Those who settled here in the late 1800s were welcomed by aspen/oak forest, tallgrass prairie and abundant wildlife. The Rat River, which originates in the Sandilands, flows into the present St. Malo reservoir and then proceeds westward to join the Red River. The area’s main land transportation route was the Crow Wing Trail, an oxcart route that was used to move goods and provisions. From St. Boniface, it ran south through St. Pierre and west of St. Malo, eventually arriving at St. Paul, Minnesota.
Around 1875, the French Colonization Aid Society, which was established in St. Boniface and Montreal, was formed to encourage French-Canadians to settle on the prairies. The organization’s plans included attracting Quebec residents. Its larger goal, however, was to bring back to Canada the French-Canadians employed in factories in Massachusetts. Immigrants from Massachusetts and Quebec established themselves in the Rat River Settlement area, which consisted of Otterburne and the parish of St. Pierre-Jolys. The parish of St. Malo, founded by Father Louis Malo in 1878, was also included in the Rat River Settlement. Over the years, with development of a north-south railway, highways and the establishment of businesses, St. Malo grew into a bustling town.
In 1958, due to growing concerns about the area’s water supply, the Rat River dam was built by the Prairie Farm Rehabilitation Administration to create the St. Malo reservoir. The reservoir was initially created to provide the Rat River downstream with a consistent flow of water to be used by surrounding towns and farms. But before long, the community had found another use for it. In June 1961, the reservoir’s northern shore was designated as St. Malo Provincial Park to provide camping and day-use facilities.