Historic Places

Historic Places

Heritage Rivers that Cross Provincial or Territorial Boundaries

  • Clearwater (Saskatchewan, Alberta)

In 1778, European explorer Peter Pond crossed the 19-kilometre Methye Portage between Lac la Loche and the Clearwater River with guidance from the Dene First Nations. For the first time, a practical overland route to the rich Athabasca region was opened to facilitate direct trade.

  • Bloodvein (Ontario, Manitoba) 

The Bloodvein River’s most notable historic features include undisturbed archaeological sites which provide strong evidence of high density occupation by prehistoric, hunter-gatherer peoples. For example, there are pictographs dating from between 900 and 1,200 A.D. 

  • Thelon (Nunavut, Northwest Territories)

Found along the Thelon River, Inukshuks offer a glimpse of past and present Inuit culture; the rock formations stand as markers on the landscape. Inukshuks highlight almost every vital aspect of Inuit life


  • Athabasca

Two transcontinental railways, the Grand Trunk Pacific and the Canadian Northern, were constructed through the Athabasca valley.

  • North Saskatchewan

In an effort to expand the fur trade and the movement of people and goods across the Canadian West in the late 18th and early 19th centuries, Wilcox and Collie were the first Europeans to ascend the north fork of the North Saskatchewan River.

To learn more about the cultural heritage of Heritage Rivers in Alberta, please visit the Alberta home page.

British Columbia

  • Cowichan

The Cowichan River Valley is the homeland of the Cowichan First Nation, a Coast Salish people. The Cowichan people continue their traditional use of the river and its associated ecosystems for food, clothing, shelter and medicine.

  • Fraser River

Exploration associated with the fur trade provided the first European influence within the watershed. Simon Fraser’s explorations in 1808 on behalf of the North West Company brought attention to the vast and rich territory beyond the Rocky Mountains. By 1827, the first fur trading post was established on the river at Fort Langley.

  • Kicking Horse

Located along the Kicking Horse River, Kicking Horse Pass was the route chosen for Canada’s first transcontinental railway, the Canadian Pacific, to pass through the Rockies and over the Great Divide. It later became the route for the Trans-Canada Highway as well.

To learn more about the cultural heritage of Heritage Rivers in British Columbia, please visit the British Columbia home page.


  • Hayes

Located at the mouth of the Hayes River, York Factory was the Hudson’s Bay Company’s principal fur trade depot and centre of operations for over 200 years.

  • Red

Key to the cultural history of the region, the Red River has been a primary resource and transportation corridor for thousands of years – first for First Nations peoples, and over the past three centuries, for European exploration, fur trade, and settlement. Today, the Red River Valley is the most densely populated region of Manitoba.

  • Seal

There are a large number of prehistoric artefacts and archaeological sites along the Seal River, with finds dating from 7,000 years ago.

To learn more about the cultural heritage of Heritage Rivers in Manitoba, please visit the Manitoba home page.

New Brunswick

  • Upper Restigouche

In 1760, the last naval battle between France and Great Britain for possession of North America occurred at the Upper Restigouche River. Known as the Battle of the Restigouche, the English destroyed the French fleet.

  • St. John

The St. John River played an important role in European settlement of the region by the French and later by the British.  It was referred to by an historian as the “the Road to Canada” because of its role as a key communication route between Upper and Lower Canada and the Atlantic Ocean.

  • St. Croix

The St. Croix heritage river designation recognizes the river’s long connection with Indigenous peoples, early European settlement in North America, and the development of the lumber industry and railways in the region.

To learn more about the cultural heritage of Heritage Rivers in New Brunswick, please visit the New Brunswick home page.

Newfoundland and Labrador

  • Bay du Nord

Although the Bay du Nord was not designated for its cultural heritage, the river does have some interesting historical sites.  At the river’s mouth, the abandoned outport Bay du Nord community stands as a testament to the area’s once thriving fishery and sawmill industry.

  • Main

At the mouth of the Main, visitors can explore the scenic coves, abandoned settlements, and rugged coastal hills and bluffs of Sop’s Arm and southern White Bay.

To learn more about the cultural heritage of Heritage Rivers in Newfoundland and Labrador, please visit the Newfoundland and Labrador homepage.

Northwest Territories

  • South Nahanni River

According to Dene oral history, the Dene people have been travelling, harvesting and hunting in the ancient mountains nearby the South Nahanni River for thousands of years, following the natural corridors and the movements of the animals.

  • Tsiigehnjik (Arctic Red) River

The Gwichya Gwich’in of Tsiigehtchic (the community at the mouth, or outlet, of the river) have used and travelled up Tsiigehnjik for hundreds or thousands of years. The Gwichya Gwich’in hunted and trapped along the river and its tributaries, in the foothills of the mountains, and in area at the foot of the mountains. They also fished at the mouth of the river, at river eddies, and in many of the creeks and lakes up the river. These areas and the important resources they held made the river an important part of the Gwichya Gwich’in seasonal round: heading up the river in the fall, and coming back down after break-up in the spring.

To learn more about the cultural heritage of Heritage Rivers in Northwest Territories, please visit the Northwest Territories home page.

Nova Scotia

  • Margaree

Though not designated for its cultural heritage, the charm of rural Cape Breton is captured in the Margaree. Today, peoples of different backgrounds continue traditional occupations of fishing, logging and farming along the Margaree.

