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Parks and Protected Spaces

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Northeast Parks

Paint Lake Provincial Park
Park Information and Map
Grey Jay as


1. Paint Lake: Keeper of Ancient Secrets
2. Two Kettles for Three Made Beaver
3. Echoes of Times Past
4. They Shall Not Be Forgotten
5. A Canoeist’s Paradise
6. Summertime and the Livin’ is Easy...
7. Looking to Land the Big One?
8. Powder Power
9. Summer Fairs & Polar Bears
10. Maps

For More Information


With an area of 227 km2, Paint Lake Provincial Park is characterized by the waters and shores of Paint Lake, a portion of the Grass River system.

Classified as a Natural Park, its purpose is to preserve areas that are representative of the Hayes River Upland portion of the Precambrian Boreal Forest Natural Region, and to accommodate a diversity of recreational opportunities and resource uses. The park will:

  • Preserve riparian habitats to maintain water quality and the natural character of the Paint Lake area;

  • Provide high quality cottaging, camping, boating and fishing opportunities and permit related facilities and services;

  • Promote public appreciation and understanding of the park's natural features; and

  • Accommodate mining activities in a manner that does not compromise other park purposes.
mist over the water
One of Paint Lake’s many islands.

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1. Paint Lake: Keeper of Ancient Secrets

Imagine glaciers two kilometres thick scouring and grinding across the land where you now stand. Some 9,900 years ago these ice sheets began to melt and retreat northward, the meltwater forming vast Lake Agassiz, at one time the largest lake in North America.

The area we know today as Paint Lake was the bottom of glacial Lake Agassiz. Over a period of about one thousand years, a layer of clay and silt—up to 30 m thick—was deposited on the bottom of Lake Agassiz in the Paint Lake area. Today this layer supports a healthy boreal forest community.

Over its 4,000-year history, Lake Agassiz drained to the south and east, and then eventually into Hudson Bay. Our legacy in northern Manitoba is a tangled skein of lakes and rivers. Paint Lake's Grass River system is connected with the Burntwood and Nelson River networks.

Over time, these waterways—with vestiges of the glacial period such as eskers and beach ridges—became natural travel routes for the area's human inhabitants. From moose to woodland caribou, pike to lake trout, they found the boreal forest provided for their needs.

Shards of pottery known as Laurel and Blackduck ceramics, together with a variety of stone tools including arrow points, offer tantalizing clues as to how Manitoba's ancestral Cree peoples lived, starting about 2,000 years ago. Such items have been painstakingly excavated at two sites within Paint Lake Provincial Park, one along Liz Creek and another on the east side of Paint Lake.

Paint Lake Provincial Park straddles part of the Thompson Nickel Belt, a narrow band of rock trending southwest and northeast of Thompson. This band lies squeezed between two major blocks (known as the Churchill and Superior provinces) of the Canadian or Precambrian Shield. The rock comprising the belt was formed by massive pressure and is rich in nickel and copper mineral deposits.

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2. Two Kettles for Three Made Beaver

Now imagine the collision of cultures between Manitoba's original inhabitants and the European adventurers drawn here by the fur trade in the late 18th century. From Cumberland House in Saskatchewan through Paint Lake and up to York Factory on Hudson Bay, rivalry between the Hudson's Bay Company and the North West Company was to define and dominate the landscape and its peoples. Dressed beaver pelts, known as Made Beaver, were the currency of the day, used in trading for everything from kettles to beads. The remains of McKay House (a North West Company post) on Paint Lake and of Chatham House (the competing Hudson's Bay Company post on nearby Wintering Lake) speak eloquently to us of this time. Some artifacts excavated from these sites (lead shot, finger rings and clay pipe fragments, for example), and a reproduction of William Cook's journal of his time at Chatham House can be seen at the Heritage North Museum in Thompson.

Kwasitchewan Falls, three sets of rapids and three portages upstream from Paint Lake
Kwasitchewan Falls, three sets of rapids and three portages upstream from Paint Lake

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3. Echoes of Times Past

The name Paint Lake comes down to us from the Native name manuminan sakahigan, translated by J. B. Tyrrell in 1915 as Red Paint Lake. The name may derive from painted navigation markers that guided Native peoples through the labyrinthine reaches of the lake. The name Paint Lake appears on English explorer Samuel Hearne's map of 1776. Similarly, many place names throughout Manitoba originated in the Cree language.

Imagine a birchbark canoe gliding silently across the water, and campfire smoke curling around the mesmerizing words of a storyteller of long ago. Listen for the music of the metal janglers and tinkling cones that decorated the clothing of those living and trading at McKay House. Breathe deeply of the fragrance of black spruce mingled with jack pine, trembling aspen and balsam fir. Explore and experience the enduring mystery of Paint Lake.

