The Westman region is a big place, filled with interesting things to see and do.
For families interested in exploring the area during the summer, here are 10 places worth checking out.
• The Westman Reptile Garden has a collection of thousands of reptiles, amphibians and invertebrates. Get there from Brandon by heading east on Highway 457, turning right onto Brown Road and then turning left on Thompson Road. Follow the Manitoba Star Attractions signs if you get lost.
• The Souris Swinging Bridge is the third swinging pedestrian bridge crossing the Souris River that has been built in Souris since 1904. The first bridge was destroyed by flooding in 1976, with the second also succumbing to flood conditions in 2011. Now rebuilt and reinforced, the current bridge is the longest swinging pedestrian bridge in Canada at a length of 184 metres. Find out more about the history of Souris and the bridge at the nearby Plum Museum & Visitor Centre.
• Outside of Souris is the Agate Pit. The former quarry is full of semi-precious stones, preserved wood and even fossils. Rock hounds can get a permit to enter the pit at The Rock Shop at 8 1st St. in Souris. Permits are $20 per carload and includes a lesson on what to look for when in the pit. Summer hours are 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday to Saturday and 12 p.m. to 5 p.m. on Sundays and holidays.
• East of Belmont is the Evergreen Firearms Museum. Run by Brian and Sheila Trotter, the museum has hundreds of firearms ranging from recent models to turn-of-the-20th-century water-cooled machine guns. To visit, call ahead at 204-537-2647. Admission is free but donations are encouraged.
• Head north from Cartwright to find the Clay Banks Bison Jump. The site is believed to be the location where people of the Besant and Sonota cultures stampeded bison over cliffs while hunting thousands of years ago. The cliffs themselves are on private property, but there is a public lookout off the road with an interpretive sign provided by the Boundary Trail National Heritage Region.
• Killarney is the home of the Turtle Mountain Flywheel Club Museum. The museum focuses on power machinery with more than 100 different examples of engines on display. The museum is open from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. every weekend during July and August.
• In the centre of Virden is the historic former Canadian Pacific Railway station built in 1900. This provincial heritage site is the only remaining station-residence constructed out of fieldstone in the whole of Manitoba. The building is now used as a community arts centre, but the original structure and exterior have been maintained.
• The Manitoba Antique Automobile Museum bills itself as one of the most extensive automobile collections in North America. Their collection has more than 100 vehicles, with some being as old as 117 years old. In fact, the newest item in their collection listed on their website is a Jaguar XJ from 1976 with a massive 12-cylinder engine. The museum is located just east of Elkhorn on Highway 1.
• South of Austin on Highway 34 is the Manitoba Agricultural Museum. The museum has Canada’s largest collection of functional farm machinery, as well as a large assortment of original and replica heritage buildings from the region. The museum grounds are also the home of the Manitoba Amateur Radio Museum, which bills itself as Canada’s only museum of its kind.
• In the Rural Municipality of Woodworth lies a former school building that was constructed in 1896. River Valley School No. 879 operated as a school until its closure in 1955. Now the building is kept up by volunteers from the River Valley Historical Society along with a nearby picnic area and campsite. People interested in a tour should call ahead to schedule. The building is northeast of Virden on provincial road 259.
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