Local Legends & Lore

Our name is rooted in the Canadian fur trade

With a name derived from the French “portage”, meaning to carry a canoe overland between waterways, the community was named by the fur traders who would traverse the prairies while conducting their trade. Locally, the voyageurs would haul their canoes and freight from the Assiniboine River to Lake Manitoba. Portage la Prairie translates as ‘portage over the prairie’. Many of our original municipal logos included imagery of a voyageur, depicting the literal translation of our name’s origin.

Portage la Prairie was once briefly its own country

In 1868, prior to the formation of the western Province’s the land where Portage la Prairie now sits was owned by the Hudson’s Bat Company. Local settlers, led by Thomas Spence petitioned Queen Victoria for recognition as their own political jurisdiction. Though the Queen did not respond, Spence ordained the community “The Republic of Caledonia in January 1868. The name was later changed to the Republic of Manitobah after the local lake. This era of the community’s history was later parodied as an animated short by the National Film Board of Canada in the Canada Vignette series in 1978.

Portage la Prairie has the most sunny days in Canada

Environment Canada still identifies that Portage la Prairie has the most sunny days during the warm weather month’s than anywhere else in Canada. In the 1940’s this favorable climate attribute was a deciding factor in the Canadian Air Force decision to establish their training operations here in 1941 at what is now Southport. Training still continues today at that former military site, facilitated by contractors KF Aerospace. Incidentally, every Royal Canadian Air Force pilot who earns his wings today will have spent at least a portion of their training deployment in Portage la Prairie.

Royal Road was originally Campbell Street

When Portage la Prairie was incorporated as a City, the north-south route that runs along the east side of City Hall was named Campbell Street. The urban route was renamed after a visit from King George VI in 1939. We recognize the street today as Royal Road.

Delta Is a Destination for the Stars

With the world at their fingertips, you may be surprised to learn that Delta, located 20 kilometres north of the City of Portage la Prairie, has hosted some of the biggest stars in Hollywood and other prominent figures in the world of politics. The region is renowned for its duck hunting and has attracted attention internationally. Among the celebrities and dignitaries to arrive with their rifles in search of game include movie stars Clark Gable and Tom Selleck, and royalty including King George V and King Edward VIII.

Manitoba’s “Premier” City

Our community has seen more Manitoba political leaders born or raised here than any other City in the Province. In fact, five Manitoba premiers have called Portage la Prairie home:

John Norquay (1878-1887), Douglas Campbell (1948-1958), Walter Weir (1967-1969), Sterling Lyon (1977-1981), and current Premier Brian Pallister.

Home to Manitoba’s Only Prime Minister of Canada

In the history of Confederation, only one of our nation’s Prime Ministers hails from the Province of Manitoba. Arthur Meighen reigned as the leader of the country in 1920-21 and then again in 1926. Meighen, among the most celebrated alumni of our region, is recognized by name on the local middle school, a City street and a residential sub-division. Arthur Meighen’s home still stands today on Dufferin Avenue East and has been restored by the current home owner.

Bigfoot was sighted here

While most sasquatch sightings are typically reported in heavily wooded areas further west, Portage la Prairie had a reported sighting of the elusive creature in 1976. As reported on the website “Sasquatch Canada”, a local youth made the discovery on the northwest shore of Crescent Lake near Yellowquill school. While there have been no further reported sightings in this area, a likeness of the creature has since been erected at the Keeshkeemaquah bingo parlour, which has been named “Bigfoot Bingo” in recognition of local legend.