|North Saskatchewan River|
|• location||Saskatchewan Glacier, Alberta|
|• elevation||2,080 m (6,820 ft)|
|Saskatchewan River Forks, Saskatchewan|
|380 m (1,250 ft)|
|Length||1,287 km (800 mi)|
|Basin size||122,800 km2 (47,400 sq mi)|
|• location||Prince Albert, Saskatchewan, 53 km (33 mi) from the mouth|
|• average||238 m3/s (8,400 cu ft/s)|
|• minimum||19 m3/s (670 cu ft/s)|
|• maximum||5,660 m3/s (200,000 cu ft/s)|
|• left||Brazeau River|
|• right||Clearwater River, Vermilion River, Battle River|
The North Saskatchewan River is a glacier-fed river that flows from the Canadian Rockies continental divide east to central Saskatchewan, where it joins with the South Saskatchewan River to make up the Saskatchewan River. Its water flows eventually into the Hudson Bay.
The Saskatchewan River system is the largest shared between the Canadian provinces of Alberta and Saskatchewan. Its watershed includes most of southern and central Alberta and Saskatchewan.
The North Saskatchewan River has a length of 1,287 kilometres (800 mi), and a drainage area of 122,800 square kilometres (47,400 sq mi). At its end point at Saskatchewan River Forks it has a mean discharge of 245 cubic metres per second (8,700 cu ft/s). The yearly discharge at the Alberta–Saskatchewan border is more than 7 cubic kilometres (1.7 cu mi).
The river begins above 1,800 metres (5,900 ft) at the toe of the Saskatchewan Glacier in the Columbia Icefield, and flows southeast through Banff National Park alongside the Icefields Parkway. At the junction of the David Thompson Highway (Highway 11), it initially turns northeast for 10 kilometres (6.2 mi) before switching to a more direct eastern flow for about 30 kilometres (19 mi). At this point, it turns north where it eventually arrives at Abraham Lake. Bighorn Dam constricts the north end of Abraham Lake, where the North Saskatchewan emerges to track eastward to Rocky Mountain House. At Rocky Mountain House, the river abruptly turns north again for 100 kilometres (62 mi) where it switches east towards Edmonton, Alberta.
In Edmonton, the river passes through the centre of the city in a northeasterly direction and out towards Smoky Lake at which point it quickly changes to the southeast and then more to the east as it makes its way to the Alberta–Saskatchewan boundary.
From the border, the river flows southeast between North Battleford and Battleford and on in the direction of Saskatoon. About 40 kilometres (25 mi) northwest of Saskatoon, near Langham, the river veers to the northeast where it passes through the City of Prince Albert. About 30 kilometres (19 mi) downstream of Prince Albert, the North Saskatchewan River joins the South Saskatchewan River at Saskatchewan River Forks to become the Saskatchewan River. From there, the river flows east to Tobin Lake and into Manitoba, eventually emptying into Lake Winnipeg.
The river course can be divided into five distinct sections. The first, the eastern slopes of the Rocky Mountains, is the smallest area geographically, although the largest in terms of run-off and contributed water flow. The glaciers and perpetual snows of the mountain peaks feed the river year-round. Mountains, with little vegetation, experience fast-melting snow cover. The second section of the river comprises the foothills region. The terrain is hilly and rough, with a deeper and more defined valley. This area is well covered with forest and muskeg, and run-off into the river is much more constant and stable than in the mountains.
From Edmonton to the mouth of the Vermilion River, the North Saskatchewan flows through the plains-parkland divide, with occasional stretches of prairie. The North Saskatchewan River valley parks system; the largest expanses of urban parkland in Canada. Cutting across Edmonton and the Capital Region. The river runs in a well-defined valley with deep cuts in the landscape. The fourth section, from the Vermilion River to Prince Albert is principally prairie with a few small stretches of timber and secondary forest cover. The valley of the river is much wider, and the river itself spreads out across shallow water and flows over many shifting sand bars. Low-lying, flat areas border the river for much of this section.
The final section of the river, from Prince Albert to the Saskatchewan River Forks, has many rapids. The valley is more shallow than the previous sections of the river, and the channel is much better defined. There is little prairie and much tree cover in this section.
The water flows on then in the Saskatchewan River.
