The North Saskatchewan rises in the COLUMBIA ICEFIELD at the foot of Mount Columbia and flows east to ROCKY MOUNTAIN HOUSE, Alta, where it takes in the Clearwater River, on through EDMONTON, Alta, where much of its valley has been preserved as parkland, and then into Saskatchewan past North Battleford and Prince Albert. The river cuts a deep, wide valley in the prairie and like all prairie streams carries a heavy load of silt.
The South Saskatchewan is formed in southern Alberta by the junction of the BOW and OLDMAN rivers. It flows east past MEDICINE HAT, Alta, then northeast into Saskatchewan, past SASKATOON, and continues a course roughly parallel to the North Saskatchewan to the confluence some 130 km downstream.
The South Saskatchewan has been dammed about 100 km south of Saskatoon, creating a long broad reservoir, called LAKE DIEFENBAKER, which provides hydroelectric power and irrigation for southwestern Saskatchewan. From the confluence, the river continues nearly 600 km eastward through Tobin Lake and Cumberland Lake, Sask, into Manitoba, where it trends southeast past THE PAS and into CEDAR LAKE. The waters of the Saskatchewan enter Lake WINNIPEG at Grand Rapids and are carried to Hudson Bay by the NELSON RIVER.
Called Kisiskatchewani Sipi, "swift-flowing river," by the Cree, Henry KELSEY (1690) and the LA VÉRENDRYE family (circa 1739) were the first Europeans to see it. The modern rendering of the name was adopted in 1882 when part of the present-day province was made a district of the North-West Territories.
The section between Grand Rapids and CUMBERLAND HOUSE (built in 1774 by Samuel HEARNE) was hotly contested by the Hudson's Bay Company and North West Company. From Cumberland House to Edmonton, there are no rapids that could not be lined up or run down, although shifting gravel bars were a menace. This was a much-travelled route of the HBC traders and made Edmonton an early focal point of trade. The southern branch carried traders southwest to Wyoming and into the Rocky Mountains by Bow Pass.
In years when the sovereignty of the North-West was in question, the Saskatchewan made possible an east-west highway tying the area to English commercial enterprise on Hudson Bay and, via the Great Lakes, to Canadian interests centered in Montréal.
Author JAMES MARSH
Links to Other Sites
An extensive information source about the geological history, human settlement patterns, earth and water resources, and natural hazards found in locations across the country. Click on the red symbols on the interactive map of Canada to explore aerial landscapes, maps, photos, colourful online posters, and more. A Geoscape Canada website from Natural Resources Canada.
Rivers of Canada
This site highlights the political and economic importance of Canada’s major river systems. From the Canadian Geographic Magazine.
Encyclopedia of Saskatchewan
The website for the comprehensive Encyclopedia of Saskatchewan. Browse by subject or search for specific articles.
The Beaver Hills Country: A History of Land and Life
Read an illustrated online book by Graham A. MacDonald that documents the ecology and the human history of the region of Alberta between the North Saskatchewan and the Battle Rivers. Offers details about local indigenous peoples, Métis, and European immigrants.
A basic introduction to the ecology and management of riparian areas in Canada. From the Alberta Riparian Habitat Management Society.
A brief history of fur trade activity in the Edmonton region of Alberta. From the River Valley Alliance.