  • Shelburne

Part of a traditional Mi’kmaq travel route, the Shelburne River was made famous in the 1912 book “The Tent Dwellers,” by Albert Bigelow Paine. Canoeists seeking a quintessential Nova Scotia wilderness experience continue to connect to this rich cultural landscape.

To learn more about the cultural heritage of Heritage Rivers in Nova Scotia, please visit the Nova Scotia homepage.


  • Kazan

  • Soper

  • Coppermine

The shores of the Kazan, Soper, and Coppermine Rivers in Nunavut have a long history of traditional use as travel corridors and habitation by the Inuit and Dene peoples. Today, paddlers can find past and present food storage cache sites, fox traps, kayak racks, hunting blinds (called ‘taluit’) as well as game funneling systems of stone cairns (called ‘inuksuit’) along the rivers.

To learn more about the cultural heritage of Heritage Rivers in Nunavut, please visit the Nunavut home page.


  • Boundary Waters Voyageur Waterway

The 124 known archaeological sites along the bank of the Boundary Waters Voyageur Waterway attest to its history that dates back over 10,000 years. The sites include pictographs and Paleo-Indian tool stone quarries,  portages and campsites travelled by Voyageurs, missionaries, explorers and settlers after the arrival of the Europeans.

  • Detroit

As one of North America’s international crossings, the  Detroit River not only offered freedom in Canada to slaves from the United States who crossed via the Underground Railroad, but also enabled rum runners to smuggle their illicit cargo across the border during the Prohibition era.

  • French

The French River’s current name was given by the Huron and Ojibwa. It describes the route French explorers such as Étienne Brûlé took as they explored inland.

  • Grand

The historical buildings and industries of the past are still visible in the communities found along the Grand River. This built heritage has been preserved and converted into markets and restaurants in the towns of Elora, Fergus, Cambridge and Brantford.

  • Humber

The Humber River is one of two alternate passages developed by First Nations peoples and known as the Carrying Place Trail, which connects Lake Ontario to the upper Great Lakes. This trade route made the area attractive to European traders and explorers upon their arrival in the 17th century.

  • Mattawa 

Mattawa, in Algonkian, means “junction of waterways” and “river with walls that echo its current.”

  • Missinaibi

For 140 years, the Missinaibi was a key fur trade route in the 18th and 19th centuries, connecting Moose Factory to Lake Superior.

  • Ottawa

The Ottawa River was used as an important transportation and trading hub by First Nations and later by Europeans, and was intrinsic in the development of the nation’s early logging industry.

  • Rideau

A national historic site and UNESCO World Heritage Site, the cultural heritage of the Rideau Canal system can be explored through the numerous museums located in communities along its shores.

  • St. Marys

For many years, the combined American and Canadian ‘Soo Locks’ were the busiest such systems in the world. In 1985, the operation of the Sault Ste. Marie Canal was transferred to Parks Canada whose responsibility it is to preserve and interpret the Canal’s natural and cultural resources.

  • Thames

The outstanding cultural heritage of this river includes more than 11,000 years of continuous occupancy by Indigenous peoples and a rich history of European exploration and settlement.

To learn more about the cultural heritage of Heritage Rivers in Ontario, please visit the Ontario home page.

Prince Edward Island

  • Hillsborough

Charlottetown rests at the confluence of the North, Hillsborough, and West Rivers and the Northumberland Strait. It was there that the Fathers of Confederation first met in 1864, paving the way for the creation of Canada as a nation.

  • Three Rivers

The Three Rivers (Cardigan, Brudenell, and Montague/Valleyfield) was the site of Prince Edwards Island’s first French Settlement established in 1732.

To learn more about the cultural heritage of Heritage Rivers in Prince Edward Island, please visit the Prince Edward Island home page.


  • Churchill River (Nominated)

In the 18th to 20th centuries, the Churchill River formed a major part of the “voyageur highway”.

  • South Saskatchewan and Saskatchewan (Nominated)

Located on the shore of the South Saskatchewan River, Batoche is a place for the Métis people to celebrate their culture and acts as a sacred place of resistance. Batoche is a national historic site managed by Parks Canada.

To learn more about the cultural heritage of Heritage Rivers in Saskatchewan, please visit the Saskatchewan home page.


  • Alsek River

Though the Alsek Valley is sparsely inhabited, Indigenous peoples have inhabited the region for an estimated 10,000 years.

  • Bonnet Plume River

The Bonnet Plume River is named in honour of Andrew ‘Nee-sheh’ Bonnetplume, a Tetlit Gwich’in leader who worked periodically for the Hudson’s Bay Company and searched for gold in the Peel River watershed.

  • Tatshenshini River

The Tatshenshini River’s designation as an outstanding representation of Canada’s cultural heritage is based on its significance to the history, culture and relationship of the river to the Champagne and Aishihik First Nations.

  • Thirty Mile

At its peak in 1898, the Klondike gold rush saw nearly 30,000 gold seekers in 7,000 boats travel the Thirty Mile en route from Bennett, B.C. to the goldfields near Dawson City. Simply marked gravesites are found along the Thirty Mile, and some locations are named after the boats that were wrecked there, such as Domville Creek, Casca Reef, La France Creek, and Tanana Reef.

To learn more about the cultural heritage of Heritage Rivers in Yukon, please visit the Yukon home page.