Saint-Charles River

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Saint Charles River
Rivière Saint-Charles vue du pont Drouin.jpg
Other name(s) Akiawenrahk
Country Canada
Province Quebec
Region Capitale-Nationale
Basin features
Main source Lake Saint-Charles
River mouth Saint Lawrence River
Basin size 550 km2 (210 sq mi)
Physical characteristics
Length 33 km (21 mi)

Saint-Charles River is a river of Quebec (Canada), and the main river in Quebec City. Its Huron-Wendat name is Akiawenrahk.


It springs from Saint-Charles Lake, follows a course of approximately 33 km and ends into Saint Lawrence River. Its drainage basin is 550 km² large and a population of 350 000 persons live on its shores, in Quebec City and the Regional County Municipality of La Jacques-Cartier. It is the most densely populated drainage basin of any Quebec river, with an average population density of 600 inhabitants per square kilometer, mostly concentrated in the last third of its length.

Drainage bassin[edit]

Many streams of Québec City and the surroundings are tributary to Saint-Charles River.

Saint-Charles River's drainage basin

The drainage basin includes six main sub-basins, that are, excluding the Saint-Charles' basin itself:

  • Rivière des Hurons
  • Rivière Jaune
  • Rivière Nelson
  • Rivière du Berger
  • Rivière Lorette

Saint-Charles River's drainage basin also includes many secondary streams including:

  • la rivière Hibou
  • la rivière des Commissaires
  • la rivière des Roches
  • la rivière des Sept-Ponts
  • la rivière Lairet
  • le ruisseau du Valet
  • le ruisseau Savard
  • le ruisseau Ste-Barbe
  • le ruisseau Pincourt
Top of the Kabir-Kouba waterfall in Wendake

This river crosses the Wyandot territory of Wendake at the north of Quebec City. Rapids and waterfalls are found in this section under the name of Kabir Kouba or «Silver Serpent» in Wyandot language. The Parc de la Falaise et de la chute Kabir Kouba along the falls at this place has an interpretation center and trails allowing visitors to observe the 28 metre high Kabir Kouba waterfall in a 42 metre deep canyon, a rich flora and fossils as old as 455 million years. A song from the singer Claire Pelletier, Kabir Kouba, refers to the many Wyandot legends that revolve around the river.

The Parc linéaire des rivières Saint-Charles et du Berger is a 31 km long pedestrian trail following the river on its whole course. It goes through Quebec City downtown and continues northwards where the landscape is wilder. Many bridges allow visitors to cross the river. People can see, between others: the Kabir Kouba waterfall, a canyon, a bog covered with a wooden boardwalk, a full forest zone, a lake, a great variety of ferns and plants, many bird species and a place to observe them, a water castle, historic buildings, a Wyandot village and artworks.

Many other parks are located along the course of Saint-Charles River. Among the main ones, is the largest park in Québec City, Chauveau Park (larger than the Plains of Abraham with its 120 hectares against 108), and that is also the site of the Québec urban fishing Festival, that allows many fishing related activities in the river, where fish is released in preparation for the event. Les Saules Park, where people can see the gardens of the O'Neill House. In Loretteville, citizens can walk, ride and enjoy fresh air on the shores of the St-Charles River and in Jean-Roger-Durand Park.

Landscape of Cartier-Brébeuf National Historic Site and the Lairet River

Finally, Cartier-Brébeuf National Historic Site, a Canadian National Historic Site, is located on the north shore of the river in the La Cité-Limoilou borough of Quebec City. This park was created in 1972 to commemorate the second voyage of Jacques Cartier in 1535-1536 and the establishment of the first residence of the jesuit missionaries in Quebec by Jean de Brébeuf and four others in 1625-1626. Until 2001, a replica of Cartier's admiral ship, La Grande Hermine, built for the 1967 universal exposition in Montreal, could be visited by the public. It finally had to be demolish after becoming hazardous following 29 years of exposition. Today, the uneven landscape of the park and the resurgence of the Lairet River combined with the revitalization of the Saint-Charles River banks represent the environment that have led Jacques Cartier to choose this site for his wintering. An interpretation center with a museum exposition and a 6.8 hectares inner-city park with several commemorative monuments can be found there. The Saint-Charles cycleway and the Saint-Charles River linear park also pass through this site.


The estuary of Saint-Charles River in Saint-Lawrence River has a special historical significance since it is at this location that was built the Saint-Lawrence Iroquoian village of Stadaconé and that Jacques Cartier spent his first winter on Canadian soil in 1535–36. The river was first named Petite Rivière or Rivière Sainte-Croix by Jacques Cartier since he came there on the day of the feast of the Cross. This name was also given to the first fort established by the French in this location. Its current name was chosen between 1615 and 1625 by the Récollets missionaries who built a mission there, in honor of their protector Charles de Boves, vicar general of the diocese of Rouen. The protection of Saint Charles Borromeo is also invoqued.[1]

The southern part of the river's shores, near the estuary, was the site of the construction of industries during the 60's (who used it as an open sewer) and that was girdled in concrete in the 70's in order to regulate its flow. At this time, the river was among the most polluted (in great part due to the city's sewage system overflow) in Québec by its microbian pollution and its recreational use near the estuary was impossible. Since the mid-90's, community and governmental efforts allowed an important renaturalisation project to take place, for over 100 million Canadian dollars.

Shores renaturalisation at Limoilou (2006)

Quebec City counts in 2008 160 overflow canals allowing municipal sewage to pour into the river without treatment during periods of network congestion, specially following heavy rain.[2] Québec's regulations allow four overflows by year, a norm that was exceeded for eleven valves along the Saint-Charles.[2] The number of overflows was however much greater before 2002 and reached up to 50 per summer.[3] Between 2002 and 2006, during the renaturalisation works, 14 retention reservoirs of great size were built, but investments ranging between 2 and 6 million dollars will still be required to alleviate the problem, in part blamed on old constructions where the gutters are directly connected to the city's sanitary installations.[2]

Since 1979, the non-profit oriented organisation Fishing in town releases brook trout young into the river in order to facilitate its access to fishermen, specially young fishers.[4] In 2008, 25 000 trouts were planted, for a sum of 700 000 since the organisation's foundation.[4]



  1. ^ Commission de toponymie du Québec
  2. ^ a b c Normandin, Pierre-André, Les égouts dans la rivière — Les débordements des eaux usées dans la Saint-Charles sont trop fréquents, note le provincial, journal Le Soleil, 28 juillet 2008, p. 3
  3. ^ Normandin, Pierre-André, Débordements d'égoûts dans la Saint-Charles — Un bilan décevant, mais qui s'améliore, journal Le Soleil, 29 juillet 2008, p. 4.
  4. ^ a b Bellemare, André-A., La Saint-Charles:700 000 truites, journal Le Soleil, 8 mai 2008, p. S10.

External links and sources[edit]

Coordinates: 46°50′31″N 71°20′31″W / 46.842°N 71.342°W / 46.842; -71.342