The only major river on the Canadian prairies that flows in a northerly direction, this flood-prone prairie river originates in the northern United States and travels northward to Lake Winnipeg. There are two distinct ecozones that characterize the region: the boreal plains ecozone and the prairie ecozone. The river’s notable features include its adjacent wetlands and marshes, such as the Netley Marsh; its severe periodic flooding; and its rich soils, which support one of the most productive agricultural areas in the world.
For centuries, various peoples and cultures have relied on the river as a mode of passage and a source of water and food. Many significant events, place names and historical and archaeological sites are associated with the Red River. These include sites providing evidence of thousands of years of First Nations settlement and land use, several significant fur trade forts and posts, and the Red River colony – the first European agricultural settlement in Western Canada.
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. Approximately 750,000 people inhabit Winnipeg and the many towns, villages, and rural landscapes adjacent to the river.
The Red River’s easy accessibility at numerous locations along the corridor, and rich cultural and natural heritage values combine to create a wide range of recreational opportunities. Many tourists from within and outside the province visit the Red River each year to experience its provincial and federal heritage sites and to take part in various recreational activities. The river provides excellent opportunities for boating and canoeing, and there are numerous paths along the banks with trails for walking, hiking, and cycling. The river is also a favourite location during the winter months for cross-country skiing, skating, snowmobiling, ice fishing, and sport fishing.
Who Manages the River?
The Red River and the Red River Valley floodplain are remnants of the glacial Lake Agassiz, located in southern Manitoba approximately 8,000 years ago.
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