Canada Celebrates the Ottawa River’s Heritage Designations

Today, the governments of Canada, Quebec and Ontario celebrated important heritage designations for both the Ontario and Quebec portions of the Ottawa River.

The Ottawa River’s designation as a Heritage River recognizes the river’s outstanding cultural heritage value, including its significance to Indigenous Peoples, its history as an important trade and transportation route, and its continued importance to many communities and businesses in both Ontario and Quebec.

The Ottawa River travels through the heart of Algonquin traditional territory and has been used as a transportation route for millennia. Its waters hold the rich and varied heritage of our nation, including the history, cultures and contributions of Indigenous peoples. Known as the “original Trans-Canada highway,” the river was invaluable to the economic and political growth of the region during the fur and timber eras and continues to be an essential economic engine today.

In July 2016, the Ontario portion of the Ottawa River was designated as a Canadian Heritage River by the Minister of Environment and Climate Change and Minister responsible for Parks Canada, Catherine McKenna, along with Ontario’s Minister of Natural Resources and Forestry, Kathryn McGarry.

The Minister of Culture and Communications and Minister responsible for the Protection and Promotion of the French Language, Luc Fortin, has now designated the Quebec portion of the Ottawa River as a historic site under Quebec’s Cultural Heritage Act.


With a watershed twice the size of New Brunswick, the Ottawa River Ottawa represents one of North America’s most important flyways, providing habitat to more than 300 species of birds, and sustains more than 80 species at risk. Families on both sides of the river swim, drink and fish thanks to its waters. The heritage designation of the whole Ottawa River will enhance our collective sense of river pride and inspire people in Quebec and Ontario to respect and protect the river that flows through their communities.


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‎”Today we celebrate the Ottawa River’s incredible history, from a gathering place for Indigenous peoples thousands of years ago, to a transportation and trading hub, to its role today as a rich ecosystem, and its important role for recreation, tourism and economic opportunities. I would like to thank the governments of Quebec and Ontario for recognizing the incredible history of the Ottawa River and for their commitment to working with the federal government to ensure the long-term health and future of our important and magnificent river. Preserving the Ottawa River for swimming, drinking and fishing is key to the vision of Ottawa as the greenest capital in the world.”

Catherine McKenna
Minister of Environment and Climate Change, Minister responsible for Parks Canada and Member of Parliament for Ottawa Centre

“The longest river in Quebec occupies a crucial role in our history and still plays and important part in many sectors, including transportation, tourism and economy in the Outaouais region. Its designation serves to highlight its major influence while fostering a better understanding of Quebec’s history.”

Luc Fortin
Quebec Minister of Culture and Communications and Minister responsible for the Protection and Promotion of the French Language

“The Ottawa River has been a vital channel for Ontario’s economic, social and cultural development. As an important ecosystem and with many unique ecological features, I’m thrilled to see it being recognized as the exceptional river it is and I know this designation will help us celebrate its rich history for generations to come.”

Kathryn McGarry
Minister of Natural Resources and Forestry

Quick Facts

  • The Ottawa River is Canada’s eighth largest river. It flows through 1271 kilometres of the Laurentian physiographic region of Canada.
  • The river’s significant water power has been harnessed over the centuries, driving the region’s grist mills and saw mills, and currently producing a significant portion of Ontario’s hydroelectricity.
  • The river provides habitat for over 300 species of birds and is one of the continent’s most important flyways. Its rich ecosystems also sustain more than 80 species at risk.
  • Recreationally, the Ottawa River contains a section of white-water that is renowned as a world-class paddling and rafting destination, making it an economic driver for many communities along its shores.

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