Alberta Section of North Saskatchewan River Receives Prestigious Canadian Heritage Designation

Image Credit, Parks Canada

In a move underscoring the rich history of Canada’s natural and cultural heritage, the Governments of Canada and Alberta have jointly announced the official designation of the Alberta section of the North Saskatchewan River as a Canadian Heritage River. This designation encompasses the entire 718-kilometre stretch of the river flowing through Alberta, solidifying its significance within the Canadian Heritage River System.

The announcement was made today by the Honourable Steven Guilbeault, Minister of Environment and Climate Change, and Minister responsible for Parks Canada, alongside the Honourable Rebecca Schulz, Alberta Minister of Environment and Protected Areas. Their declaration marks a pivotal moment in recognizing the historical, cultural, and environmental importance of the North Saskatchewan River to the people of Alberta and Canada at large.

The North Saskatchewan River holds deep significance as a traditional gathering place and travel route for Indigenous peoples, including the nêhiyawak (Cree), Niitsitapi (Blackfoot), Ktunaxa, Métis, and others. Known by different names to various Indigenous communities, such as kisiskâciwani-sîpiy and Omaka-ty, this waterway serves as a conduit for preserving Indigenous languages and cultural connections.

Initially nominated in 2022 by Smoky Lake County for its remarkable cultural and recreational values, the river’s designation reflects its historical role as a vital transportation and trade route. From its origins in the Rocky Mountains to its confluence with the South Saskatchewan River, the North Saskatchewan River has shaped the landscape and livelihoods of generations. It played a central role in the fur trade, scientific expeditions, settlement patterns, and agriculture, leaving an indelible mark on the region’s history.

Moreover, Omaka-ty has long served as a muse for artists, musicians, and poets, drawing paddlers, anglers, and enthusiasts to its scenic shores. Today, it continues to support diverse ecosystems, provide drinking water, and bolster the tourism and recreation industries.

In response to the designation, Minister Steven Guilbeault expressed gratitude to the stakeholders involved, emphasizing the river’s enduring significance: “With this designation, the iconic North Saskatchewan River will finally receive the recognition it so deserves. Being designated as a Canadian Heritage River is extremely fitting as this waterway has been instrumental in the development of Canada over the last centuries.”

Echoing these sentiments, Minister Rebecca Schulz highlighted the river’s integral role in Alberta’s identity: “The North Saskatchewan River is, and always will be, a vital part of Alberta. Many municipalities and Indigenous communities requested this designation as they have a long and deep relationship with this beautiful river.”

The designation of the Alberta section of the North Saskatchewan River as a Canadian Heritage River stands as a testament to the collective efforts to preserve and celebrate Canada’s natural and cultural heritage for generations to come.