The town is situated on the Canadian Shield within the western boundary of Whiteshell Provincial Park, which lies near the Manitoba-Ontario provincial boundary. The community of Pinawa was originally established in 1901 to support the operation of Manitoba's first hydro electric generating station but was abandoned in 1951 when the site was shut down.
Pinawa was re-established about 10 km from the original Hydro town in 1963 when Atomic Energy of Canada Limited built the Whiteshell Laboratories nuclear research facility in the area. Pinawa was chosen as the site for the research station due to the seismic stability of the area. Pinawa was developed as a planned community this preserved many of the natural features of the site and designated all riverfront property as public reserve. Whiteshell Laboratories was somewhat similar to the Chalk River Nuclear Laboratories in Chalk River, Ontario. AECL began decommissioning the Whiteshell Laboratories in 1998. The economy of Pinawa is diversifying and now includes the head office of the North Eastman Health Association and a number of environmental science firms.
The Town of Pinawa has a full service Hospital with 24 hour emergency service, Doctor's offices, and an ambulance station. There is a small shopping centre with a Post Office,Credit Union, Grocery Store, Bakery, Hairdresser, and the office of the Pinawa Community Development Corporation.
Pinawa has two schools: F.W. Gilbert Elementary School for students in Kindergarten up to grade six, with about 95 students, and Pinawa Secondary School for grades 7-12, with about 110 students. The schools of Pinawa comprise their own School District, the School District of Whiteshell. Pinawa Secondary School is located near the elementary school, and is well known in the Whiteshell area for its outstanding Pinawa Panther sports teams and a unique outdoor education program that takes full advantage of the surrounding wilderness. Students are involved in basketball, soccer, volleyball, badminton, juggling club and travel club as well as academic sports like Reach For The Top and community service activities.
Pinawa is located beside the Winnipeg River, which offers access to boating, kayaking, canoeing, and other water recreational activities. Other attractions include an 18-hole golf course, beach, outdoor pool, tennis courts, a curling rink, a hockey arena and many kilometres of cross-country ski trails. The Trans-Canada Trail runs through the town of Pinawa along the Riverside. Pinawa also hosts the Eastern Manitoba Concert Association or EMCA's concerts, held in the community center (the secondary school gym.) once a month from October to April.
Pinawa is also home to an abundance of white-tailed deer, bears and other wildlife.