The Bridge River Ash is in the vicinity of the North Saskatchewan River, which erupted from the Mount Meager massif in southwestern British Columbia about 2350 years ago.
The river is shown on a Hudson's Bay Company map from 1760, labeled as the Beaver River.
Its Cree name is kisiskâciwanisîpiy (swift current). From this name is derived the name Saskatchewan, used as well for the South Saskatchewan River and the Saskatchewan River (to which the North Saskatchewan is a major tributary), and the province of that name.
Its Blackfoot name is omaka-ty (big river).
The section of the North Saskatchewan river that falls within the Banff National Park boundaries has been designated a Canadian Heritage River in 1989, for its importance in the development of western Canada.
The river demarcates the prairie–parkland divide for much of its course and acted as a natural boundary between plains Blackfoot and woodland Cree First Nations people for thousands of years. With the westward expansion of the fur trade spearheaded by the North West Company and followed by the Hudson's Bay Company, the river became an important transportation route for fur trade brigades' York boats, to which it was especially well suited as it follows an eastern trend toward Hudsons Bay, the entry point for the HBC into Canada. Many fur trade posts were constructed on the river, including Fort Edmonton (1795) and Rocky Mountain House, the uppermost post reached by canoe navigation. The river's importance continued after the amalgamation of the Hudson's Bay Company and the North West Company. The river was plied by a number of steamboats right up to WWI, although for everyday freight the growing web of railway lines in the western prairies eventually replaced them. The river was used commercially for many years - to carry flatboats of settlers goods and construction materials downstream from Edmonton, to float thousands of logs in the annual log drive downstream to Edmonton prior to WWI, as a source of ice blocks for home owners' iceboxes.
The first bridge across the river opened in 1900, the Low Level Bridge (Edmonton). The Canadian Northern Railway Bridge (Prince Albert) (1907-9), which also at first carried foot and wheeled traffic, and the Battleford bridge (ca. 1908) followed.
Edmonton's North Saskatchewan River valley parks system is the largest system of urban parks in Canada, and covers both sides of the river valley's course through Edmonton. The River Valley Alliance, a non-profit organization composed of seven municipalities which border the North Saskatchewan River, is currently working to create a continuous trail network from the town of Devon to the city of Fort Saskatchewan – a total of 100 kilometres (62 mi).
Fish species include: walleye, sauger, yellow perch, northern pike, goldeye, mooneye, lake sturgeon, mountain whitefish, burbot, longnose sucker, white sucker and shorthead redhorse. The upper North Saskatchewan River contains cutthroat trout (although not native), and bull trout
Like all rivers, the North Saskatchewan is subject to periodic flooding, beginning with rapid snowmelt in the mountains or prolonged periods of rain in the river basin. With the establishment of permanent communities along the river's course, and the rise of an administrative/government structure, records exist recording floods in the North Saskatchewan for the past century. The Bighorn Dam, constructed in the early 1970s near Nordegg, Alberta, and the Brazeau Dam, constructed in the mid-1960s, have not reduced flooding potential on the North Saskatchewan River (Alberta Environment 1981) 
|Peak date||mean daily flow
|Peak date||Peak flow|
|1912||10 July||2100||14 July||1980|
|19 August||1990||25 August||1550|
|1914||9 June||1750||14 June||1790|
|1915||29 June||4640||2 July||5300|
|16 July||2550||21 July||2320|
|1917||18 May||1860||23 May||1540|
|1923||25 June||2380||30 June||1640|
|1925||18 August||2150||23 August||1620|
|1932||4 June||1870||10 June||2160|
|1944||16 June||3450||20 June||2940|
|1948||25 May||1850||31 May||2090|
|1952||25 June||3540||29 June||2970|
|1954||8 June||3030||12 June||2790|
|27 August||2820||1 Sept||2570|
|1965||29 June||2590||4 July||2460|
|1969||7 July||1740||13 July||1570|
|1972||27 June||2970||2 July||2340|
|1980||7 June||1740||13 June||1680|
|1982||6 July||1920||13 July||1580|
|1986||19 July||3990||24 July||3230|
|1990||4 July||2340||10 July||1890|
|2005||21 June||2270||27 June||1800|
|2011||19 June||1800||26 June||2100|
|2013||23 June||2710||29 June||2200|
The river peaked at a stage of 12.61 metres (41.4 ft) with an estimated peak instantaneous discharge of 5,100 cubic metres per second (180,000 cu ft/s).
