TCAT - The Prairies


The route through Manitoba is about 830 km (516 mi). It starts at the point where the Trans-Canada highway crosses into Manitoba from Ontario. The first quarter of the province takes the rider from the Canadian Shield into the transition zone.





The first bit takes you through West Hawk Lake and Falcon Lake resort areas via some very nice winding paved roads before reuniting with the Trans-Canada for about 25 km (15 mi).,

In the first few km after the border there is a point where you will come to a gate and will have to ride around it between the rocks at the edge. With a large bike or hard side cases this might be an issue, but it is only about 2 km (1.25 mi) back to the highway if you need to loop back.


After you leave the Trans-Canada again you follow a few more side roads it follows Birch River Road and Juno Road up to the small town of Elma. Here you have an opportunity to get fuel and a snack before you hit the road again.,_Manitoba

Heading northwest from Elma you will find a neat little bridge on highway 408, just before getting onto the Moss Spur Road. This takes you up to highway 44, where you face your first choice of the prairie route. Turn left (west) on highway 44 to bypass the technical route, or go straight across highway 44 to get into the first technical section.

Like most of the other “technical” sections on this route, this one is not all that technical. I have marked this section as technical simply to help less experienced riders who may be on bigger bikes and may not want to wrestle them through a bit of sand and a narrow trail. If you have significant riding experience off-road then even with a big adventure bike this technical section should be passable.





The technical route spits you out on highway 214, which you then follow northeast up to highway 435, where you will turn west again. After a few zigs and zags on the grid roads you will run into the Mars Hill Recreational Area. This is where the second technical section begins. Like the first, this one is navigable on a big dual-sport bike like the BMW R1200GS, even fully loaded, but if you are less experienced or don’t feel like expending the energy to wrestle the bike through a bit of sand you can bypass this section on the grid roads.




(UPDATE: As of late 2012 the Manitoba Government is working on defining motorized use trails in the Mars Hill area. The TCAT may need to change slightly to accommodate this. Please refer to for details.)

From here you will head west across highway 57 to the Red River, which the route then follows into the city of Selkirk. Selkirk has a population close to 10,000, but because of its proximity to Winnipeg there is only one hotel in town, meaning it can be tough to get a room here. You can take a 20 km (12 mile) detour into Winnipeg to find accommodation if need be. Other services are readily available in Selkirk, and if you need motorcycle parts or tires Winnipeg is a short ride away from the route at this point.

I haven’t spent a lot of time in Winnipeg, but here are a few places I’ve found online that provide parts or service for various motorcycles. I think most of the major brands have at least one dealer listed here.

Motorcycle Places in Winnipeg

Unfortunately Winnipeg does not have a KTM dealer that I am aware of. The nearest KTM dealer is in Brandon, about 214 km (133 mi) west of Winnipeg on the Trans-Canada highway (highway 1). The closest the TCAT comes to Brandon is at Woodlands (coming up), but the trip from Winnipeg is probably just as quick because you get divided highway the whole way.

If you are not stranded and in desperate need of KTM parts, it might be worth riding on the TCAT to Saskatoon SK, where you can pick up the KTM dealer just outside the city in the town of Martensville without having to stray nearly as far from the route.

Leaving Selkirk, the route quickly gets onto a dirt road for about 6 km (4 mi). This road can be tough to ride in wet weather. Turning north, you will begin to follow the first of many irrigation canal routes on the prairies. These canals typically have public access roads along one or both sides, and provide a more meandering path across the prairies than just following the grid road system. This particular canal road is quite grassy, and should be passable unless the weather is extremely wet.




After a 1.6 km (1 mi) jog to the west on a paved road the route head north a short distance to pick up the Clandeboye canal roads. From here you head southwest to the Oak Hammock March area, which the route skirts to the north.




The route continues west on the grid roads from Oak Hammock, and crosses highway 236 north of the town of Stonewall. If you take the 8 km (5 mi) detour south into town you will find that there are services here – food, gas, lodging.

Heading west from highway 236 you will be on the grid roads for about 25 km (15 mi) until you reach the town of Woodlands, where fuel is available. Some of these grid roads are straight gravel, but some are somewhat more interesting.




From Woodlands you head north on highway 518, a gravel road skirting the west edge of West Shoal Lake. There is a “flood bypass” indicated for this part of the route, since when we explored it in August 2011 highway 518 was flooded by West Shoal Lake for about 1.6 km (1 mi). By the time you try this route in 2013 or later, this water should have receded enough that the road will be passable, but in case it hasn’t the flood bypass is included in the TCAT GPS data.




(UPDATE: As of November 16, 2012 highway 518 is still closed due to flooding. See for up-to-date information.)

The route runs north, then west, and crosses highway 6. From there it follows the grid roads, roughly tracking the east shore of Lake Manitoba. The nearest services on this section are in Eriksdale, about 13 km (8 mi) northeast off the northernmost point of the route on highway 418. However, if you can make it a bit further, you can run through the Dog Creek Indian Reserve to the Narrows, where gas, food, and lodging are available. The Narrows is a point on Lake Manitoba where the lake narrows down enough for there to be a bridge from one side to the other.




At this point there is a great spot to stop for the night. The Narrows resort has a great pub, a campground, a motel, and a restaurant just on the east side of the lake. They are a first-rate outfit, extremely friendly and helpful, and I highly recommend them.




From the Narrows you will head west on highway 68 for 24 km (14 mi) where you will cut across to highway 481, which takes you north to Crane River. There is fuel, groceries and an automated teller machine available at Crane River, and the store hours are 8 to 8 seven days a week. From Crane River you will follow the 481 across highway 276 all the way to highway 364, another gravel road. This will take you west to Oak Brae, on the northeast shore of Dauphin Lake. Oak Brae is one of those places with signs, but not really any town there.




From there it’s west through Fork River to the town of Ethelbert, where fuel is available until 10 PM seven days a week. Heading out of Ethelbert you take backroads west and north to highway 367, which takes you into Duck Mountain Provincial Park.

Duck Mountain is a large area that is higher than the surrounding plains, and therefore has different vegetation than you see on the plains. It is a heavily forested area, and contains some nice wide gravel roads that have enough curves to be interesting.




After you come down the hill shown above you exit the park and turn off onto the first grid road heading west. Shortly thereafter there is a small stream crossing.




After that you follow the grid roads into Swan River. Swan River is a town of about 4000 people, and has all services. There are several hotels, but you’re best off to reserve a room to make sure you get a place.

Apparently there are Wednesday evening street rides in Swan River, departing from the Qwik Stop (across from the Fas Gas a block or two west of the intersection of highways 10 and 83).




You’ll take highway 275 out of Swan River, and head 24 km (14 mi) straight west to the Manitoba-Saskatchewan border. Highway 275 is a paved road, but is still the type of road you might want an adventure bike on – it’s not the smoothest pavement in history.







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