Longest Rivers In Canada

The Mackenzie River near its mouth along the Northwest Territories Arctic Ocean coast.
The Mackenzie River near its mouth along the Northwest Territories Arctic Ocean coast.

10. South Saskatchewan

At 865 miles (1,392 kilometers) long, the South Saskatchewan River is the tenth longest river in Canada. The Rivers goes through the provinces of Alberta and Saskatchewan, starting from the where the Bow River and Oldman River meet and going until its mouth at the Saskatchewan River Falls. In 1967 the Lake Diefenbaker resistor was created to use the water from the South Saskatchewan River to generate hydro-electric power for SaskPower to provide to the province of Saskatchewan. During the first half of the 1900s the river would fully freeze over in winter time, which created dangerous conditions and the ice even destroyed a bridge one year. In 1967 the Gardiner Dam was constructed to divert a large part of the South Saskatchewan into the nearby Qu'Appelle River. This caused the river to have less power and not cause damage during winter but it has lower the level of the river enough to cause permanent sandbars. The South Saskatchewan River has thirteen connecting tributaries, three major islands on it and is home to about a dozen different species of fish such as the rainbow trout and the goldeye. In a 2009 report by World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF)-Canada, the group reported that the South Saskatchewan River was most at risk as its flow had been reduced by 70%, and steps needed to be taken to protect and restore it.

9. Churchill

At 1,000 miles (1,609 kilometers), the Churchill River is the ninth longest river in Canada. The river runs from its mouth in Hudson Bay to its source at the head of Churchill Lake going through the provinces of Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba. The Churchill River's main tributary is the Beaver River and the two join together at the Lac Île-à-la-Crosse. Starting in the 1700s and through the 1900s the Churchill River played a major part in the voyageur highway for fur traders to get their furs to market to sell or be shipped overseas. The Churchill River is also home to about a dozen fish species, including the yellow perch, northern pike, burbot, and white sucker. The river is named after John Churchill (1650-1722), who was the 1st Duke of Marlborough and the Prince of Mindelheim.

8. Peace

At 1,195 miles (1,923 kilometers), the Peace River is the eighth longest river in Canada. It originates from the Rocky Mountains in British Colombia and from there goes northeast through the northern part of the province of Alberta. The rivers primary source is the from the Finlay River, its source confluence meets at the Williston Lake and the mouth of the Peace River flows into the Slave River. The river is called the Peace river due to the Treaty of Peace celebrated between the Danezaa and the Cree in 1781, which made the Peace River a border between the two. Since the late 1800s, people have been using the soil along the Peace River to produce wheat, pulp and paper plants in Alberta and British Columbia. The river is also important in terms of natural gas and oil production for Canada. Currently, there are four communities and a number of Indian Reserves as well as provincial parks and wild-land reserves along the Peace River.

7. Saskatchewan

At 1,205 miles (1,939 kilometers), the Saskatchewan River is the seventh longest river in Canada. The Saskatchewan River flows across the provinces of Saskatchewan and Manitoba, its primary source confluence meeting with the North Saskatchewan River and the South Saskatchewan River. The mouth of the river ends by going into Lake Winnipeg. Early on in Canada's history the river was important in terms on pre-contact with first nations, the fur trade and settlement early on in settling the Canadian west. In the 1700s and the 1800s the river was a major source of fur posts for the North West Company and the Hudson's Bay Company. Currently, there are a handful of hydroelectric power plants on the river to provide electricity to people in the area from the river's water. The Saskatchewan river has a wide variety of such fish species as walleye, mooneye, burbots, and others.

6. Columbia

At 1,243 miles (2000 kilometers), the Columbia River is the sixth longest river in Canada. The source of the river is from the Columbia Lake. Then the river runs through the province of British Columbia in Canada and the state of Washington and Oregon in America. The river's mouth empties into the Pacific Ocean in Clastop County, Oregon and in Pacific County in Washington. The Columbia's drainage basin is almost as big as all of France and goes into seven American states and the Canadian province of British Columbia. For centuries, the Columbia has been a key transportation route, starting of by being important for fur trading in the late 1700 and 1800s. The as settlers started to come to the region, steamships and then later railroads along the river being key in shipping cargo and trading. Starting in the late 1800s the river has been heavily developed with locks being built, dredging enlarging shipping channels, dam impounding reservoirs and the production of nuclear power. The river is home to 14 hydroelectric dams (3 in Canada, 11 in the U.S.) that provide power to people in the regions around it. The river supports species of anadromous fish (Chinook, Coho, Sockeye Salmon and Steelhead) that migrate from the Pacific Ocean to the fresh water tributaries of the Columbia. The introduction of dams along the river, over-fishing and predators now thriving in the slower water have severely harmed the salmon habitats in the Columbia over the course of the last century. The dispute between the United States and British ruled Canada was settled in 1846 with the Oregon Treaty that established the border along the 49th Parallel up to the Strait of Georgia.

