What’s in the Saint Lawrence River? Is It Safe to Swim There?

Written by Heather Burdo
Updated: September 14, 2023
© iStock.com/Eric Bardo
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The Saint Lawrence River spans over 3,000 kilometers from the Great Lakes to the Atlantic Ocean. Its vast and diverse ecosystem supports various wildlife and human communities. It serves as a major commercial waterway, a home for numerous species, and a recreational haven for millions of people. This guide will give you insight into what’s in the Saint Lawrence River and the water quality. We will also cover safety, the various fish and wildlife species you can encounter, and the nearby attractions.

The St. Lawrence River flows 1,900 miles from the farthest headwaters to the mouth, and 743.8 miles from the outflow of Lake Ontario.

Water Quality and Pollution

The Saint Lawrence River’s water quality is closely monitored. Ten sampling sites are currently in Quebec to assess water contamination levels. They provide essential data for the Canadian Environmental Sustainability Indicators report​. The sites, including locations like Carillon, Lavaltrie, and Richelieu, analyze parameters such as turbidity, pH, temperature, and concentrations of various nutrients and metals​.

Despite this rigorous monitoring, this river faces pollution challenges. Industrial activities, agricultural runoff, and urban waste contribute to river contamination. This pollution impacts the river’s water quality, the health of its diverse ecosystems, and the communities that depend on it. There are continuous efforts to reduce these impacts and ensure the river’s health for future generations.

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Is It Safe to Swim in the Saint Lawrence River?

Saint-Lawrence River
It’s usually safe to swim in the Saint Lawrence River, but many factors play into that.


Safety for swimming in the Saint Lawrence River can depend on various factors. This includes location, time of year, and recent weather conditions. Due to occasional high bacteria counts, potential pollution, and fast-moving currents in certain areas, it is always advisable to check with local health and safety authorities or lifeguard stations before swimming. Many popular swimming spots along the river are routinely tested and deemed safe. However, it’s always best to stay informed about current conditions.

What Fish Can You Find in the Saint Lawrence River?

The Saint Lawrence River is home to a wide variety of fish species. The river offers commercial fishing and recreational angling opportunities, from smallmouth bass to walleye, from northern pike to muskellunge. The river also supports various species of salmon and trout, making it a destination for fly fishers. Always comply with local fishing regulations. This includes catch limits and seasons to help maintain the health and diversity of the river’s fish populations.

Are There Snakes Around?

Various species of snakes can be found in the region surrounding the Saint Lawrence River. Thankfully they’re not usually a concern for visitors. The snakes you may encounter are typically non-venomous and pose little threat to humans unless provoked. These can include species like the common garter snake or the eastern milk snake. As always, giving any wildlife, including snakes, plenty of space and respect is wise.

A close up portrait view of an North American beaver.
Beavers are one of the creatures around the Saint Lawrence River.

©Vlad G/Shutterstock.com

What Other Wildlife Are Around?

The Saint Lawrence River is a biodiversity hotspot, with its waters, shores, and islands providing habitat for wildlife. Visitors may spot creatures such as beavers, muskrats, or river otters. Bird watchers will be delighted by the numerous bird species, including ospreys, great blue herons, and various waterfowl. The estuary region near the Gulf of Saint Lawrence is home to a population of small white whale species called beluga whales, which are well-known in the river.

Nearby Attractions

The majestic Saint Lawrence River offers plenty of activities and attractions nearby. Nature lovers can explore numerous provincial parks. They include Thousand Islands and National Park, while art buffs may visit galleries and museums in nearby towns such as Brockville or Gananoque. You can participate in water sports like kayaking or stand-up paddle boarding for a more active option. You can also stroll along the waterfront trails for stunning river views. The region also hosts yearly events, from music festivals to historical reenactments.

Another great way to take in the beauty of the St. Lawrence River is by taking a cruise or tour boat. Tour boats will give you an up-close view of the river and its wildlife, while cruises offer a more leisurely experience to enjoy the views and scenery. Many operators provide lunch, dinner, and sightseeing tours ideal for friends and family.

The region surrounding the majestic St. Lawrence River offers plenty of opportunities for exploration and adventure. From stunning views to unique wildlife encounters, there’s something for everyone to enjoy!


Overall, the Saint Lawrence River offers visitors an exciting and unique destination. From its diverse wildlife species to its numerous outdoor activities and attractions, there is something to please everyone. Whether you are a nature lover or an explorer looking for adventure, the Saint Lawrence River will surely provide plenty of scenic beauty and unforgettable memories!

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About the Author

Heather Burdo is a digital marketing enthusiast who has written content for countless industries over the last decade. However, content related to animals, nature, and health has her heart. When she's not working her magic with content, she enjoys being with family, going for walks, camping, and gardening. Self-development is non-negotiable for her.

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