant, where all meals come equipped with a set of binoculars and one heck of a view. This is where the migration dinners are held in the fall. Just imagine sitting down to a wholesome prairie meal while thousands of birds come to rest for the evening.

Of course enjoying the wetlands up close is why you came and with more than 30 kilometres of trails, you just need your water bottle, camera and a little time to explore. Go on your own or schedule a tour. From the tall cattails and reeds of the prairie marsh to a woodsy aspen-oak bluff, artesian springs and the tall grass prairie, there is so much to see and do.

Tour the marsh in a voyageur-style canoe while your guide points out the highlights along the way. Just be prepared to work up a sweat, you’ll be paddling too as you see the marsh from a brand new vantage point.

Don’t leave before you try your hand at critter dipping. A net in one hand and bucket in the other will bring you back to the days of your youth. What will you scoop out of the marsh? A damselfly, tadpole, leech or freshwater shrimp. There are many different critters living in the marsh; pick out the coolest ones and bring them inside to inspect under a microscope that displays them on two large TV screens. Now that is cool!

We dare you to leave without learning something new and having fun to boot.

Check out all the fabulous fall activities offered at Oak Hammock Marsh at http://www.oakhammockmarsh.ca. Don’t forget to book your migration dinner soon!

geese in flightFun facts about the marsh and Oak Hammock:

  • Oak Hammock Marsh is home to 25 species of mammals, 300 species of birds, numerous amphibians, reptiles, fish and invertebrates.
  • During migration the number of waterfowl that use the marsh can exceed 400,000 daily.
  • Manitoba lies within four migratory flyways: Pacific Flyway, Central Flyway, Mississippi Flyway and Atlantic Flyway.
  • Nocturnal migratory birds use constellations and the North Star for navigation.
  • Southwest Manitoba has lost or degraded 70 per cent of their wetlands, and even more in the Red River Valley. We lose on average 15 acres of wetlands every day in southwestern Manitoba alone.