The Online Encyclopedia and Dictionary






Saint Lawrence River

The Saint Lawrence River (French fleuve Saint-Laurent) is a large west-to-east flowing river in the middle latitudes of North America, connecting the Great Lakes with the Atlantic Ocean. It was called Kaniatarowanenneh ("big waterway") in Mohawk. It bisects the Canadian province of Quebec and forms part of the border between the state of New York in the United States and the province of Ontario in Canada.

The Saint Lawrence River is born at the outflow of Lake Ontario at Kingston, Ontario. From there, it passes Brockville, Cornwall, Montreal, Trois-Rivières, and Quebec City before draining into the Gulf of Saint Lawrence, the largest estuary in the world. It runs 1900 miles (3058 kilometers) from source to mouth (744 miles / 1,197 km from the outflow of Lake Ontario), and together with the Great Lakes which it drains, and their tributaries, forms the world's largest fresh-water system.

The river includes Lac Saint-Louis south of Montreal, Lac Saint-François at Salaberry-de-Valleyfield, Quebec and Lac Saint-Pierre east of Montreal. It surrounds such islands as the Thousand Islands near Kingston, the Island of Montreal, Île Jésus (Laval), Île d'Orléans near Quebec City, and Anticosti Island north of the Gaspé.

Lake Champlain and the Ottawa, Richelieu, and Saguenay rivers drain into the St. Lawrence.

The first European to navigate the St. Lawrence was Jacques Cartier, who on 9 June 1534 first sighted the river and also claimed New France for Francis I. 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 exploration of the North American interior from Europe.

The St. Lawrence was formerly continuously navigable only as far as Montreal due to the Lachine Rapids. The Lachine Canal was the first to allow ships to pass the rapids; the Saint Lawrence Seaway, an extensive system of canals and locks, now permits ocean-going vessels to pass all the way to Lake Superior.

A note on translation: Occasionally, the French name fleuve Saint-Laurent is wrongly translated as Saint Lawrence Seaway, on the idea that it uses the word fleuve, not rivière. However, the word fleuve simply means a river that runs to the sea, and is appropriately translated by river. The seaway is a system of artificial canals, and is called in French voie maritime du Saint-Laurent.


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

See also

External links

  • Regional Geography of the St. Lawrence River
  • St. Lawrence Parks Commission (Ontario)

Last updated: 02-07-2005 17:45:07
Last updated: 05-03-2005 17:50:55