Cranberry Portage, Manitoba Canada

Discovering Cranberry Portage, Manitoba: A Blend of History and Natural Beauty

Cranberry Portage, an unincorporated community recognized as a local urban district, is nestled in the Rural Municipality of Kelsey, Manitoba. This location was a significant part of the pre-European contact trade routes of the Cree and Assiniboine peoples. It served as a campsite and portage between Grassy River and Lake Athapapuskow, connecting to the Saskatchewan River system.

The Rich History of Cranberry Portage, Manitoba

Cranberry Portage has been inhabited since prehistoric times. Archaeological excavations on Lake Athapapuskow have unearthed pottery, arrowheads, and other artifacts dating back at least 2,500 years. These findings suggest regular habitation by people of the Shield Archaic tradition, who hunted caribou in the area as far back as 7000 years ago.

The first European believed to have used the route and reach Lake Athapapuskow was the fur trader Joseph Smith in 1763. In 1774, explorer Samuel Hearne paddled up the Grass River to Cranberry Portage and into Lake Athapapuskow en route to establishing Cumberland House. This route became an integral part of the North American fur trade, known as the "Upper Tract".

In the early 20th century, the discovery of rich gold, copper, and zinc deposits nearby led to the development of Flin Flon, Manitoba. This mining development fueled local infrastructure development, including the extension of the rail line and Highway 10 from The Pas, Manitoba to Flin Flon, both of which passed through Cranberry Portage.

Cranberry Portage, Manitoba: A Strategic Location in World War II

Following World War II, the Department of National Defence took a keen interest in Cranberry Portage due to its strategic location. With the development of the Russian Nuclear Missile Program and the DEW Line (Distant Early Warning System) in the high Arctic, the Department of National Defence found it prudent to construct secondary back-up radar stations further south. Cranberry Portage, conveniently located 60 kilometres from a perceived Russian military target like Flin Flon Area mines and smelters, was an ideal location for such a back-up system.

Modern Cranberry Portage, Manitoba: A Community Transformed

In March 1964, the Government of Canada ceased its operations in Cranberry Portage. The entire complex that was Mid Canada Line Sector Control Station 700 was sold to the Government of Manitoba, who in turn sold the facility to the Frontier School Division. Today, the former Mess Hall provides dietary services to high school students, the Officers Club is used as a meeting room, and the helicopter hangar houses school buses. Officers houses are now homes provided to teachers at subsidized rents, while the three barracks are used only for storage.

Cranberry Portage is also home to the annual Bombardier Rally, where snow machine enthusiasts gather with their Bombardier vehicles.

Demographics of Cranberry Portage, Manitoba

In the 2021 Census of Population conducted by Statistics Canada, Cranberry Portage (Kelsey) had a population of 608 living in 253 of its 338 total private dwellings, a change of -21.1% from its 2016 population of 771. With a land area of 7.26 km2 (2.80 sq mi), it had a population density of 83.7/km2 (216.9/sq mi) in 2021.