The designation recognizes the St. Croix River’s representation of Atlantic Canada’s geology, its rare plant species, its bald eagle and osprey habitat, and its provincially significant fossil deposits.
The St. Croix’s connection to thousands of years of First Nations history contributed to its designation as a Canadian Heritage River. The Peskotomuhkati Nation and other First Peoples have lived along the river for more than 4000 years.
The river’s remarkable history includes the site of the first European settlement in North America north of Florida, established in 1604 on Ile de St. Croix (at the mouth of the river) by Samuel de Champlain.
The designation also recognizes the river’s association with the 19th and early 20th century lumber industry and with the development of the railways in the region.
The St. Croix River is known as an easily accessible backcountry recreational experience for paddlers and fishermen of all abilities. Campsites are found all along the length of the river.
The river marks the international boundary between New Brunswick and the State of Maine in the USA. Since 2001, the one-country camping system has been in place, requiring paddlers to make landfall only in the country in which they will begin and end their journey. Paddlers are advised to familiarize themselves with Canadian and US marine reporting requirements prior to beginning a trip.
The rich history of the lumber industry on the river is told in the names of campsites and the “rips” – logs and rings that still linger on the riverbed. Keen-eyed travelers can spot the original surveyor’s posts that mark the Canadian-American boundary.
The river is managed by the St. Croix International Waterway Commission (SCIWC) (LINK), which receives support from the Province of New Brunswickand and the State of Maine. The SCIWC manages the waterway via an internationally agreed management plan.
The 1991 designation of the St. Croix River recognized its outstanding natural, cultural and recreational heritage as well as its important habitats that support rare plant species and birds such as the bald eagle and ospreys. The home of the Passamaquoddy and other Indigenous peoples for over 4,000 years, the river was also the site of the first European settlement in 1604.
The St. Croix River – A Model of International Cooperation
The international cooperative management of the St. Croix River, which forms 185 km of the Canada/US border, is unique in North America. Because actions that affect the waters on one side of the United States/Canada border can profoundly affect the other, the Governor of Maine and the Premier of New Brunswick jointly established the St. Croix International Waterway Commission to protect this beautiful maritime river.
Sharing A Beautiful River
For more than three decades, the St. Croix International Waterway Management Plan has guided management of its shared heritage resources. Today, development is accelerating beside the river and residents on both sides of the border agree that the St. Croix must prepare for, rather than react to, change.
Communication Is Key
Planning for the future while working within two very different jurisdictions is a complicated process. “One of the most challenging aspects of being an international watershed is communicating with each other,” said Abby Pond, Executive Director of the St. Croix International Waterway Commission (SCIWC).
Solving Problems Together
A very successful two-day conference, “Sustaining the St. Croix Watershed: Research, Partnerships, and Action”, was held by the Commission to bring together researchers, government agencies, residents, and business owners at the Huntsmen Marine Science Center. As a team, they charted a course for the sustainable use of the shared watershed with discussion focusing on four topics: Fisheries, Ecosystems-Based Management, Climate Change, and Resilient Communities.
“This event was a way of sharing who is doing what, but it was also a chance for people to meet and talk about how they might work together to solve problems,” said Pond.
A Joint Planning Tradition
Since 1993 when the Commission prepared its first plan, communication has been key, so it was fitting that St. Croix area residents, users and managers came together in a year-long consensus process. The resulting management plan established international goals and policies, took into account the differences in the mandates and structure of governments, and considered the evolving capabilities of all participants.
The partners committed to protecting and enhancing the Waterway’s natural and cultural heritage, emphasizing the importance of the river’s scenic landscapes and waterscapes; its fish, wildlife, forest and plant resources; and its quality of air, land and water. They noted its significant history, its traditional economic and recreational bases, and its rural quality of life. They agreed to better utilize the river’s resources, and to nurture new avenues for recreational and economic development while balancing growing demands on the land and water. The planning process focused on a long-term commitment to strengthening government and public/private partnerships to share more equitably the benefits and responsibilities of waterway stewardship.
A recent progress report concluded that there has been headway on all the major goals.
The St. Croix River was named a Canadian Heritage River in 1991. The designation was based in large part on the wide variety of recreational uses which it provides, including excellent canoeing, fishing, camping and wildlife viewing.