Main article: North Saskatchewan River flood of 1915
The 1915 flood of the North Saskatchewan River was one of the most dramatic in the history of Edmonton. On 28 June, the Edmonton Bulletin reported the river had risen "10 feet in as many hours." A frantic phone call from Rocky Mountain House alerted local authorities to the flood's arrival. The Canadian Northern Railway had parked a number of train cars on the city's Low Level Bridge to protect against the "tons upon tons of debris" that had been pushed up against its piers, including a house swept away by the current. Thousands of Edmonton residents watched the flood destroy lumber mills along the city's river valley.
The river peaked at a stage of 13.73 metres (45.0 ft), a rise of 11.5 metres (38 ft) above low flow, with an estimated peak instantaneous discharge of 5,800 cubic metres per second (200,000 cu ft/s). However, based on high water marks and 1D modelling, the actual value may have been closer to 6,300 cubic metres per second (220,000 cu ft/s).
The river peaked at a stage of 11.5 metres (38 ft) with a peak instantaneous discharge of 4,520 cubic metres per second (160,000 cu ft/s).
Along with many other rivers in central and southern Alberta during late June, the North Saskatchewan saw significantly higher water levels and flow rates. The river peaked at a stage of 9.03 m (29.6 ft) with a peak instantaneous discharge of 2,710 cubic metres per second (96,000 cu ft/s) on June 23 in Edmonton. This is significantly higher than the Bow River's peak height at 4.1 metres (13 ft) and peak discharge of 1,750 cubic metres per second (62,000 cu ft/s) on June 21, that caused widespread flooding in Calgary. However, due to the expansive North Saskatchewan River Valley and natural sanctuary/parkland that surrounds it, the City of Edmonton had only minor, isolated flooding, with virtually no major property damage as a result.
A number of dams have been planned and constructed on the North Saskatchewan River and its tributaries. No singular purpose has dominated dam planning in the basin, indeed, hydroelectric development, flood control, and water diversion schemes have all underpinned proposals to construct dams on the river.
The first hydroelectric development on the North Saskatchewan was planned in 1910 near the Town of Drayton Valley. Funding for the plan came from a British syndicate; design and construction were to be carried out by the Edmonton Hydro-Electric Power Scheme. The development was shelved after the outbreak of World War I.
The La Colle Falls hydroelectric project east of Prince Albert was a half-built failure. Construction began in the 1910s and was later abandoned. The city remained in debt from financing the project until 1960, and the site still attracts tourists today.
During the 1960s and 1970s, a major dam was planned on the North Saskatchewan near the Hamlet of Hairy Hill, Alberta, about 160 kilometres (100 mi) downstream from Edmonton. This dam was part of a larger interbasin water diversion conceived by the Alberta Government to transfer water from the Peace, Smoky, and Athabasca rivers to the Saskatchewan River Basin.
The planned dam had a maximum height of 65 metres (212 ft), with a crest length of 1.76 kilometres (5,760 ft), which would have created a reservoir capable of holding over 4.9 cubic kilometres (4,000,000 acre⋅ft) of water. The reservoir would have affected municipal water works in the City of Fort Saskatchewan, was likely to inundate part of the Saddle Lake Indian reserve, and would have flooded a number of oil and natural gas fields in the area. The plan was later shelved in light of economic and environmental concerns.
The Bighorn Dam was constructed near Nordegg and created Abraham Lake, one of the largest reservoirs in Alberta. The dam was constructed in 1972 by Calgary Power. The Bighorn Plant has a generating capacity of 120 megawatts (MW), and has an available water supply that allows it to be the largest producer of hydroelectric electricity in Alberta, with an average of 408,000 megawatt hours (MW⋅h) each year.
One of the North Saskatchewan's major tributaries, the Brazeau River, houses the Brazeau Hydroelectric Plant. At 355 MW, the Brazeau Dam is Alberta's largest hydroelectric facility, and was built in 1965 by Calgary Power. Though having a higher peak generating capacity than the Bighorn Dam, the hydrology of the Brazeau means that its average annual electricity production is a slightly smaller 397,000 MW⋅h.
((cite web)): CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link) Environment Canada, Water Survey of Canada, retrieved 11 January 2009.