Geography – Land, Soils and Water


Land Defined by its Past

The topography of the Parkland region is defined from the melting of the Wisconsin continental ice sheet some 5,000 to 12,000 years ago.  The landscape is unique in the Province of Manitoba with two prairie mountains, glacier melt water channels, the surrounding escarpment, gravel and sand deposits, beaches, lakes, huge ravines and the bedrock that all contribute to the economy.

As the Duck Mountain Provincial Park & Forest and the Riding Mountain National Park were uncovered, the glacier melt water became trapped it created beaches and where the melting ice flowed towards the lowlands it created lakes and carving out the huge ravines now found on the face of the Mountains.

A glacial lake covered the lower eastern part of the region and as the glacier continued to retreat it picked up huge quantities of gravel and rock and left deposits.  Occasionally after a drop in water level, the lake would pile up a long mountain of sand along its shore as is presently seen along parts of Provincial Trunk Highway (PTH) #10 north of Ashville, which has the largest sand and gravel reserves in the area that are mostly used for road construction.

The two significant land formations are the two prairie mountains, where the highest point of the Duck Mountain Provincial Park is the tallest point in Manitoba.  The surrounding Provincial Park uplands are renown as the Manitoba Escarpment, famous for its wildlife and natural beauty.  There are many variations of the land which makes it unique in Manitoba – and an opportunity worth exploring.


The soils in the Parkland area are a reflection of the climate.  Soils are highly productive but are different from soils in southern Manitoba mainly due to the type of vegetation under which they were developed, which has created a higher amount of moisture available for plant growth.  The soils are well drained and 5.5% of the agricultural land is considered black chernozemic soil developed under grassland.

The Parkland area has 18% of the soils developed under the grassland forest transition, resulting in a dark grey classification.  A further 16% can be classified as grey luvisols which have been developed under forest.  Luvisols are more prone to erosion and cropping practices include more forage production to compensate for this concern.  Therefore, livestock is a significant factor in helping to diversify the Parkland agricultural economy.  Pasture land tends to be more economical than in other provinces for large livestock.

The Canada Land Inventory (CLI) Soil Capability for Agriculture is one of the most widely recognized agricultural interpretations.  Guidelines were developed to manually rate various soil, landform and climatic factors (Canada Land Inventory, 1965).  The CLI Agriculture Capability system has 7 classes based on their soil survey with Class 1 being very productive soil and Class 7 very poor soil.  All soils in the same class have a similar relative degree or risk for annual crop production.  Subclasses are used to indicate the most significant types of limitation or hazard.  Manitoba’s guidelines are further developed.

Soils in Classes 1, 2, 3 and 4 are considered capable of sustained use for cultivated field crops.  Those in Classes 5 and 6 are only for perennial forage crops and those in Class 7 have no capability for agriculture.  There is a large percentage of Class 2 and 3 soils that are available across the region which means that the communities have the capacity to grow crops by large volume for industrial processing.  A study has been completed to identify land suitable for potato production, which could also be used for high value vegetable production.

Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada Soils & Terrain Bulletins:


The availability of good quality water is important for industrial siting and other economic development opportunities.  Here are a few options depending on the volume and quality of water required;


The deep valleys and overburden in the western areas contain sand and gravel deposits that form aquifers, the water quality of which is rated as fair to excellent.  There are two kinds of aquifers.  First, extensive sand and gravel aquifers are common at 50 m. (164 ft.) to 100 m. (328 ft.) below ground level in the southeastern and central portions.  The yield of high capacity wells in these aquifers exceeds 20 Litres/second at some locations, with water quality ranging from poor to excellent.  Second, the lenses of sand and gravel aquifers are the most common aquifers in the rest of the region.  The depth to these aquifers ranges from 5 m. (16 ft.) to more than 50 m. (164 ft.).  The yield of sand and gravel aquifers is generally considered adequate to abundant for domestic and agricultural requirements, with water quality ranging from poor to excellent making it suitable for many purposes.

Water Pipeline

The RM of Dauphin, the Municipality of Gilbert Plains and the Municipality of Grandview have established rural water pipelines of various diameter though out their communities.  The source of the water is from deep aquifers.  Engineering firms have completed studies of these sources to determine the recharge rates for the water supply.  Maps of the pipeline are available.


Ground water has been the principal source of water supply across the PARC communities and is generally under-developed.  The ground water quantity available and quality can range across the region.  The deep valleys cause low groundwater levels and strongly influence groundwater flow systems near the valleys.  There are a number of aquifers including a bedrock aquifer of Sandstone & Sand (Cretaceous Swan River Formation) and Odanah Shale.  The overburden aquifer consists primarily of lenses of major & minor buried sand and gravel.  Beach ridge sand and gravel aquifers formed by ancient beach deposits occur in the northeast corner of Gilbert Plains and run in a northwest direction through the rural areas in the Municipality of Ethelbert.  The urban centres of Municipalities of Gilbert Plains and Grandview are now on the Gilbert Plains Rural Water Pipeline Co-op, which leaves more ground water available for a project.

Surface Water

Surface water distribution in the Ethelbert, Gilbert Plains and Grandview areas is influenced by its major tributaries such as the Valley and Wilson Rivers that drain into Dauphin Lake and the Garland River that flows northeasterly to Lake Winnipegosis.  The water levels on these major tributaries typically peak during spring runoff and after large storm events and then rapidly decline to base level.


Agri-Maps Map Gallery is an interactive GIS information system that is maintained by the Province of Manitoba.  The Map Viewer application includes data on Manitoba’s geography, resources and has current aerial photography.  There are maps for climate, elevation, geology, hydrology, land use, terrain, soils, wildlife and more.

Parkland Agricultural Resource Co-op, Box 759, Grandview, MB Canada, R0L 0Y0

Phone: 204-546-2915    Fax: 204-546-2909