'Entrance to the wilderness': CBC doc journeys through Nopiming Provincial Park

CBC Gem documentary explores Nopiming Provincial Park with a family during the pandemic, talking to paddlers, river guides, canoe makers, cartographers, and more.

Travel with a family of four as they meet some of the people that shaped one of Manitoba's wildest parks.

A Manitoban family of four documents their travels in Nopiming Provincial Park, as they canoe through the many river systems in the park. (Hañwakañ Blaikie Whitecloud)

Airs Sept. 18, 2021
7 p.m. on CBC Manitoba

>> Watch online now


If you've ever been traveling throughout Manitoba's waters, you know just how peaceful paddling can be, but did you know it's also an experience rich in history?

Nopiming Provincial Park is showcased in a new CBC Gem documentary that delves into the beauty, history and waterways that runs through what is considered one of the wildest parks in Manitoba. It is directed by Kevin Nikkel of Five Door Films.

"I think that probably the biggest thing I like about rivers, is that they're highways that have been used for thousands of years, and they haven't changed. It's still the same river, and you use that same highway and it's a very interesting connection to the past," paddler, Neil Fitzpatrick says. 

History along the waterways

The documentary is a nice history lesson from those who live in the area and work along the rivers. 

Ancestors of local canoe guide, Reg Simard, liked to move all around the area for trapping or rice picking. His family also worked at a local sawmill. He says his great and great great grandfathers were both prospectors. The San Antonio Gold Mine in Bissett, Man. experienced a minor gold rush in the early 1900s. 

Simard tells the Indigenous legend of a young, fair-haired girl who went trapping with her adopted family, and her golden hair was stuck to a rock after she woke up one morning. This was the origin story of the "yellow threads" found within the stones during the initial discovery of gold in Manitoba. 

While on their canoe trip, the Nikkels stop at riverbanks to search for clues to the history of the oldest travellers of the waterways. The film shows red drawings of people on rock walls, most likely from historic inhabitants of those spaces. 

A new CBC Gem documentary travels with a family through Nopiming, one of the province's wildest provincial parks. (Hañwakañ Blaikie Whitecloud)

Simplistic, meaningful adventures

Paddler Erica Nassie says paddling should be a minimalistic activity. 

"Don't overthink it. You need less stuff than you realize. As long as you have, you know, stuff to eat, stuff to wear, somewhere to sleep, right. I think a lot of people feel that they need to have every gadget or every updated piece of camping equipment or canoe equipment, but you don't." 

A paddle maker is also featured in the doc, showing us different types of paddles and how they are made. 

Drone footage gives a beautiful bird's eye view of the waterways in the provincial park, and the family during their trip. 

Whitewater rafting is popular in the park. Whitewater kayaker Steven Walker says he appreciates the adventure of the area.

"It sort of becomes more than just a sport, more than just an activity of just like, puttering at the top of a big rapid, running that rapid, getting out at the bottom and calling it a day, there's so much more to it," he says. 

You can catch the documentary on CBC Gem. (CBC Gem)

Grateful and appreciative of nature

Fitzpatrick says each trip, and the combination of many trips changes you as a person.

Author and outdoor educator Bob Henderson agrees. 

He says there is a universal narrative that runs from stories like Ulysses to Star Wars. 

"There is this notion of the quest pattern, of the beginning, where you have a sudden and abrupt, maybe thoughtful departure, then that leads into obstacles, hazards, overcoming something, and then you return better for it," he says, "that's a real quick synopsis of Joseph Campbells' quest pattern. 

Henderson says a Norwegian poet came up with the word "Friluftsliv", which is a combination of the words free, air, and life, which he used to sign off on a poem. 

"I think we can learn a lot from it. There's also a notion that it should be joyful. There's an inherent wisdom in the open air."


Renée Lilley

Reporter, CBC Indigenous

Renée Lilley is a reporter for CBC Indigenous based in Winnipeg. She is a recipient of the CJF-CBC Indigenous Journalism Fellowship for 2022 and is a recent University of Winnipeg grad with a BA in rhetoric and communications. She has reported for radio and online news in her hometown of Portage la Prairie, Man. She is also a proud Métis mama of four girls.