Saint Lawrence River

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SAINT LAWRENCE RIVER, the largest river in North America, was explored between 1535 and 1541 by French explorer Jacques Cartier. During the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, the Saint Lawrence, with its tributary, the Ottawa River, and with the Great Lakes, formed the main water thoroughfare from the sea to the interior of the continent. Explorers and missionaries, including Samuel de Champlain and Robert Cavelier, Sieur de LaSalle, set forth from Quebec or Montreal for the west or the southwest. Fur trading brigades left Montreal bound for Mackinac, Grand Portage, Lake Winnipeg, and the Saskatchewan and Columbia rivers. The combatants in the colonial wars, the American Revolution, and the War of 1812 each found the use or mastery of the Saint Lawrence waterways worth the fight.

During the nineteenth century, shipping developed on the Great Lakes as communities grew up about their shores and beyond. With the completion of a deep channel from the head of the lakes down to Lake Ontario, and from Montreal to the sea, a movement grew in the first half of the twentieth century for the removal of the only remaining barrier: the 182-mile extent between Lake Ontario and Montreal. The result was the Saint Lawrence Seaway, begun in 1954 and opened in 1959.


Bosher, John Francis. The Canada Merchants, 1713–1763. Oxford: Clarendon Press; New York: Oxford University Press, 1987.

Eccles, William John. The French in North America, 1500–1783. East Lansing: Michigan State University Press, 1998.

Mackey, Frank. Steamboat Connections: Montreal to Upper Canada, 1816–1843. Montreal: McGill-Queen's University Press, 2000.

Lawrence J.Burpee/a. e.

See alsoCanadian-American Waterways ; Fur Companies ; Fur Trade and Trapping ; Portages and Water Routes .

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Saint Lawrence River

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Saint Lawrence River