The designation of the Main River to the CHRS in 2001 was the first step in conserving one of Newfoundland’s only remaining wilderness rivers. As part of its heritage river management plan, the river corridor is protected through zoning and development restrictions. In 2009, the river was further protected through the creation of the Main River Waterway Provincial Park.
The Main River flows through diverse landscapes from the Long Range Mountains to the Atlantic Ocean, passing through softwood forests, grassland, floodplains and arctic-like barrens — diverse habitats critical for the survival of many species. Glacial valleys and a deep canyon showcase the geological bones of Newfoundland.
The fast, turbulent waters of the Main are fed by numerous tributaries. Atlantic salmon, moose, caribou and black bear are at home here, and this undisturbed area offers critical protection for the threatened pine marten and other mammals, such as lynx, mink, beaver, river otters, and foxes. The river’s forests, plains and barrens are also home to laurels, cranberry, and the provincial flower, the pitcher plant.
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. The shores were once home to French and English settlers, who were lured by the abundance of fish but ultimately abandoned their homes, it is thought, as a result of conflicts with one another.
The Main River is a recreational destination for paddlers, hunters, anglers, and outdoor enthusiasts throughout the year. During the winter months, snowshoeing, cross-country skiing, ice fishing and photography are popular. From May to September, canoeists, kayakers, and rafters make the journey down the challenging Main, a journey recommended for skilled paddlers only. Paddling the entire river is a four to five day undertaking. The campsite facilities along the river are primitive and undeveloped, but they are numerous. Local outfitters and suppliers are available to provide services and advice to those planning trips.
Three archaeological sites have been identified along the river with evidence of early Inuit habitation dating back about 2,100 years. The Main River is also home to 200 year-old birch and spruce trees with trunks that are 75 cm in width.
The Main River is managed by the Government of Newfoundland and Labrador, which also protects the river corridor as a 152-km long Waterway Provincial Park.
The remote Main River was the first river in Newfoundland and Labrador to be designated to the Canadian Heritage Rivers System, in 2001, for its outstanding natural and recreational values. One of the last wilderness rivers in the province, it provides exciting adventure opportunities for canoeists and is home to boreal forests, placid lakes, and rapids.
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.
Main River Plaque Text
The Main River - The Main River is one of Newfoundland’s most spectacular rivers. The river flows southeasterly 57 kilometres from its headwaters in the Long Range Mountains through expanses of boreal forest and lush island meadows, known locally as the Big Steady. From here, the river plunges through steep valleys before emptying into White Bar near the community of Sop’s Arm. The Main River is relatively young waterway emerging about 12,000 years ago after the retreat of the ice age. The river drops 700 metres over its length, offering superb whitewater paddling and opportunities for adventure tourism. The watershed contains a diversity of vegetation ranging from shrub barrens and wetlands to old growth forest, providing habitat to a variety of waterfowl and wildlife species, including the endangered pine marten. The Main River is the first river in the province to be designated to the Canadian Heritage Rivers System. The provincial government has subsequently declared the river valley as a Waterway Provincial Park to protect its special resources and to enhance public enjoyment. The effort to designate the Main as a Canadian Heritage River was strongly supported by residents of the communities around White Bay and by the Corner Brook Pulp and Paper Company. Their support and cooperation will help to ensure active stewardship of the river in the years to come.