Top 10 Longest Rivers in Canada
Longest rivers in Canada. Photo: KnowInsiders

The longest river in Canada is the Mackenzie River in the Northwest Territories, measured at 4,240 kilometers in length, in comparison to the St. Lawrence River, spanning both Quebec and Ontario, which is 3,058 kilometers. In terms of discharge volume, the St. Lawrence River is considered the largest river, discharging some 9,850 cubic meters of water per second.

The The Longest Rivers In Canada

Rank Longest Rivers In Canada Length
1 Mackenzie 2,635 miles
2 Yukon 1,979 miles (shared with U.S.A.)
3 Saint Lawrence 1,900 miles (shared with U.S.A.)
4 Nelson 1,600 miles
5 Slave 1,453 miles
6 Columbia 1,243 miles (shared with U.S.A.)
7 Saskatchewan 1,205 miles
8 Peace 1,195 miles
9 Churchill 1,000 miles
10 South Saskatchewan 865 miles

Which are the 10 Longest Rivers in Canada?

1. Mackenzie

Photo: Pinterest
Photo: Pinterest

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.

Climate change in the Mackenzie river

Currently, climate change is having an impact on the Mackenzie basin and surrounding area. Unusual floods are one of the major impacts the area is experiencing. Moreover, in a future scenario, there is concern that as permafrost thaws, drilling waste from oil and gas exploration will be exposed and could contaminate local environments.

2. Yukon

Photo: iStock
Photo: iStock

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.

3. Saint Lawrence

Photo: Britannica
Photo: Britannica

The St. Lawrence River is a large river in the middle latitudes of North America. The St. Lawrence flows in a roughly north-easterly direction, connecting the Great Lakes with the Atlantic Ocean and forming the primary drainage outflow of the Great Lakes Basin. It traverses the Canadian provinces of Quebec and Ontario, and is part of the international boundary between Ontario, Canada, and the U.S. state of New York. This river provides the basis for the commercial St. Lawrence Seaway.

4. Nelson River

Photo: The Canadian Encyclopedia
Photo: The Canadian Encyclopedia

The Nelson River is a river of north-central North America, in the Canadian province of Manitoba. The river drains Lake Winnipeg and runs 644 kilometres (400 mi) before it ends in Hudson Bay. Its full length (including the Saskatchewan River and Bow River) is 2,575 kilometres (1,600 mi), it has mean discharge of 2,370 cubic metres per second (84,000 cu ft/s), and has a drainage basin of 1,072,300 square kilometres (414,000 sq mi), of which 180,000 square kilometres (69,000 sq mi) is in the United States.

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5. Slave

Photo: www.letsbewild.com
Photo: www.letsbewild.com

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.

6. Columbia

Photo: World Atlas
Photo: World Atlas

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.

7. Saskatchewan River

Photo: Richard Wong Photography
Photo: Richard Wong Photography

The Saskatchewan River (Cree: kisiskāciwani-sīpiy, "swift flowing river") is a major river in Canada, about 550 kilometres (340 mi) long, flowing roughly eastward across Saskatchewan and Manitoba to empty into Lake Winnipeg. Through its tributaries the North Saskatchewan and South Saskatchewan, its watershed encompasses much of the prairie regions of central Canada, stretching westward to the Rocky Mountains in Alberta and northwestern Montana in the United States. It reaches 1,939 kilometres (1,205 mi) to its farthest headwaters on the Bow River, a tributary of the South Saskatchewan in Alberta.

8. Peace River

Photo: Fort St. John
Photo: Fort St. John

The Peace River (French: rivière de la Paix) is a 1,923-kilometre-long (1,195 mi) river in Canada that originates in the Rocky Mountains of northern British Columbia and flows to the northeast through northern Alberta. The Peace River joins the Athabasca River in the Peace-Athabasca Delta to form the Slave River, a tributary of the Mackenzie River. The Finlay River, the main headwater of the Peace River, is regarded as the ultimate source of the Mackenzie River. The combined Finlay–Peace–Slave–Mackenzie river system is the 13th longest river system in the world.

9. Churchill

Photo: Twitter
Photo: Twitter

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.

10. South Saskatchewan

Photo: Stock Aerial Photos
Photo: Stock Aerial Photos

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.

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