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The Saint Lawrence River (in French: fleuve Saint-Laurent; Kahnawáˀkye in Tuscarora, Kaniatarowanenneh meaning big waterway in Mohawk) is a large river flowing approximately from southwest to northeast in the middle latitudes of North America, connecting the Great Lakesmarker with the Atlantic Oceanmarker. It is the primary drainage of the Great Lakes Basin. It traverses the Canadian provinces of Quebecmarker and Ontariomarker and forms part of the international boundary between Ontario and other places in the U.S.A.


The Saint Lawrence River originates at the outflow of Lake Ontariomarker between Kingston, Ontariomarker on the north bank, Wolfe Island in mid-stream, and Cape Vincent, New York.
Saint Lawrence River seen from Spot satellite
From there, it passes Gananoquemarker, Brockvillemarker, Ogdensburgmarker, Massena, Cornwallmarker, Montrealmarker, Trois-Rivièresmarker, and Quebec Citymarker before draining into the Gulf of Saint Lawrencemarker, the largest estuary in the world. The river runs from the furthest headwater to the mouth and from the outflow of Lake Ontario. The furthest headwater is the North River in the Mesabi Range at Hibbingmarker, Minnesotamarker. Its drainage area, which includes the Great Lakes and hence the world's largest system of fresh water lakes, has a size of . The average discharge at the mouth is . The river includes Lake Saint-Louismarker south of Montreal, Lac Saint-Françoismarker at Salaberry-de-Valleyfieldmarker and Lac Saint-Pierremarker east of Montreal. It encompasses three archipelagoes: the Thousand Islandsmarker chain near Kingston, Ontariomarker; the Hochelaga Archipelagomarker, including the Island of Montrealmarker and Île Jésusmarker (Lavalmarker); and the smaller Mingan Archipelagomarker. Other islands include Île d'Orléansmarker near Quebec City, and Anticosti Islandmarker north of the Gaspé.it is the 2nd longest river in Canada.

Lake Champlainmarker and the Ottawa, Richelieu, and Saguenaymarker rivers drain into the St. Lawrence.

The Saint Lawrence River is in a seismically active zone where fault reactivation is believed to occur along late Proterozoic to early Paleozoic normal faults related to the opening of Iapetus Ocean. The faults in the area are rift related, which is called the Saint Lawrence rift system.

The Saint Lawrence Valley is a physiographic province of the larger Appalachianmarker division, containing the Champlain and Northern physiographic section.


The St. Lawrence estuary was visited by many navigators (such as John Cabot and Jacques Cartier) and Basque fishermen soon after the discovery of America (or perhaps even before, see Pre-Columbian trans-oceanic contact#Late contact claims). But the first known European explorer to sail the inland part of the St. Lawrence was Jacques Cartier, during his second trip to Canada in 1535, with the help of Iroquoian chief Donnacona's two sons. As he arrived in the estuary on St. Lawrence's feast day, Cartier accordingly named it the Gulf of St. Lawrence. The land along the river was inhabited at the time by the St. Lawrence Iroquoians. The St. Lawrence Rivermarker is partly within the U.S. and as such is that country's sixth oldest surviving European place-name.

Map of 1543 showing Cartier's discoveries.
Until the early 1600s, the French used the name Rivière du Canada to designate the Saint Lawrence upstream to Montreal and the Ottawa River after Montreal. The Saint Lawrence River served as the main route for European exploration of the North American interior, first pioneered by French explorer Samuel de Champlain.

Control of the river was crucial to British strategy to capture New France in the Seven Years' War. Having captured Louisbourg in 1758, the British sailed up to Quebec the following year thanks to charts drawn up by James Cook. British troops were ferried via the St. Lawrence to attack the city from the west, which they successfully did at the Battle of the Plains of Abrahammarker.

Because of the virtually impassable Lachine Rapids, the St. Lawrence was once continuously navigable only as far as Montreal. Opened in 1825, the Lachine Canalmarker was the first to allow ships to pass the rapids. An extensive system of canals and locks, known as the Saint Lawrence Seaway, was officially opened on 26 June 1959 by Queen Elizabeth II (representing Canada) and President Dwight D. Eisenhower (representing the United States of America). The Seaway now permits ocean-going vessels to pass all the way to Lake Superiormarker.

During World War II, the Battle of the St. Lawrence involved a number of submarine and anti-submarine actions throughout the lower St. Lawrence River and the entire Gulf of Saint Lawrencemarker, Strait of Belle Islemarker and Cabot Straitmarker from May to October 1942, September 1943, and again in October and November 1944. During this time, German U-boats sank a number of merchant marine ships and three Canadian warships.

In the late 1970s, the river was the subject of a successful ecological campaign (called "Save the River"), originally responding to planned development by the United States Army Corps of Engineers. The campaign was organized, among others, by Abbie Hoffman, then on the run under the pseudonym of Barry Freed.


Saint Lawrence River

The source of the North River in the Mesabi Range in Minnesota (Seven Beaver Lake) is considered to be the source of the Saint Lawrence River. Because it crosses so many lakes, the water system frequently changes its name. From source to mouth, the names are:


The St. Lawrence River is at the heart of many Quebec novels (Anne Hébert's Kamouraska, Réjean Ducharme's L'avalée des avalés), poems (in works of Pierre Morency, Bernard Pozier), and songs (Leonard Cohen's Suzanne, Michel Rivard's L'oubli). The river has also been portrayed in paintings, notably by the Group of Seven. In addition, the river is the namesake of Saint-Laurent Herald at the Canadian Heraldic Authority.

In 1980, Jacques Cousteau traveled to Canada to make two films on the Saint Lawrence River and the Great Lakes, Cries from the Deep and St. Lawrence: Stairway to the Sea.

See also


  1. Rudes, B. Tuscarora English Dictionary Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1999
  2. William Henry Johnson, French Pathfinders in North America (Project Gutenberg)
  3. The Spanish names Florida, Dry Tortugas, Cape Canaveral, Appalachian, and California appeared earlier.....From Spanish historian Antonio de Herrera y Tordesillas's accounts, published in 1601 --

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