Historic Sites of Manitoba: Smokey’s Tree Stump (Sandilands Provincial Forest, RM of Reynolds)
A large concrete structure on the south side of the eastbound lane of the Trans-Canada Highway, in the Sandilands Provincial Forest in the Rural Municipality of Reynolds, stands about 22 kilometres east of Richer. It measures over three feet high, at least ten feet in diameter, and resembles a tree stump.
In early September 1955, following a hot dry summer, a massive forest fire swept through this part of the province, causing the closure of the newly constructed Trans-Canada Highway. The fire had started in three separate places, which indicated it had been set deliberately. Three young men (two brothers and their cousin, one of whom had a cast on his leg) were caught in the fire and perished. It is alleged the provincial government proposed to commemorate the fire, the brave firefighters who fought it, and the three young men by erecting a giant statue of Smokey the Bear, standing atop this tree stump.
The stump is believed to have been constructed when the Trans-Canada Highway was being twinned, between 1970 and 1972. Because of a last-minute decision by construction engineers to relocate the highway farther north, the stump ended up off the highway so plans to finish the monument were abandoned.
The site was slowly overgrown by the new forest that reclaimed the burned area. By 2010, when a reporter from a local newspaper visited the site, it was surrounded by mature trees. Some years later, gravel was needed for highway maintenance in the area and the government authorized a construction company to establish a gravel quarry near the stump. They cut down numerous trees, revealed the stump, and the government planned to move it to the nearby Sandilands Forest Discovery Centre. That plan met local opposition so it was moved to the side of the quarry. It was standing there at the time of a mid-2019 site visit.
Photos & Coordinates
“Forest blaze was set,” Winnipeg Tribune, 6 September 1955, page 1.
“3 perish in forest fire,” Winnipeg Tribune, 8 September 1955, page 1.
“Search for Manitoba’s lore cracks open nature’s door” by Bill Redekop, Winnipeg Free Press, 25 June 2010.
This page was prepared by Gordon Goldsborough.
Page revised: 29 June 2019