Saskatchewan River Basin Map

The Saskatchewan River Basin's ecological diversity, and importance in Canadian history, are almost as broad as the basin itself.

The word Saskatchewan is derived from the Cree word Kisiskatchewan, meaning swift current. The Basin, one of the most diverse in North America, covers 405,864 square kilometres (252,192 square miles), encompasses three provinces and one state, and includes some of the longest rivers in Canada. The Saskatchewan River itself is Canada's fourth longest. The North Saskatchewan begins as an icy waterfall at the foot of the Saskatchewan Glacier in western Alberta. Smaller streams join its flow, including the Brazeau and Clearwater Rivers, near Rocky Mountain House. Gathering momentum, it curves past Edmonton, on to the Battlefords, into the forest and parkland, then to Prince Albert and on to meet the South Saskatchewan at the confluence known as The Forks.

The South Saskatchewan is a prairie river, arising from seven small rivers flowing from the Great Divide in both Montana and southern Alberta. These rivers merge, and between the cities of Lethbridge and Medicine Hat, the South Saskatchewan first appears at the junction of the Oldman and Bow Rivers. After cutting its way through prairie grasslands, it widens into Lake Diefenbaker, then angles north past Saskatoon, into the parkland and on to The Forks.

Just west of the Manitoba-Saskatchewan border, the Saskatchewan River divides into a delta, forming the Cumberland Marshes. The main branch continues its eastward journey through The Pas and broadens into Cedar Lake before rushing past Grand Rapids into Lake Winnipeg. It continues on to the Hudson Bay. The history of the Saskatchewan River Basin is as dynamic as its geography. Aboriginal peoples long followed its curves and raced its rapids to hunting and fishing grounds. The Saskatchewan River carried fur traders, missionaries and settlers to the heart of the continent. With the development of the railroad, the importance of the river as a transportation route declined, but its waters were put to many other uses, for the new farmers and communities growing along its banks.

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