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The rural municipality Emerson-Franklin[dead link] is the main crossing into Central Manitoba for Winnipeg-bound traffic from the United States. A sparsely-populated expanse of prairie at the eastern edge of the Pembina Valley, it includes the communities of Emerson, West Lynne, Roseau River, Franklin, Arnaud, Tolstoi and Dominion City.


Emerson Court House and former town hall, built in 1917

Emerson is a tiny frontier town on the Canada-US border. In the years before uninterrupted travel across Canada by rail, voyagers heading westward would cross through the United States of America by necessity and re-enter Canada by crossing into Manitoba from Minnesota.

A Hudson's Bay Company post that began at Pembina moved north to West Lynne in 1871, serving traders on the Red River. Fort Dufferin, a Canadian government post (1872-1879), served as a base for the North American Boundary Commission, then as a launching point for the 1874 March West of the North West Mounted Police and finally as an immigration station for steamboats on the Red River. It closed once the railways had supplanted the river boats.

Emerson became a short-lived boom town when cross-border rail lines opened in 1879, only to go bust once the Canadian Pacific mainline redirected east-west domestic traffic via Winnipeg in 1884. While many of the abandoned buildings in Emerson were eventually destroyed by Red River floods or were simply demolished, a rural village of about 700 people remains. A few original historic buildings are still standing; the historic court house remains in use.

In 2017, Emerson received wide international news media coverage as a crossing point for third-country refugees escaping from the United States into Canada. Under Canadian law, international refugees arriving at official crossing points risk being turned back under a 2004 "safe third country" agreement (destroying any chance of their applying for Canadian refuge in the future), while those entering irregularly by crossing into snow-covered farmers' fields at night may obtain due process of law to make their case for asylum in Canada.

Get in[edit]

Emerson is 110 km (68 mi) south of Winnipeg on Manitoba Highway 75. There is no public transport to Emerson.

From the United States, take I-29 through Pembina, North Dakota, which is 8 km (5 mi) south of Emerson. This crossing is the main overland port of entry into Manitoba from abroad.

The nearest Via Rail train station and major airport are in Winnipeg.

Get around[edit]

There is no taxi in Emerson. The nearest scheduled bus service may well be in Fargo or Winnipeg. A car is likely the only viable option.


Fort Dufferin
  • 1 Fort Dufferin, Highway 75 (5 km north of Emerson). Remains of former North-West Mounted Police outpost from which Canada's iconic federal police force (now the Royal Canadian Mounted Police) began their historic expansion westward. An interpretive centre operates seasonally (from early June), there's also a signed interpretive boundary trail (seasonal, 6AM-10PM). Fort Dufferin (Q5471098) on Wikidata Fort Dufferin on Wikipedia
  • Franklin Museum, 48 Centennial Drive, Dominion City. Former 1879 Episcopal Methodist Church, relocated 1908 as All Saints' Anglican Church and closed in the mid-1960s, became a community museum in 1992.
  • Wounded Warrior Site, Franklin. Site of the encounters between Ojibwa and Sioux in the late 1700s and early 1800s.


  • Tall-Grass Prairie Preserve, near Tolstoi. The largest remaining tracts of tall-grass prairie in Manitoba, with a wide variety of animals (including moose) and over 150 plant species (many considered endangered).
  • The community of Arnaud features Canada Day celebrations on July 1.
  • Dominion hosts an annual Summerfest and the Dominion City Carnival in March.
  • Roseau River Pow Wow, Franklin. late August. Experience the wealth and beauty of Roseau River's Aboriginal community. Late August.



  • Chester Fried Chicken, 234 Cardinal Cres, Emerson, +1 204-373-6411.
  • Kai Hua, 365 Dallas Ave, Emerson, +1 204-373-2626. Tu-Sa 11AM-8:30PM, Su 11AM-7:30PM. Chinese.
  • Little Jay's Café, 133 Taylor Street, Emerson, +1 204-807-1765. Beside Emerson Hotel, open for breakfast.
  • Pho Gia Thanh, 102 Church St, Emerson, +1 204-373-2499. M-F 9AM-8PM, Su 11AM-8PM. Vietnamese.


The minimum drinking age in Manitoba is 18. The Emerson Hotel operates a Liquor Mart agency (+1 204-712-6194) to sell beer.


  • Emerson Hotel, 133 Taylor St, Emerson, +1 204-373-2050. Small hotel with sports bar (Emerson Bar and Grill). Open year-round, food service at limited hours.
  • Maple Leaf Motel, 115 Taylor St, Emerson, +1 204-373-2594. Ten rooms, Wi-Fi, fridge, microwave and TV. $65-85.


Stay safe[edit]

This is a remote area; Manitoba winters can be bitterly cold. Temperatures as low as -20°C are very common; extended exposure may cause rapid frostbite. Refugees have lost fingers and toes after arriving unprepared for local conditions or losing their way in winter blizzards.

In spring, the Red River is prone to flooding.

Go next[edit]

  • Winnipeg, Manitoba's capital and principal city, is 110 km (68 mi) north on Route 75.
Routes through Emerson
WinnipegMorris ← Jct Manitoba Highway 14.svg E  N Manitoba Highway 75.svg S  Aiga immigration.svg → becomes I-29.svgUS 81.svgPembinaGrand Forks

This city travel guide to Emerson is a usable article. It has information on how to get there and on restaurants and hotels. An adventurous person could use this article, but please feel free to improve it by editing the page.