Nelson River

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Coordinates: 57°5′5″N 92°30′8″W / 57.08472°N 92.50222°W / 57.08472; -92.50222
Nelson River (Powinigow Sipi)
River
Nelson River near Norway House, from the air.jpg
Nelson River near Norway House
Country Canada
Province Manitoba
Tributaries
 - left Burntwood River, Grass River
Source Lake Winnipeg
Mouth Hudson Bay
 - elevation 0 m (0 ft)
 - coordinates 57°5′5″N 92°30′8″W / 57.08472°N 92.50222°W / 57.08472; -92.50222 [1]
Length 2,575 km (1,600 mi) [2]
Basin 892,300 km2 (344,500 sq mi) [3]
Discharge
 - average 2,370 m3/s (83,696 cu ft/s) [2]
Map of the Nelson River drainage basin

The Nelson River is a river of north-central North America, in the Canadian province of Manitoba. Its full length is 2,575 kilometres (1,600 mi), it has mean discharge of 2,370 cubic metres per second (84,000 cu ft/s), and has a drainage basin of 892,300 square kilometres (344,500 sq mi), of which 180,000 square kilometres (69,000 sq mi) is in the United States.[2] The river drains Lake Winnipeg and runs 644 kilometres (400 mi) before it ends in Hudson Bay.

Geography[edit]

The river flows through the Canadian Shield out of Playgreen Lake at the northern tip of Lake Winnipeg, and flows through Cross Lake, Sipiwesk Lake, Split Lake and Stephens Lake.

Since it drains Lake Winnipeg, it is the last part of the large Saskatchewan River system, as well as that of the Red River and Winnipeg River. Devils Lake is unusual for a glacial lake in being presently closed, also has been known to overflow into the Red River for at least five separate periods since deglaciation.[4]

Besides Lake Winnipeg, its primary tributaries include the Grass River, which drains a long area north of Lake Winnipeg, and the Burntwood River, which passes through Thompson, Manitoba.

The river flows into Hudson Bay at Port Nelson (now a ghost town), just north of the Hayes River and York Factory. Other communities upriver from there include Bird, Sundance, Long Spruce, Gillam, Split Lake, Arnot, Cross Lake, and Norway House.

History[edit]

First Nations people on the Nelson River, 1878

The river was named by Sir Thomas Button, a Welsh explorer from St. Lythans, Glamorganshire, who wintered at its mouth in 1612, after Robert Nelson, a ship's master who died there. At that time, the Cree people who lived along its banks called it Powinigow or Powinini-gow, which may have meant "the Rapid Strangers' river".[5] The area was fought over for the fur trade, though the Hayes River, whose mouth is near the Nelson's, became the main route inland.

Fort Nelson, a historic Hudson's Bay Company trading post, was located at the mouth of the Nelson River at Hudson Bay and was a key trading post in the early 18th century. After his pivotal role in establishing the Hudson's Bay Company, Pierre Esprit Radisson, noted French explorer, was chief director of trade at Fort Nelson during one of his sustained periods of service to England. Today, Fort Nelson no longer exists. Port Nelson, the abandoned shipping port remains on the opposite side of the river mouth on Hudson Bay.

The Nelson River's huge volume and long drop make it useful for generating hydroelectricity. Flooding caused by damming of the river has provoked bitter disputes with First Nations in the past although the Northern Flood Agreement was created in the 1970s to help offset the damages caused by flooding.[6]

"Travelling up the Nelson River, it’s easy to see the impacts of hydro development. The once-pristine water is now silty and not to be trusted for drinking. Trees fall into the river everywhere along the shore, thanks to erosion caused by constantly fluctuating water levels. Ancient graves are being exposed, and sacred sites are now under water. What was once a highway for hunters is now dangerous to travel in winter, as the location of ice pockets created by flooding and retreating water cannot be predicted. A river that was once the basis for life has become deadly."[6]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

External links[edit]