A Brief History of Atikaki Provincial Wilderness Park
Jun. 19, 2014
Since 1949, Aikens Lake has been one of the most important locations in the Atikaki Provincial Wilderness Park here in Manitoba. If you are a regular guest at our lodge, then you would be accustomed to its beauty. However, you may not be totally familiar with the history of Atikaki. We thought it would be interesting to tell you a little bit about the region and how it became one of the best parks in Canada.
Atikaki on Ice
The reason why Aikens Lake and all of the other lakes and water ways in the Atikaki region exist is because this whole area was once under a giant glacier. About 11,000 years ago this glacier covered the region, but it eventually melted away creating a lake so large it was bigger than all of the present day Great Lakes combined. Over time this super lake drained out to the point where it became a number of smaller lakes, including Aikens. It was at this time that nature took its course and what was once a lakebed became a forest.
The Coming of People
There is indication that aboriginal people have been in the Atikaki region for thousands of years and have been fishing in its lakes during that entire time. One of these native groups, the Ojibwe, were the ones who gave it the name Atikaki, which means “country of the caribou.”There are still a number of native groups who live in the Atikaki region, including Bloodvein,Pauingassi First Nation, Little Grand Rapids, and Hollow Water.
It was caribou and other animals that attracted Europeans to the area in the 1700s and 1800s. The demand for furs and the abundance of wildlife in the Atikaki region brought both independent traders as well as larger organizations such as the Hudson’s Bay Company and North West Company. Small trading houses popped up all over the region, but furs eventually made their way through to larger trading spots in Little Grand Rapids, Berens River, what is now Knox Lake, and Red Lake in Ontario.
Minerals were another major lure for European settlers, and throughout the 1800s up until the mid-1990s the area was actively mined. It was in 1996 when the Provincial Parks Act took effect that mining was prohibited in the area.
Aikens Lake and Atikaki
When the Aikens Lake Lodge was first built, Atikaki was actually not a designated wilderness park. The area did not become an official park until 1985, at which point it was the first wilderness park in Manitoba. When our first proprietor, Eric Carlson, was getting started, he actually wanted to use the area for commercial fishing. Others had attempted this, however, with little to no results, so as an alternative he focused on using it for sport fishing and tourism. He build one lodge, two cabins, and a dock. Just like now, guests had to be flown in to Aikens Lake. Over time, new cabins were added and the lodge expanded to what it is today.
If you would like to learn more, we have a lot more information about our own history available to you.