The Bloodvein flows through the Precambrian Shield, a massive formation of ancient rock which forms the foundation of much of North America. The river can vary from fast-water gorges less than 20 metres wide to open, calm-water marshes and small lakes. Much of the Bloodvein’s vegetation and wildlife has evolved undisturbed, providing a scientific view of evolution within the Canadian Shield, virtually free of non-native species. It is the home of many species that are uncommon or rare elsewhere in Canada, such as the wolverine, white pelican, double-crested cormorant, bald eagle, osprey, great gray owl and woodland caribou. It has many uncommon and surprisingly diverse plant species which exhibit a strong prairie-boreal influence. It is also part of one of the most significant and undisturbed representations of the Central Boreal Upland Forest in Canada.
The Bloodvein River is steeped in Aboriginal history. The name “Bloodvein” appears to have been first used in an 1818-19 Hudson’s Bay Company journal from the Berens River Post, but may have referred to the red granite veins of the river bed.
During the 18th century, the Bloodvein was used by Ojibwa peoples as a trapping area to supply the fur trade. From 1790 to1821, it served as a secondary fur transportation route. The river’s most notable historic features include undisturbed archaeological sites which provide strong evidence of high density occupation by prehistoric, hunter-gatherer peoples 6,000 years ago, and pictographs dating from between 900 and 1,200 A.D. This river remains important to the Aboriginal peoples who lived along its shores for thousands of years, and continue to do so today.
The significant natural values and remote, unspoiled nature of the Bloodvein River corridor combine to offer an outstanding wilderness experience. Its hundreds of small rapids and waterfalls, quiet lakes, wild rice marshes and abundant fish and wildlife provide an appealing range of experiences for river travelers and sportsmen alike.
The Bloodvein is very well known for white-water canoeing, with wilderness camping and hiking opportunities available within two provincial parks. The river offers exceptional chances to visit, by canoe, archaeological sites which bustled with activity thousands of years ago. The steep-canyon walls of pink-grained granite with pictographs of early Aboriginal images in red ochre are a sight not to be missed.
The river corridor provides representation of one of Canada’s best known national symbols, the Canadian Shield. Formations such as Kenoran Rock, at 2,600 million years old, are thought to be the oldest in Canada.
The Manitoba portion of the Bloodvein River was designated as a Canadian Heritage River in 1987 and the Ontario portion, in 1998, in recognition of its natural, cultural and recreational values. The total length of the river, and designation, is 306 km.
Incorporating Aboriginal Traditional Knowledge in the Management of the Bloodvein River
The Ontario portion of the Bloodvein River flows through Woodland Caribou Provincial Park and in 1998, it was designated to the Canadian Heritage Rivers System. Four years later, with the commemorative plaque ready to be installed, Woodland Caribou Park’s Superintendent Doug Gilmore began an important dialogue to ensure that the plaque text reflected the local First Nation’s perspective of the river and its cultural and historical importance. The consultation process lasted from 2002 until the plaque unveiling ceremony in 2008 and Superintendent Gilmore describes it as a journey of listening, learning, and connecting to the river, the land, and First Nations culture.
Building Connections and Fostering Relationships
Ontario Parks staff approached the local First Nations, whose traditional homeland touches the river in both Ontario and Manitoba, and asked them to help write the text for the plaque. A working group with members from the Lac Seul and Little Grand Rapids First Nations was created and together they crafted a unique trilingual plaque. Featuring Ojibwe syllabics and speaking of the river’s long history of fur trading, the plaque’s message concludes with: “Most importantly, the Bloodvein River area was home to many Anishinaabek families, who had a deep relationship with the land. Their descendants are working to rebuild and nurture this relationship to this day.”
Sharing Traditional Knowledge Leads to Improved River Management
According to Superintendent Doug Gilmore, the greatest success of this shared project has been the new sense of trust developed through dialogue between Ontario Parks and the First Nations communities. Ontario Parks staff toured the river with First Nations members who shared their knowledge of flora and fauna and explained traditional aboriginal ways – information that has improved park management practices.
During one of these journeys, on a trip into Knox Lake, an elder pointed out a beautiful rock along the shore. Sheltered from the winds and highly visible, it made a perfect location for the plaque. Today, two plaques sit on the shores of the Bloodvein River – one on that sheltered rock in Knox Lake and the other at the Red Lake Heritage Centre.
Creating a Sense of Community
Sharing in the writing and installation of those important plaques gave many First Nations families on the Bloodvein River a pride of place, and a solid sense of ownership in the heritage river designation. The Bloodvein is their home and the very core of who they are.
The shared plaque-writing project has given birth to a community of Parks staff and elders committed to continuing their dialogue. Together they will choose land management practices that respect both scientific and First Nations knowledge and perspectives.
The Bloodvein River flows 306 km from Ontario to Manitoba’s Lake Winnipeg. The Manitoba portion of the river was designated to the CHRS in 1987 with the Ontario portion following in 1998. The designation is based on the river’s outstanding natural values, along with its rich First Nations history.
This page has been archived on the Web
Information identified as archived is provided for reference, research or recordkeeping purposes. It is not subject to the Government of Canada Web Standards and has not been altered or updated since it was archived. Please contact us to request a format other than those available.
The Canadian Heritage River plaques offer a brief glimpse into why a river has been designated to the System. They are often located nearby one of its historically significant locations, and highlight some of the most important natural, cultural and recreational values of the river.
Bloodvein River Plaque Text
Bloodvein River - This Canadian Heritage River begins 40 kilometres west of the town of Red Lake near Paishk Lake, Ontario (ON) and flows over 300 km toward the shores of Lake Winnipeg, Manitoba (MB). The Bloodvein has been traveled for thousands of years by the Anishinaabek. The history of this river includes a brief period when it was used to move goods to and from isolated trading posts. This travel route was called the “little north” by the fur traders. Most importantly, the Bloodvein River area was home to many Anishinaabek families, who had a deep relationship with the land. Their descendants are working to rebuild and nurture this relationship to this day. The Bloodvein River is designated as a Canadian Heritage River for its outstanding natural and cultural values and is now protected within Woodland Caribou Provincial Park (ON) and Atikaki Provincial Park (MB). This designation honours the importance of the area for all people.