St. Croix River

Location: Saint Stephen, New Brunswick
Region: Outside Ontario
Character: Heritage River

St. Croix River
By The Canadian Heritage Rivers System

Currents of History

The St. Croix flows placidly and tumultuously through the rolling Appalachian Hills on a journey from the Chiputneticook Lakes to the tidewaters of Passamaquoddy Bay, where in 1604 Samuel de Champlain established the first European settlement in North America north of Florida. Native peoples, Acadian settlers, British Loyalists, logs floating to mill and shipyard, canoeists, fishermen - its waters have carried them all past unbroken forest, murmuring rapids, and shimmering lakes to the craggy shores of the estuary. Paddle and fish its sparkling waters under the watchful gaze of bald eagles and ospreys, relax in the serenity of its historic towns, feel the currents and tides of history flow.

Forming 185 km of the Canada-United States border between southwestern New Brunswick and northeastern Maine, the St. Croix River is a beautiful example of an eastern Canadian maritime river. Easily accessible from major urban centres in the Maritime provinces as well as the U.S. northeastern seaboard, the St. Croix offers visitors a fascinating variety of historical and natural points of interest, and a range of river touring experiences appealing to canoeists from novice to expert.

The St. Croix River is expected to play an important role in the Canadian Heritage Rivers System. It contains features typical of the development of Atlantic Canada's geological and natural history, and of native cultures and early European settlement. But more than this, the St. Croix offers excellent opportunities for canoeing and camping, for lake and river fishing and boating, for river touring by families and groups, and for more skilled whitewater canoeists. All this is found in an exceptionally beautiful, yet near-urban natural river environment.

The St. Croix River has been a natural, cultural and political boundary between Canada and the United States for many generations. Due to its strategic location, the river has played a unique role in the history of Maritime Canada and is still important for these reasons today. Its fascinating natural and historical resources can be viewed and visited within an easy day's drive from all major population centres of New Brunswick and from many in the northeastern United States.

The St. Croix River corridor is made up of two distinct geographic zones - an extensive system of lakes forming the river's headwaters and, downstream, the river itself. The entire St. Croix River basin is a blend of rolling wooded hills, extensive marshes and lakes, granite outcrops and glacial deposits. The combination of the river's strategic location, history, natural beauty and recreational potential give it special potential as a destination area for visitors from Canada, the United States and abroad .

Natural Heritage
Many of the natural processes which have shaped Atlantic Canada's geology and natural history over the past 400 million years are evident along the St. Croix. With its rocky tidal estuary, craggy narrow shorelines, open lakes, floodplains, marshes and bogs, the river provides a unique habitat for many plant and animal species. Major natural heritage features associated with the St. Croix River are:

- rock formations with readily visible signs of uplifting, folding, and faulting and of the ffects of glaciation on re-shaping the landscape;
- provincially significant fossil deposits at Sand Point;
- thirteen plant species known to be rare in this area, such as the cardinal flower, high bush lueberry and viburnum;
- the endangered bald eagle and more abundant osprey which can be frequently sighted; and
- a beautiful maritime river landscape with thick wooded areas, open lakes, narrow river corridors and a large tidal estuary.

Human Heritage
The St. Croix played an important role in Canadian history in both the periods before European exploration and settlement, and after. Among its many points of historical interest are:

- important archaeological sites showing evidence of 4,000 years of settlement by native cultures such as the Susquahanna Indians, and the first evidence of the Meadowood Culture found in Atlantic Canada;
- the International Historic Site of St. Croix Island where in 1604 the explorers Sieur de Monts and Samuel de Champlain landed and established the first European settlement in North America north of Florida;
- the St. Croix's role as a political boundary, which dates from 1621 when it separated the English and Acadian settlements;
- evidence of the river's importance as a waterway for the 19th and early 20th century lumber industry; and
- the area's role in the development of the railways, as seen in the McAdam Railway Station which was built in 1900 by the Canadian Pacific Railway and is now a National Historic Site.

The St. Croix River provides many outstanding recreational opportunities. In 1982, it received special recognition and protection by a New Brunswick Order-in-Council declaring it the St. Croix Waterway Recreation Area. In the same year, the Maine Department of Conservation, in cooperation with the U.S. National Parks Service, conducted a comprehensive assessment of Maine's river resources, which came to be known as the Maine Rivers Study. The Maine Rivers Study classifies the St. Croix River as an 'A' river, and the Maine Rivers Act singled it out for special consideration due to its status as an international boundary.

Its designation as a Canadian Heritage River in 1991 was based in large part on the wide variety of recreational uses which it provides:

- touring by canoe for paddlers of all skill levels on lakes and navigable whitewater rapids;
- excellent fishing, particularly for land-locked salmon and small-mouth bass;
- camping at provincial campgrounds and at primitive campsites along certain canoe routes;
- viewing of wildlife and nature;
- hiking and backpacking;
- cross country skiing, snowshoeing, and winter camping; and
- visiting the area's national and provincial historic sites for an appreciation of the important contribution of the St. Croix to pre-European and historical development in Atlantic Canada

Visitor Information
Accommodation and Services: Supplies, services and overnight accommodation are available in numerous communities along the major access routes in southwestern New Brunswick and north-eastern Maine. Accommodation is available in hotels and motels in St. Andrews, St. Stephen, McAdam, St. Croix, Robbinston and Calais, and in lodges at Loon Bay, Palfrey Lake, North Lake, Grand Lake and Skiff Lake. Private and provincial campsites are found throughout the area.

