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Topic – Canada’s Rivers

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Canada’s Rivers

Canada has some of the largest, longest rivers in the world. For thousands of years, they have provided Canadians with water for drinking, as well as a way to move across the country.

Canada’s Longest River

Dempster Highway along the Mackenzie River

The Mackenzie River, Northwest Territories, Canada

The Mackenzie River flows through a vast wilderness area of forest and tundra in the Northwest Territories. Not only is it Canada’s longest river, but with its tributaries, or smaller rivers that run into it, this is one of the world’s longest rivers. Canada’s Slavey people called this river Deh-Cho, which means “big river.” Alexander Mackenzie, the first European explorer to travel its length, named it Disappointment River. He had hoped it would lead him to the Pacific Ocean. Mackenzie was disappointed when instead he reached its mouth up on the Arctic Ocean. But the river was later named in his honour.


Other Lengthy Rivers

Yukon River

Saint Lawrence River

The Yukon River is Canada’s second-longest river. During the Klondike Gold Rush in the late 1890s, it was one of the main routes from the Alaskan coast to the goldfields. Paddlewheel riverboats carried people along the river until the 1950s when the Klondike Highway was completed. Canada’s third-longest river is the Saint Lawrence River. It connects the Great Lakes to the Atlantic Ocean. St. Lawrence is an important trade route between Canada and the United States. Millions of tons of grains, coal, iron ore and other cargo moves along this river every year. Its waters are also harnessed for electricity.


Canadian Rivers Day

Paddling down a river

Indigenous Peoples, then Europeans built their homes on the banks of Canada’s rivers. Early people depended on the rivers for food and for transportation. Rivers helped link distant, isolated regions into a growing nation. Today, it’s important to remember how important rivers are to Canada. As increased development modifies and threatens our rivers, they need to be cared for and protected. Every year on the second Sunday in June, you can celebrate Canadian Rivers Day. This special day is a time to think about how important rivers are for keeping the oceans and the entire planet healthy. Events include a picnic, paddle-a-thons, canoeing and much more.

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