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sd Pipsissewa or prince’s pine is a ground plant in the boreal forest, 10-20 cm tall.
Pipsissewa or prince’s pine is a ground plant in the boreal forest, 10-20 cm tall.
4. They Shall Not Be Forgotten

In 1996, Kippen Island in Paint Lake was named for Robert Stacey Kippen. Under a provincial government initiative known as the Commemorative Names Project, lakes, islands and other geographical features in Manitoba are named in honour of World War II casualties.

Kippen, from Newdale, Manitoba graduated from Wesley College in 1935 and worked as a teacher. His favourite school was at Herb Lake near Snow Lake, Manitoba. He enlisted as a non-combatant and served with the Royal Canadian Army Medical Corps and upon sustaining injuries in northwestern Europe, he was returned to England and finally to Deer Lodge in Winnipeg. He died there in 1946.

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5. A Canoeist’s Paradise

Today's canoeist owes a great debt to Samuel Hearne. The famed English explorer charted great lengths of northern Manitoba's serpentine waterways on his 1774 trip from York Factory to establish the Hudson's Bay Company's first inland post at Cumberland House. Hearne reached Paint Lake on July 15, 1774. Following is a partial list of his cargo on that journey:

  • 180 lbs. Brazil Tobacco
  • 130 lbs. Powder
  • 200 Wt. Shott & Ball
  • 6 Gallons Brandy
  • 6 Gallons White Water
  • Trifling articles of trading goods
  • Carpenter's tools
  • 2 Pecks of Oatmeal
  • 12 lbs. of Bisquett

Today, canoeists can choose shorter or longer stretches that take them through Le Pays du Rat (Muskrat Country). The full-length Grass River Canoe Route (which includes Paint Lake) starts at Cranberry Portage and ends at Split Lake.

Passage through Paint Lake is well marked and should be followed because of the many islands that dot the lake—keep your map and compass handy! Ancient rock paintings, trapper's cabins, and plenty of rapids, waterfalls and portages make the Grass River Canoe Route a challenge not to be missed. Atopographic map of the area to be travelled is essential, and special pictorial canoe route maps are also available. They can all be obtained from the Land Information Division's Map Office in Winnipeg (945-6666).

Paint Lake is part of the Grass River canoe route
Paint Lake is part of the Grass River canoe route

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6. Summertime and the Livin’ is Easy...

Paint Lake, situated just 32 km south of Thompson and opened to the public in 1972, is the centrepiece of Paint Lake Provincial Park. About 42 km south, just off PTH 6, you'll find Pisew Falls Provincial Park. Pisew is a Cree word meaning lynx. A0.5-km trail brings you to a viewing platform, perfect for snapping photos of this 13-m drop on the Grass River. Across a swinging bridge, a 22-km return trail leads to Kwasitchewan Falls, Manitoba’s highest.

Paint Lake Provincial Park is reached by turning east off PTH 6 to Provincial Road 375. Ashort drive brings you to the core recreation area. Here you'll find the park office, entrances to the campground and day use areas, natural sand beaches, showers, Paint Lake Resort & Marina, a concession and playgrounds. The park offers services and facilities for physically disabled visitors, including a reserved campsite in the Paint Lake campground.

Choose from electrically serviced or basic sites at the Paint Lake and Lakeview campgrounds. If you crave that pure wilderness experience, there are a few backcountry campsites on some of the many islands in Paint Lake. In total throughout the park, you'll find over 190 campsites, with more than half being seasonal sites.

Bring your own boat or rent one at the Paint Lake Resort & Marina. About 170 boat slips are available, with boat launch, gas, restaurant and a store. Rental cabins here offer a spectacular view of Sunset Harbour.

The Aspen Sports Field is a great place to meet the gang— you'll find lots of green space with a ball diamond, picnic shelters and a fitness trail. Or why not rendezvous with your friends at one of the scene-stealing points along the lakeshore such as Coffee Cove, Cozy Corner, Pickerel Point or Twilight Bay?

Boat, There’s plenty of lake to explore!
There’s plenty of lake to explore!

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7. Looking to Land the Big One?

You've come to the right place—they're still talking about the 132.5-cm (53-in.) northern pike caught a few years ago on the Burntwood River near Thompson! The Manitoba All-Time Angler Record for northern pike, by the way, is a 149.86-cm (59-in.) specimen caught at Max Lake in northeastern Manitoba, in 1992.

Manitoba is known worldwide for its progressive catch-andrelease and barbless hook programs, and the province has been running a Master Angler Awards Program since 1960. Paint Lake is famed for its walleye and northern pike, a fact celebrated in several fishing derbies over the spring and summer—and particularly at the Northern Pike Classic hosted by the Thompson Wildlife Association in June of each year. Don't forget to pack that camera and tape measure in your tacklebox!

Need gear and a place to stay? There are several fishing lodges (including fly-in lodges), general outfitters and fishing supply stores in the Thompson area.

