|This article may be expanded with text translated from the corresponding article in the French Wikipedia. (December 2011)|
Richelieu River at Saint-Marc-sur-Richelieu
|Mouth||Saint Lawrence River at Sorel|
|Basin countries||Canada, and appreciable parts of
New York State, Massachusetts, Vermont
|Length||171 km (106 mi)|
|Avg. discharge||330 m3/s (12,000 cu ft/s) at mouth|
|Basin area||23,400 km2 (9,000 sq mi)|
Geography and hydrography
The Richelieu is 171 km (106 mi) long, flowing from the north end of Lake Champlain to the confluence with the Saint Lawrence River at Sorel-Tracy, Quebec, downstream and northeast of Montréal. It has a drainage basin of 23,400 square kilometres (9,000 sq mi), of which 19,600 km2 (7,600 sq mi) are in the United States, originating in the western slopes of the Green Mountains and the eastern slopes of the Adirondack Mountains of New York State. The Champlain Valley makes up most of the drainage basin. The river's mean discharge is 330 cubic metres per second (12,000 cu ft/s).
The French explorer Samuel de Champlain was the first European to reach the mouth of the river in 1603. Champlain returned to the river in 1608 and 1609, exploring upriver to modern-day Albany, New York.
Already an important pathway for the Iroquois Natives, it soon became one for French traders as well. They built five forts along its length: Fort Richelieu at its mouth, Fort St. Louis (or Fort Chambly), Fort Ste. Thérese and Fort Saint-Jean upriver, and Fort Ste. Anne on the Isle La Motte, Vermont in Lake Champlain near its source. Some early journals and maps refer to the lower river as the Sorel River. Formerly also called Iroquois River, its French name comes from Fort Richelieu, which in turn was named in memory of Cardinal Richelieu (1585–1642).
Between 1819 and 1829, the British built Fort Lennox on an island of the Richelieu River, near the Canada-U.S. border, to prevent against possible attacks from Americans after the War of 1812.
During the 19th century, the Richelieu became an important economic thoroughfare. In 1843, construction of the Chambly Canal was completed, allowing easier transportation of export products such as sawlogs, pulp, hay, and coal from Canada to the United States. Sorel and Saint-Jean-sur-Richelieu, which were both incorporated in the 1850s, arose as a direct result of the increased traffic on the Richelieu. By the end of the 19th century, however, railroads had largely replaced the river as commercial arteries.
The Richelieu River caused extensive flooding during the 2011 Lake Champlain and Richelieu River Floods, damaging or destroying more than 3,000 homes in Quebec and at least 750 in Vermont.
Although its commercial significance has waned, the Richelieu has remained an important recreational waterway. The Chambly Canal (9 locks) permits pleasure boats to bypass the rapids at Saint-Jean-sur-Richelieu and Chambly. The Champlain Canal and Lake Champlain form the U.S. portion of the Lakes to Locks Passage, linking with the Hudson River and allowing navigation using the Richelieu between the St. Lawrence River and New York City and the Erie Canal.
The Piste cyclable du Canal-de-Chambly is a 20 km (12 mi) bicycle path that follows the towpath along the canal. The bike path is part of Quebec's Route Verte bicycle path network. The canal is a national historic site operated by Parks Canada. The agency also manages other national historic sites along the river: Fort Chambly, Fort Ste. Thérèse, and St. Ours Canal.
The Richelieu, which is home to more than 50 species of fish, offers excellent sport fishing opportunities. Important sport species include northern pike, longnose gar, bowfin, smallmouth bass, largemouth bass, carp, and black crappie. But the Richelieu also hosts several threatened or endangered species, such as the copper redhorse, river redhorse, and lake sturgeon, so fishing seasons and capture limits are regulated.
- Atlas of Canada
- Ile aux Noix
- List of Quebec rivers
- List of crossings of the Richelieu River
- Lake Champlain Seaway
- 2011 Lake Champlain and Richelieu River Floods