The Churchill River is located in north-central Saskatchewan. It flows roughly from east to west across Saskatchewan, through Manitoba, and drains into Hudson Bay at Churchill. The 487 km-long section nominated as a Canadian Heritage River is located between Ile-à-la-Crosse on Lac Ile-à-la-Crosse and Frog Portage on Trade Lake.
The Churchill flows through the Boreal Forest Region. A large part of the river is a series of twenty lakes strung together, interspersed with rapids and waterfalls that tumble through the rocky terrain of the Precambrian Shield. The Churchill’s isolation has kept its wilderness pristine, as the region was mostly inaccessible until the mid-1900s.
The Churchill is home to several fish species, including walleye, sauger, yellow perch, northern pike, lake trout, lake whitefish, cisco, white sucker, shorthead redhorse, longnose sucker, lake sturgeon and burbot.
The Cree, along with the Dene, used the waterway as a travel corridor for many years before the arrival of European fur traders. Buffalo Narrows, on the banks of the Churchill, was a departure point for fur traders travelling across Saskatchewan. The Churchill formed a major part of the “voyageur highway” in the 18th to 20th centuries.
About two and a half hours north of Prince Albert, Lac La Ronge Provincial Park is situated in the heart of the Churchill River system. Canoeing is a popular activity in the park, which has more than 30 documented canoe routes, many of which follow old fur trade routes.
Fishing is one of the most common pursuits in these clear and bountiful waters, with northern pike, walleye and lake trout being the most popular species. Rainbow trout is stocked in three lakes.
Who Manages the River?
The Saskatchewan Ministry of Parks, Culture and Sport is responsible for the Canadian Heritage Rivers System within the province.
Nistowiak Falls mark the point where the waters of Lac La Ronge enter the Churchill River system. With a total drop of over 20 metres, the falls are one of the highest in Saskatchewan.