The Three Rivers (the Cardigan, Brudenell and Montague/Valleyfield rivers) area is a rich mixture of geological post-glacial features. Seven of the 30 identified drowned forest sites on coastal Prince Edward Island are within its boundaries. The large estuary of the rivers also provides a sanctuary for great blue heron and other migratory birds.
The Three Rivers have been important travel corridors throughout human history – for the Mi’kmaq as well as for the French and British settlers who followed. One of Prince Edward Island’s first French settlements, the Jean Pierre Roma Settlement, was established here in 1732 and is now recognized as a national historic site.
Cardigan, Montague and Georgetown are all picturesque towns with rich cultural histories, but it was Georgetown and the Three Rivers Harbour that established the area as the gateway to the province’s interior. Stretching outward from Lord Selkirk’s first Canadian settlement, roads, railroads and ferry networks grew throughout the region. The area was a large commercial centre during the age of sail (1840-1889) both in the production of ships and as a busy port. Evidence of this commercial activity remains in the factory, mill, and shipyard sites along the shores.
The Three Rivers area offers gentle hills, multi-use trails, sandy beaches, historic sites and scenic drives that allow visitors to appreciate the beauty of the waters and the region’s cultural history.
Hiking, cycling, canoeing and kayaking are popular on the Three Rivers, as are waterfowl hunting and fishing.
The Three Rivers region continues the tradition of shipbuilding to this day – the East Isle Shipyard in Georgetown builds tugboats and is a major local employer.
The river manager of this CHRS designation is the volunteer-driven Three Rivers Association.
The Cardigan, Brudenell, and Montague/Valleyfield Rivers were collectively designated as the Three Rivers in 2004 for their outstanding cultural and recreational values. The area was used by the Mi’kmaq. When the Europeans arrived, the Three Rivers was soon recognized as having one of the best harbours in North America. The rivers also include a variety of unspoiled habitats and shorelines.
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.
Three Rivers Plaque Text
Three Rivers (Cardigan River) - The Three Rivers - Montague, Brudenell, and Cardigan – wind through towns, villages and communities in Kings County, draining into Cardigan Bay, known to the Mi’Kmaq people as Samkook (sandy shore). One of the first French settlements on Prince Edward Island, founded by Jean-Pierre Roma, grew here in the early 1700s, where the Brudenell and Montague Rivers meet at Georgetown Harbour. This same point of land also has the distinction of being the birthplace of Prince Edward Island’s father of Confederation, Andrew A. MacDonald. The waters of the Three Rivers still flow, as they have for centuries, past farms, fisheries and shipyards, linking all those who live along their banks to each other, to the past and to the future. The natural beauty of the Three Rivers has been nurtured and protected through careful development and community stewardship. Designation of the Three Rivers as a Canadian Heritage River will safeguard its rich history and pristine natural beauty for generations to come.