The Saint Lawrence River

One of the most important rivers in North America, the Saint Lawrence River offers you great scenery and a wonderful sense of history.

Called fleuve Saint-Laurent in French, it originates at the outflow of Lake Ontario between Kingston, Ontario, on the north bank; Wolfe Island in mid-stream; and Cape Vincent, New York.

It flows from southwest to northeast connecting the Great Lakes with the Atlantic Ocean in the Gulf of Saint Lawrence. Named The river that walks by the Aboriginal peoples, the Saint Lawrence River crosses Quebec and Ontario and serves as a natural frontier between Ontario, Canada, and the U.S. state of New York for approximately 200 km (124 mi).

In Canada, the navigation route runs along its entire length, forming the famous Saint Lawrence Seaway that allows the Great Lakes to have an opening on the Maritimes. Sailing on the Saint Lawrence River is a unique experience of being on a nautical super-highway. Home to two of North America's most exciting boating destinations, Montreal and Quebec City, it varies between 1 and 2.5 miles wide for most of its distance between these two cities.

Downstream from Quebec City, it expands rapidly in width and at Gaspe, as it enters the Gulf of Saint Lawrence, it is 87 miles from the shore to shore. The largest estuary in the world, the Saint Lawrence River runs 3,058 kilometres (1,900 mi) from the farthest headwater, the North River in Minnesota.

Its drainage area, including the Great Lakes—the world's largest fresh water reservoir, is 1.03 million km² (390,000 sq mi) with the average discharge at the mouth of 10,400 m³/s (367,000 cu ft/s). The river includes Lake Saint-Louis south of Montreal, Lac Saint-François at Salaberry-de-Valleyfield, and Lac Saint-Pierre east of Montreal. It embraces three archipelagoes: the Thousand Islands chain near Kingston, Ontario; the Hochelaga Archipelago, including the Island of Montreal and Ile Jesus (Laval); and the smaller Mingan Archipelago. Other islands include Ile d'Orleans near Quebec City and Anticosti Island north of the Gaspe.

Lake Champlain and the Ottawa, Richelieu, and Saguenay rivers all drain into the St. Lawrence. The first known European explorer to sail the inland part of the Saint Lawrence River was Jacques Cartier, during his second trip to Canada in 1535. Because he arrived in the estuary on St. Lawrence's feast day, Cartier decided to name it the Gulf of St. Lawrence. Until the early 1600s, the French used the name Riviere du Canada for the Saint Lawrence upstream to Montreal, and the river used to be called 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. Because of the impassable Lachine Rapids, the Saint Lawrence River used to be navigable only as far as Montreal. In 1825, the Lachine Canal was opened to allow ships to pass the rapids.

The Saint Lawrence Seaway, a vast system of canals and locks, was officially opened on 26 June 1959 by Queen Elizabeth II (representing Canada) and President Dwight D. Eisenhower (representing the United States of America). From then on, ocean-going vessels can pass all the way to Lake Superior.

The St. Lawrence River is at the centre of artwork in Quebec: in the novels Kamouraska by Anne Hebert and L'avalee des avales by Rejean Ducharme; poems by Pierre Morency and Bernard Pozier; and songs Suzanne by Leonard Cohen's and L'oubli by Michel Rivard. The river has also been portrayed in paintings by the famous Group of Seven.

Currently, many efforts are being made by the Federal Government of Canada to reduce the pollution within the Saint Lawrence River waters to save threatened species, such as the Beluga, white whale living in arctic waters, from extinction.

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