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8. Powder Power

Hundreds of kilometres of snowmobile trails in the Thompson area await snow machine enthusiasts. These trails reach north from Thompson to Moak Lake; east and southeast to Pikwitonei, Paint Lake and Thicket Portage; south to Hawk Lake and Wabowden; and west to Tullibee Lake. And they just keep on going.... The stretch from Thompson through Paint Lake Provincial Park (all groomed trail) travels down the lake's west side, making circuits around Liz Lake and Mid Lake. Aquick call to the Thompson Trailbreakers snowmobile club can tell snowmobile aficionados where to watch for bad ice and where the warmup shelters are.

Novice to intermediate cross-country ski trails lace their way around the west side of Paint Lake Provincial Park, fanning out from the core recreation area and ranging in length from two to five kilometres. Ice fishing and ice skating (February and March only) in the park are other sure-fire ways to keep cabin fever at bay! Warm up with hot chocolate or coffee at the Paint Lake Resort & Marina, open year-round.

Twenty-five kilometres of cross-country ski trails, four lifts and 18 downhill runs make the Mystery Mountain Ski Area, 22 km north of Thompson, another excellent winter survival option. Snowboarders are welcome!

Resort, Paint Lake Resort is open year-round.
Paint Lake Resort is open year-round.

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9. Summer Fairs & Polar Bears

When planning a trip to Paint Lake, visitors should include other attractions and special events that this and other parts of northeastern Manitoba have to offer.


Experience the unique marine arctic environs of the polar bear and beluga whale. Prime viewing time for the bears is October to early November; for the beluga, mid-June to September. You'll see the bears at Wapusk National Park, Canada's seventh-largest national park with 11,475 km2 of tundra, eskers and permafrost. This wilderness park encompasses one of the world's largest polar bear denning areas, and critical habitat for hundreds of thousands of waterfowl and shorebirds. Approved tour operators will show you the sights.

Churchill is also home to the Prince of Wales's Fort, Cape Merry and Sloop's Cove National Historic Sites, and A Dip in the Bay, a bracing Canada Day tradition! Leave your vehicle at McCreedy campground on PTH 6 just north of Thompson; VIA Rail will take you north from there.

Gillam Hydro Tours

Located 240 km north of Thompson on the way to Churchill, the Limestone hydro dam and generating station on the Nelson River at Gillam is the largest in Manitoba. Telephone: (204) 652-2715 in Gillam.

Heritage North Museum, Thompson

This huge, log building is home to local historic artifacts and natural history exhibits; the museum also sponsors visiting exhibits. Artifacts excavated from Hudson's Bay Company and North West Company posts in the Paint Lake area are on display. Telephone: (204) 677-2216.

Inco Ltd. Surface Tours, Thompson

Guided, ninety-minute tours include the headframe, mill, smelter and refinery where more than 45 million kilograms of nickel are produced every year! The discovery of the Thompson orebody in 1956 literally put Thompson on the map. Inco's Manitoba operation is the only one of the company's divisions that produces the electrolytic nickel prized by the plating industry worldwide.

Tours are for visitors 14 years of age and older. For tour times and further information, please contact the Heritage North Museum in Thompson at (204) 677-2216.

Nickel Days, Thompson

This three-day summer festival is held during the second weekend in July. It includes a midway, parade, Native games, canoe races, mud races and the National King Miner Contest.

Northern Pike Classic, Paint Lake

Co-sponsored by the Thompson Wildlife Association and Manitoba Conservation, this event is held in mid-June each year. Boneless pike filleting demonstrations show you how to get your catch into the frying pan in no time! For information, call Manitoba Conservation at (204) 677-6650.

Thompson Folk Festival, Thompson

Held on the weekend closest to the summer solstice (June), the festival features professional entertainment groups and musicians from northern Manitoba, children's activities and a craft village.

Fish to your heart's content!

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10. Maps (PDF format)


Click for a map of the Park.

Paint Lake Provincial Park is located in the Northeast region of Manitoba.

View a full featured map of Paint Lake Provincial Park, in Acrobat PDF format.

Tip: with this high resolution map you can zoom in to see particular site features and amenities, and zoom out to see a bird's eye view of the area. This file is 202 KB in size.

Campgroud Map (PDF)

Seasonal Campground Map (PDF)

Summer Recreation Activity Map (PDF)

Winter Recreation Activity Map (PDF)

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For More Information Mailing Address:

Manitoba Conservation
59 Elizabeth Drive, Box 28
Thompson, Manitoba R8N 1X4

Park Telephone Numbers:

Thompson District Park Office (204) 677-6640
Paint Lake Campground Office (seasonal) (204) 677-6444
Campsite Reservations (toll-free) 1-888-4U2-CAMP
or, 1-888-482-2267 or in Winnipeg 948-3333
Paint Lake Park Patrol (204) 677-6444 or (204) 679-2457
Manitoba Conservation Public Information (toll-free) 1-800-214-6497
or in Winnipeg 945-6784

Emergency Telephone Numbers:

Ambulance (Thompson) (204) 677-7911
Hospital (Thompson) (204) 677-2381
RCMP (Thompson) (204) 677-6911
T.I.P. Line
Turn In Poachers, Report Forest Fires)
(toll-free) 1-800-782-0076
Visit us at our Web site:
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