Its creation is due to the intensive geological activity in the area hundreds of thousands of years ago, when violent tectonic effects caused the creation of first a fault, and then an upheaval of the southern side of the fault-line.
The name "Pisew" is translated from the local Cree language meaning "lynx", and the sound of the hissing water bearing a resemblance to the sound of this wild, northern feline.
Flora and fauna
Because of the continuous flow of water over the falls, the localized area has developed its own micro-climate. A wide variety of mosses, lichens, and fungi can be found in the immediate area around the base of the falls. There are also a variety of ferns whose origins date back to before the last Ice Age. The dominant winter feature downstream and to the right of the falls is the ice that builds up on top of a small island there. This island only rises a few feet above the downstream water level in Summer, but by late-February, the accumulation of ice builds to approximately 3-5 metres thick with the months-long accumulation of freezing spray.
At the periphery of this barrier between liquid water and frozen surroundings, lies a thin ridge of plant growth that continues to survive throughout the harshest of the -45 °C days in this frigid northern wilderness, while normally, the process of photosynthesis ceases in the surrounding area.
It is common to see one or more of the local otters using the large ice buildup as a "slide", providing the otters and lucky spectators with hours of amusement.
Pisew Falls is approximately 700 km north of Winnipeg, 0.5 km off Manitoba Provincial Highway 6, near Kwasitchewan Falls, the site of the highest-elevation, naturally-occurring, year-round waterfall in Manitoba.
Fees and permits
Vehicle permits for Manitoba Provincial Parks for 2018:
- Explorer Pass (annual) - $40 (valid until April 30, 2019)
- Casual - $12 (valid for 3 consecutive days from the date of purchase)
- Daily - $5 (valid until midnight on the date of purchase)
The park is quite small, and not intended for the use of recreational vehicles. There is a well-maintained boardwalk surrounding the west side of the falls, and a broad path which leads to the rapids downstream as well as a suspension bridge which crosses the Grass River.
- Canoe and kayak - You can easily launch a canoe or kayak downstream from the falls. You must portage your canoe or kayak down the trail to the river past the rapids below the falls.
- Boat - It is possible to launch a small 4-4½ m motorboat (12 to 14 ft), but the place to launch it is a little tough to find. About 100 m north of the Pisew Falls access road is an area where the Provincial Highways Department stores gravel and occasionally prepares pavement for highway maintenance. you will find at the north end of this area, an overgrown road that leads to the former pump-house for the long-since dismantled Soab Lake Mine.
1 Kwasitchewan Falls. Manitoba's highest waterfall is accessible only via a difficult 22-km (13-mi) round-trip backcountry hike. It is a very rugged and primitive forest-trail with several steep grades, and some walls to climb. It is poorly maintained and has lots of fallen trees in the path. The scenery at the falls is astounding and well worth the hike. The hike will take 5-6 hours to the falls, and 4 hours back, at a reasonable pace. A topographical printout is recommended as the trailhead has several branches; in addition since the trail follows the lake it is relatively easy to interpret the map. Deatiled maps are available from Manitoba Conservation.
It is only recommended that experienced backpackers make the attempt.
Kwasitchewan Falls can also be accessed by canoe, kayak, or small boat, with a 1½-km portage. Portaging a watercraft small enough to carry allows access to Phillips Lake. Larger, motorized boats (over 14') are generally not recommended because of the lack of adequate boat launching facilities.
There are no shops, stores, or vending machines at the park. There isn't even a park office. If you might need it, bring it with you.
The Falls are a lovely picnic area, and a great place to stop for lunch if travelling further north, or south, after exploring further into northern Manitoba.
There are no accommodations available at Pisew Falls.
Camping is not permitted at the Pisew Falls. There are no shower facilities, no electrical services, and the only toilet facilities are of the outhouse variety.
There is a campground 10 km south at Sasagiu Rapids.
There are amazing campsites next to the Kwasitchewan Falls, but it may be difficult to sleep. 6 primitive sites are scattered above the falls; a further 6 scattered right by the falls. The campsites upstream may be more quiet, but the scenery is rather boring.
Officers of Manitoba Conservation ask only that visitors keep the area clean, and stay well away from the areas below the falls, which are clearly marked as Environmentally Sensitive. As long as everyone co-operates in this respect, this remarkable piece of geography will be here for many generations to come.
Rarely is it necessary to destroy wild animals when they encounter humans. They usually have little interest in people, and are much more interested in the food they carry.
As beautiful and picturesque as this location may seem, there are dangers. There are a number of Black Bears who reside in this area, in addition to wolves, and quite possibly cougars which have been spotted as far north as Thompson, Manitoba. Warnings about wildlife bear repeating.
Several wasp nests on the trail to Kwasitchewan Falls. Bears and lynx may be in area.
Caution must be exercised to avoid confrontations with wildlife, especially bears. As a general rule, it is their home year-round, and you are a guest in it. For safety sake:
- Do not store any food in your tent.
- Bring plenty of rope to hang all your food in trees away from camp.
- Bring a good First Aid Kit, and know how to use it.
- Do not bring firearms unless you are licensed and skilled in their use.
- Bring a good insect repellent with a high concentration of DEET.
- Bring drinking water or water purification treatments.
- Bring toilet paper.
- Do not expect electricity, or any running water apart from that which passes your tent.
Additionally, because of the relatively high humidity present year-round, there is plenty of fresh, wet, greenery to slip on in the summer, and slick ice in the Winter. Do not stray far off of the clearly marked path.
There has been one fatality at the falls, and a Memorial Trail-Marker is there to attest to that fact. The ledges are steep, the fall is long, and the current below is swift. Exercise caution at all times.
Pisew Falls is the trail-head of a 22-km hiking trail to Kwasitchewan Falls. Phillips Lake drains over Kwastichewan where it carries on to join the Grass River downstream of Pisew Falls.