Its beginnings - in the meltwaters of
the ancient Saskatchewan Glacier, high
in the Columbia Icefields of the Rocky
Mountains - speak of a land of snow
and ice. But "Kisiskatchewan,"
the "swift-flowing river"
of the Cree, travels far beyond the
mountain peaks and forested foothills
of the Eastern Ranges, forging a 1,287
kilometre pathway across the province
of Alberta and through the heart of
Saskatchewan, where it joins its South
Saskatchewan sister to create the Saskatchewan's
main stem. Draining an area of 122,800
square kilometres, the North Saskatchewan
moves from mountain to prairie; its
48.5 kilometres of tumbling headwaters
are known as a Canadian Heritage River,
in recognition of their glacial beginnings,
ancient tributary valleys, Canadian
Rockies wildlife, whitewater rapids,
and a rich historical association with
mountain explorers such as David Thompson.
But history is the hallmark of the entire
North Saskatchewan, from the first French
fur trading forts of its eastern reaches,
to the upriver provisioning post that
grew into the capital city of Edmonton.
Navigable for almost its entire length,
almost rapid-free except for its uppermost
stretches, the North Saskatchewan became
the fur trading route of choice through
Canada's vast western interior. Today,
though some of its flow has been harnessed,
long stretches of the North Saskatchewan
remain wild and free, ready to be enjoyed
by paddlers, fishers, campers, naturalists
and all those who would reflect on the
river's historic role in the shaping
of Canada West.