5. Slave

At 1,453 miles (2,338 kilometers), the Slave River is the fifth longest river in Canada. The river starts from the confluence of the Peace River and the Rivière des Rochers out of the Peace-Athabasca Delta and flows through the province of Alberta until its mouth empties into the Great Slave Lake. The river's name comes from the Athabaskan language's name for the South Slavey (Deh Co, Dene Tha') group of the Dene first nations people. In the 1800s the Slave River was a key transportation route for shipping cargo, but this stopped being the case once railway service came to the region. The river is also home to the northernmost river pelican colony in North America, as well as being world famous for its whitewater kayaking which is considered to be some of the best on the planet.

4. Nelson

At 1,600 miles (2,574 kilometers), the Nelson is the fourth longest river in Canada. The Nelson River's source arises from Lake Winnipeg and from there it runs through the province of Manitoba until it reaches its mouth in the Hudson Bay. Along the way the Nelson's two major tributaries are the Burntwood River and the Grass River. Fort Nelson (trading post) and Port Nelson (shipping port) where located at the mouth of the Nelson along Hudson Bay and was a key trading and shipping area in the early 1700s. Today, Fort Nelson no longer exists, while Port Nelson is a ghost town. The Nelson' River has the Jenpeg Generating Station and Dam to provide hydroelectricity to the number of various small communities that live along the river. The Nelson River is named by a Welsh explorer, Sir Thomas Button (???-1634) who in 1612 wintered at the mouth of the river and named it after ship master Robert Nelson who died there that winter.

3. Saint Lawrence

At 1,900 miles (3,057 kilometers), the Saint Lawrence is the third longest river in Canada. The Saint Lawrence River's source comes from Lake Ontario and from there it runs through the provinces of Ontario and Quebec, as well as the state of New York until it reaches its mouth at the Gulf of Saint Lawrence going into the Atlantic Ocean. The river served one of the main routes for exploration of the interior of North America by European explorers and has been an important transportation hub, especially with the opening of the Saint Lawrence Seaway in 1959 that lets ocean vessels sail all the way to Lake Superior. The river is also home to four archipelagos, including the Lake St. Pierre Archipelago which was classified as a biosphere world reserve in 2000. The river is also home to nine different species of whales have been known to make their residence. The boundary dispute over the northeastern region between the United States and then British owned Canada that was in the area by the Saint Lawrence River was resolved in 1842 with the Webster-Ashburton Treaty.

2. Yukon

At 1,979 miles (3,184 kilometers), the Yukon is the second longest river in Canada. The Yukon River's source is from the Liewellyn Glacier at Atlin Lake and from there it runs from the provinces of British Columbia and Yukon, as well as the state of Alaska until it reaches its mouth at the Bering Sea at the Yukon–Kuskokwim Delta. The Yukon River's biggest role was during the Klondike Gold Rush (1896-1906) when it was one of the major ways for gold prospectors and miners to travel. The so called Thirty Mile section of the Yukon, which stretches from Lake Laberge to the Teslin River is part of the Klondike Gold Rush International Historical Park and is also designated a national heritage river. Until the 1950's when the Klondike Highway was completed in the area, the major method of transportation was to sail the Yukon via paddle-wheel riverboats.

1. Mackenzie

At 2,635 miles (4,240 kilometers) long, the Mackenzie River is the longest river in Canada, the second longest river system in all of North America, and the twelfth longest in the entire world. The river's source starts at the Great Slave Lake and travels through Canada's Yukon and Northwest Territories. The massive area that it passes through is extremely isolated, and comprised of varying tundra and forest habitats, and is covered in ice for much of the year in places. The river finally ends at its mouth at the Arctic Ocean located in the Beaufort Sea.The Mackenzie River's watershed is one of the largest and considered to be one of the most intact ecosystems in all of North America, covered mostly by forest with some wetlands. The area is home to 53 different fish species, 215 bird species that have been observed living in the area or passing through while migrating and various types of trees. Most of the human activity on the Mackenzie River watershed is resource extraction of oil, gas, lumber, uranium, gold, and tungsten at various locations in different provinces. These activities have began to pose ever greater threats to the river ecology of the Mackenzie River's headwaters in recent years.

The Longest Rivers In Canada

RankLongest Rivers In CanadaLength
1Mackenzie2,635 miles
2Yukon1,979 miles (shared with U.S.A.)
3Saint Lawrence1,900 miles (shared with U.S.A.)
4Nelson1,600 miles
5Slave1,453 miles
6Columbia1,243 miles (shared with U.S.A.)
7Saskatchewan1,205 miles
8Peace1,195 miles
9Churchill1,000 miles
10South Saskatchewan865 miles

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