Grand River


Natural Heritage

Farmland accounts for over 70 percent of the 6800 km2 Grand River watershed, which is the largest in southern Ontario. Although the river is not designated for its natural values, it provides habitat to thousands of species of birds, fish, animals and other wildlife including about 80 species at risk.  The Grand River Forest is one of the few remaining Carolinian forests in Canada, containing species such as sycamore, sassafras, pignut hickory, and chinquapin oak.  More than 90 species of fish are found in the river system, about half of all species in Canada.  Close to 250 species of birds have been reported at Luther Marsh Wildlife Management Area.

Cultural Heritage

Over 800 archeological sites tell the story of 11,000 years of human history within the Grand watershed. When Europeans arrived, the Neutral people controlled the territory of the Grand. Following the American Revolution, members of the Iroquois Confederacy were granted land in the watershed as a reward for their loyalty to the British Crown. Loyalist settlers soon followed, along with Mennonites from Pennsylvania as well as Scottish immigrants. The Mohawk Chapel in Brantford and the Pioneer Memorial Tower in Kitchener are two national historic sites that recognize these settlers. Adaptive reuse of historical structures like mills and factories along the river has helped to preserve the Grand’s built heritage in areas such as Elora, Fergus, Cambridge and Brantford and Paris. 


Recreational Heritage

Many opportunities for recreational activities such as camping, boating, fishing, hiking, are found in the Grand River Conservation Authority’s 37 Conservation Areas. The river offers an extensive multi-use trail network including sections of the Trans Canada Trail. Canada’s first dam called the Shand Dam was constructed on the Grand River in Fergus in 1942. A world-class tailwater fisheries is located just downstream of the dam. It is a popular destination for anglers looking to fish for brown trout as well as pike, perch and smallmouth bass.  

The Grand River Conservation Authority is an excellent source of information on recreational activities available within the watershed, and paddling routes.

Who Manages the River?

The Grand River Conservation Authority is responsible for the management of this heritage river.

Fun Fact:

At five to six metres wide and more that 13 metres deep, Devil’s Well, found within Rockwood Conservation Area on the Eramosa River, may be the world’s largest glacial pothole.

Learn about the Grand, including how the Grand River Conservation Authority won the International Thiess Riverprize for its management of this Canadian Heritage River in our Success Stories.

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