Canoeing: The St. Croix River corridor provides the opportunity for several short paddles and three fairly extensive canoe trips, two of which may be safely run by those with a minimum of white-water experience. Due to the relatively easy paddling conditions and virtual absence of hazards, the river is especially appealing to family groups. The three longer canoe trips are: a 66 km St. Croix headwaters trip beginning at North Lake Provincial Park, with its fine campground, and ending at the town of St. Croix, rated as excellent for intermediate skill level canoeists; a 66 km St. Croix River trip from the town of St. Croix to Grand Falls, rated as good for intermediate canoeists; and, a 21 km North Brook trip rated as good for intermediate to experienced canoeists, although requiring at least two portages between Third Lake and Wauklehegan Lake. While the entire St. Croix River can be run to Grand Falls, the Little Falls section should only be attempted by intermediate to experienced paddlers. The 30 km below Grand Falls to St. Stephen is also navigable.

Camping: There are three large campgrounds located in the river area: North Lake Provincial Park with 60 developed campsites, Spednic Lake Provincial Park with 36 primitive campsites, and the Oak Bay Provincial Campground, 8 km from St. Stephen, with 111 developed campsites. There are additional private campgrounds on Grand Lake and a number of primitive campsites along the lakes and river.

Fishing: There is excellent game fishing in the St. Croix River and surrounding lakes for smallmouth bass, land-locked salmon, lake trout, perch, chain pickerel and brook trout. Southwest New Brunswick is regarded as one of the best smallmouth bass fishing areas in North America. There is flounder fishing and recreational scallop diving in the tidal area of the river, south of St. Stephen to Passamaquoddy Bay. For more information on fishing write to the Department of Natural Resources and Energy, P.O. Box 6000, Fredericton, New Brunswick E3B 5H1.

Access: The St. Croix River may be reached from the Trans-Canada Highway by Route 122 in the north, and Routes 4 and 630 to the south. From U.S. Interstate Highway 1-95, the river is accessible via Maine Routes 1, 6 and 9. Access to the water is available at 11 lake sites and 8 river sites. For visitors from the U.S., customs services are provided at border crossings at St. Croix, Fosterville, Forest City and St. Stephen. Since the St. Croix is an international river, it is strongly recommended that all canoeists intending a trip on the St. Croix contact their respective custom services for information and advice on pertinent regulations and restrictions.

Topographical Maps: The St. Croix River corridor is covered at the 1:50,000 scale by six maps in the National Topographic Series: 21G, numbers 3, 6, 11, 12, 13 and 14. These may be obtained from the Canada Map Office, 615 Booth Street, Ottawa, Ont., KIA OE9, Tel: (613) 952-7000 or from the Department of Natural Resources and Energy, Room 575, Centennial Building, Fredericton, New Brunswick. A canoe map on the St. Croix River is now available from the Department of Tourism, Recreation and Heritage, as well as the St. Croix International Waterway Commission.

Further Information
Services, Permits and Regulations : Member for New Brunswick, Canadian Heritage Rivers Board, c/o Miramichi Environmental Assessment Committee. P.O. Box 8, City of Miramichi, NB, E1N 3A5, and Maine Rivers Coordinator, Maine Rivers Act, Maine Department of Conservation, 22 State House Station, Augusta, Maine, 04333.

Tourist Information: Accommodation, Outfitters and Guides : Tourism New Brunswick, P.O. Box 12345, Woodstock, New Brunswick, Canada, E0J 1B0; www.tourismnewbrunswick

Maine Tourism Association, P.O. Box 2300, 325B Water St., Hallowell, Maine, 04347;

St. Croix River information for paddlers:
Maine Rivers is an independent organization whose mission is to protect, restore and enhance the health and vitality of Maine's Rivers. Contact information: 3 Wade Street, Augusta, Maine 04330-6351,
Executive Director , Naomi Schalit, Phone: 207-622-3101 ext. 219
Fax: 207-622-4343 , Email:, ,

St. Croix Heritage Programs : St. Croix International Waterway Commission, #8 Highway 1, St. Stephen, New Brunswick, E3L 2Y7;

Canadian Heritage Rivers System : National Manager, Canadian Heritage Rivers System, c/o Parks Canada, Ottawa, Canada K1A 0M5. Tel. (819) 994-2913, Fax (819) 997-0835. E-mail address:

Check out "" for information on St. Croix Island International Historic Site, the location of the first French settlement in North America and "" for information on the largest community on the St. Croix

"The St. Croix River, New Brunswick: A Decade in the Canadian Heritage Rivers System, 1991-2000", available from the NB Board member (see "Contact us")