Saint John River

Saint John River

Saint John River

The Saint John River originates in northern Maine, spanning a distance of 673 kilometers. It flows northeastward through Madawaska County until it reaches Edmundston, where it is joined by the Madawaska River. At this point, the river changes direction and flows southeastward, forming a substantial portion of the border between Maine and New Brunswick. The river’s drainage basin covers an area of 55,400 square kilometers, with approximately 20,000 square kilometers located within the United States. The average discharge of the river is 1100 cubic meters per second. As the river proceeds, it receives its primary tributary, the Tobique River, and then curves eastward south of Woodstock.

The Maliseet, who lived along the river’s banks, referred to it as Oo-lahs-took, meaning “goodly river.” The Saint John River is generally calm, with the exception of two waterfalls, Grand Falls and Beechwood, both of which have been used for hydroelectric power. The river flows past Fredericton and Oromocto, gradually expanding and heading southward through a picturesque valley. On the lower course, the current has created numerous long, low islands by depositing silt. 

Reversing Falls Bridge Saint John
Reversing Falls Bridge, Saint John

As the Saint John River approaches the city of Saint John, it enters Long Reach, a narrow lake, and receives the Kennebecasis River from the northeast. The powerful tides of the Bay of Fundy propel the river back through a narrow gorge known as Reversing Falls. De Monts and Champlain arrived in Saint John harbour on June 24, 1604, the feast day of St John, and named the river after the saint.

Fort Latour, Saint John
Fort Latour, Saint John

In 1630, La Tour constructed a fort at the river’s mouth, but it wasn’t until 1783, when the Loyalists settled in the area, that significant development took place in the valley. During the early 19th century, timber from Madawaska was driven over Grand Falls to Saint John, which became one of the most prosperous ports in British North America. 

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One thought on “Saint John River

  1. Thanks for posting this. Very interesting information. We aways enjoy your posts. Keep well and have fun. Mike and Judy.

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