About 75 kilometres south of Thompson, Manitoba, just off of Provincial Trunk Highway 6, one of Manitoba’s most magnificent waterfalls can be found, Pisew Falls.
Pisew falls is one of Manitoba’s largest waterfalls. At a height of 13 meters (43 feet), its height is only slightly eclipsed by its twin, Kwasitchewan falls, which lies 15 kilometres north of here and is 14 meters high. The journey from one set of falls to the next isn’t easy. The hike is a total of 29 kilometres, through the thick boreal forest.
The hike starts at the Pisew Falls parking lot. It’s best to take the trailhead to the south first, which takes you to the Pisew Falls boardwalk, and lookout platforms. Pisew Falls, whose name means “place where the lynx dwells”, looks absolutely magnificent from the boardwalk.
To start the journey to Kwasitchewan Falls you have to head back up to the parking lot, where you will find a second trailhead. The official park sign that can be found at the start of the Kwastichewan Falls hike, lists the trail as 22 kilometres. However, there is a notice, taped onto the sign stating that the actual distance is 29 kilometres. I used GPS to track the trail, and I can confirm that the 22-kilometre distance is nowhere close to being correct and that 29 kilometres are a much more reasonable estimate.
The trail starts off easy, with some very scenic views. The first half a kilometre is nice gravel, with a beautiful suspension bridge that crosses the mighty Grass River. Once you’ve crossed the bridge and reached the other side of the river, the trail changes. From the far side of the suspension bridge, until Kwasitchewan Falls, there are no variations in the landscape of the trail. The entire trail is straight through the boreal forest. While it starts off being fascinating, it very quickly becomes tiring.
When I hiked the trail, it was thirty degrees outside, and incredibly humid. The surrounding trees provided some shade from the sun, but they also blocked out all wind. The atmosphere was stale, clammy, and not enjoyable.
There was also an abundance of fallen logs, and where they were cut to make room to pass through, the forestry workers had only made gaps of about a foot in width. Then there were the tree roots which made the terrain unpleasant to walk on. By the time I had arrived at the campsite at the end of the trail my neck was sore, not from carrying my heavy backpack, but from having to stare at the ground the entire time, so I could avoid tripping on tree roots.
This wouldn’t have been bad if the trail was short. However after five hours of fallen logs, tree roots, humidity, scorching temperatures, and every point on the trail looking like the last one, I was glad when I had reached my destination, Kwasitchewan Falls.
Kwastichewan Falls was absolutely incredible! As Manitoba’s second largest waterfall, it did not disappoint at all. You can get quite close to the falls from the shoreline, close enough to feel the spray from the falls and see its awesome power. However, there isn’t a good shoreline view from the front of the falls because of how the shoreline cliffs curve away from the falls, and the river opens up to form Phillips Lake. Thankfully I had brought my drone along so that I could get never before seen views of Kwastichewan Falls.
The view from above, and from in front, both do an adequate job of showing how gigantic the falls actually are. The falls are approximately 80 meters (260 feet) wide. This would be equivalent to a 22-story apartment building lying on its side.
There are a few campsites near the falls, the one I stayed at was about a kilometre away. There is also an area that has been cleared to be a makeshift helipad, in case stranded hikers need to be rescued.
When hiking out to the falls, we took the west side trail along the grass river. The trail splits east and west halfway from Pisew Falls to Kwasatichwen Falls. The east side trail goes along Phillips Lake until it reaches the falls. On the way back, we hiked the west side again since it was supposed to be a kilometre shorter. I didn’t want to have to spend any extra time tripping over tree roots or climbing over fallen logs. Thankfully, at least there were barely any mosquitoes, which was a pleasant surprise.