Canada: Canadian Heritage Rivers System

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“Canada’s outstanding rivers will be nationally recognized and managed through the support and stewardship of local people and provincial, territorial and federal governments to ensure the long-term conservation of the rivers’ natural, cultural and recreational values and integrity.” – Vision of Canadian Heritage River System Charter, 1997

The Canadian Heritage Rivers System (CHRS) was established in 1984 to conserve and protect the best examples of Canada’s river heritage, to give them national recognition, and to encourage the public to enjoy and appreciate them. It’s a cooperative program of the governments of Canada, including all ten provinces and the three territories.

Participation and all conservation actions are voluntary and depend on existing laws and regulations. The system is governed by a Heritage Rivers Board which has members from the government as well as citizens.

The system today conserves 42 rivers flowing over 12,000 kilometers. However, organizations are working for a more structured legislation to protect Canada’s rivers, which include some of the longest free-flowing rivers in the world. 


The system has helped protect not only Canadian but also transboundary rivers. The Tatshenshini River is shared by Canada and the United States: It flows out of the northern part of British Columbia, through southeastern Alaska, and into the North Pacific Ocean. During President Clinton’s second term, Vice President Al Gore joined with the Prime Minister of British Columbia to protect the Tatshenshini from proposals to open a giant mine and build a dam. It provides an excellent example of how two countries can cooperate to save a river.

Read about the Canadian Heritage Rivers System.

Photo: The Grand River in Ontario Canada, a river protected under the Canadian Heritage Rivrs System. Photo courtesy of Jasonvandelaar1 via Wikimedia Commons.