Over four million people stop at The Forks every year to shop, dine and see the sights at the spectacular riverside location. Here are a few tantalizing tidbits to know about this historic site before a visit.
The Forks began taking shape in 1989 with the opening of The Forks Market, created by joining two brick railway stables originally built in 1910 and 1911. Today, it’s not horses but people who hoof the halls and the stalls that have been cleverly converted into food kiosks and shops along the main floor. Upstairs, check out the original hardwood floors, polished by years of dragging hay bales across the planks.
Not So Square
Goods that arrived at The Forks were transported to the Johnston Terminal, a massive former cold storage warehouse built between 1928 and 1930. Now transformed into a variety of food stops and shops, look closely at the northeast corner of the building to see a sign of its bygone past. The building isn’t square at all: the corner was deliberately shaved so that trains unloading into the Terminal could easily make the turn.
A Weighty Work of Art
Walk over The Forks Historic Rail Bridge built in 1888 for one of the best vantage points of the intersection, or ‘forks,’ of the Red and Assiniboine Rivers. The huge counterweight was designed to raise and lower a section of the deck to allow for the passage of large river boats. However, the counterweight got stuck the first time it was used and has stayed closed ever since. Today what it lacks in function, it more than makes up for in beauty. The colourful work of mural artist Mike Valcourt now adorns the counterweight and pays tribute to Manitoban Aboriginal artist, Jackson Beardy.
Eye to the Sky
Explore the heavenly connections between the people, the place and the universe at the spiritual heart of The Forks—the Oodena Celebration Circle. Oodena, Ojibwa for “heart of the community,” is an amphitheatre featuring ethereal sculptures, a sundial, interpretive signage, a naked eye observatory and a ceremonial fire pit. The gaps between the mystical monoliths align with solstice and equinox sunrises and sunsets; follow the direction set by the steel armatures mounted on the monoliths to discover specific stars as an armchair astronomer.
Fueled with Fries
The Forks has a plan to ultimately hit an extremely eco-friendly Target Zero: zero water waste, zero garbage and zero carbon emissions. Several parts of the project are already in operation, including the geothermal heat pump system, compost containers and the collection of rainwater to create a perfect skating surface in the winter. Being powered by biofuel, though, sparks the most interest. Used, deep fry vegetable oil from its restaurant tenants is collected, filtered and converted into biodiesel fuel to run the site’s equipment. Even the Zamboni is fueled with French fry oil!