Canada is a nation that is known for its vast number of lakes and rivers. Although this country is not home to the longest river in the world, it does have an entry that cracks the top fifteen. Some of the rivers and river systems in this nation are large. So, we’re going to count down the 10 longest rivers in Canada and show you how long they are, the location of the outflow, and some interesting facts about each.
The 10 Longest Rivers in Canada
Canada is home to many rivers that exceed 1,000 miles in length. However, the country only has a single river that exceeds 2,000 miles. We’re going to explore the ten rivers with the greatest lengths from start to finish and break down how far they flow and where they end.
Just a quick disclaimer: we’re going to include any rivers that primarily flow or end in Canada on this list and not just rivers that flow solely in Canada. We’re not going to remove them from the list for dipping into or sharing a border with the United States.
10. South Saskatchewan River
|South Saskatchewan River
The South Saskatchewan River is a tributary of the Saskatchewan River. It begins at the Bow Glacier in Alberta and flows for 865 miles before it joins the Saskatchewan River. Although the river does flow exclusively in Canada, a portion of the river basin is located in the United States!
9. Churchill River
The Churchill River is famous for the various fish species that live in the water as well as the presence of belugas near the river’s mouth. The headwaters of the river are located at Churchill Lake. From there, the river flows 1,000 miles out to Hudson Bay in Manitoba. This river is important to this part of Canada for the various hydroelectric developments on the river and is planned to be implemented in the future.
8. Peace River
The Peace River is another body of water in Canada that has several existing hydroelectric dams and others planned for the future. This river measures 1,195 miles, stemming from the Finlay River and flowing to the Slave River where it acts as a tributary. The Peace River is one of the rivers that comprise the larger Mackenize River system as we’ll show you further down the list.
7. Saskatchewan River
The Saskatchewan River forms from the confluence of the North and South Saskatchewan rivers. This river flows eastward through Saskatchewan and Manitoba before emptying into Lake Winnipeg. The Saskatchewan River is well-known for the variety of fish that live within it as well as for the hydroelectric stations that have been built along the river.
The name of the river comes from a Cree word that means “swift-flowing river.” This area was well-known and helpful to members of the First Nations and the first Europeans that traveled the area as trappers.
6. Columbia River
The river begins at Columbia Lake in Canada, but a lot of the Columbia River flows through the United States. This river is known for many things including the bountiful fish that live in the river as well as the outflow of the river. Also, the Columbia River has the greatest discharge rate of any river that has a mouth in the Pacific Ocean.
5. Slave River
|Great Slave Lake
The Slave River’s unfortunate-sounding name is likely derived from a First Nations group known as the Slavey. The river first starts at the delta formed by the Peace River and Lake Athabasca and flows primarily northwest until it reaches its mouth at the Great Slave Lake. The river is known throughout the world for its challenging and dangerous rapids.
4. Nelson River
The Nelson River is known for its long run, the hydroelectric dams that dot the water, and the large volume of water that flows through the river. However, the dams on the river have led to problems with flooding and some negative impacts on the water and the surrounding land. The river’s source is Lake Winnipeg, and it continues to flow until it reaches Hudson Bay.
3. Saint Lawrence River
|Saint Lawrence River
|Gulf of St. Lawrence
St. Lawrence River is not the longest one in Canada, but it may be one of the most well-known. This river is especially important for trade, travel, and plant and animal life. This river’s headwaters are Lake Ontario, and its mouth is in the Gulf of St. Lawrence.
The St. Lawrence River allows ships to enter deep into the continent of North America, bringing goods to vital cities like Montreal, Toronto, and more.
2. Yukon River
The Yukon River’s source is the Llewellyn Glacier in Canada, but much of the river flows through Alaska in the United States before reaching its mouth, the Bering Sea. The river is important to First Nations people and Native Americans, both in a present and historical sense. Efforts are underway to help reduce pollution throughout the river.
The Yukon River was one of the main arteries for travel during the Klondike Gold Rush. Many towns popped up along the banks during this time. Nowadays, the Yukon River is known for being home to some of the most significant fisheries for salmon in the world!
1. Mackenzie River
|The Beaufort Sea in the Arctic Ocean
The Mackenzie River is the longest river in Canada. This river stems from the Great Slave Lake and flows over 2,600 miles to the Beaufort Sea in the Arctic Ocean. Despite being a very large river, the economic opportunities and hydroelectric potential along this river are somewhat limited due to the remote areas it flows through.
Interestingly, the Mackenzie River is known for its role in aiding the initial human migrations from Asia. The valley may have been the area that people have used to find their way into the Americas!
The entire Mackenzie River system includes the Mackenzie–Slave–Peace–Finlay rivers and that whole system is used to derive the total length of the river at 2,635 miles. If we measure just the main stem of the Mackenzie, it logs 1,080 miles. While it may seem like rivers should have a single authoritative length, remember that they change course, there is debate around where their headwaters begin, and there are different methods for measuring them!
This list of the longest rivers in Canada should give you an idea of how many significant rivers exist in the country. Although none of the rivers on this list are among the top 10 largest rivers in the world, they’re still vital waterways for trade, power generation, and wildlife.
The photo featured at the top of this post is © mike8816/Shutterstock.com
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