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Grand River
GPLed Grand River.png
A map of the Grand River's course
Origin Near Dundalk, Ontario
Mouth Lake Erie at Port Maitland
Basin countries Canada
Length 280 km [1]
Source elevation 525 m [2]
Mouth elevation 174 m [3]
For other rivers of the same name, please see Grand River.

The Grand River is a large river in southwestern Ontario, Canada. From its source, it flows south through Grand Valley, Fergus, Elora, Waterloo, Kitchener, Cambridge, Paris, Brantford, Caledonia, and Cayuga before emptying into the north shore of Lake Erie south of Dunnville at Port Maitland. One of the scenic and spectacular features of the river is the falls and gorge at Elora.

The Grand River is the largest river entirely within southern Ontario's boundaries. The river owes its size to the unusual fact that it has its source relatively close to the base of the Bruce Peninsula, yet flows southwards to Lake Erie, rather than to central Lake Huron or Georgian Bay (most southern Ontario rivers flow into the nearest Great Lake, which is why most of them are small), thus giving it more distance to take in more water from tributaries.

The river's rural character, ease of access and lack of portages make it a desirable canoeing location, especially the stretch between West Montrose and Paris, Ontario. A number of conservation areas exist in the area of the river, managed by the Grand River Conservation Authority.

The Grand Valley Trail stretches 275 km along the river's valley between the town of Dundalk and Lake Erie.

The river was named Grande Rivière by the French during the 18th century. It was later renamed Ouse River by John Graves Simcoe for the River Great Ouse near his childhood home in Lincolnshire. The anglicized form of the French name has remained in common use.



A north east view of the Grand River from Dufferin County Road 2 near Dundalk Ontario.
A north east view of the Grand River at Port Maitland, Ontario.

The Grand River watershed consists of all the land that drains into the Grand River through tributary creeks and rivers such as the Conestogo, Speed, Eramosa and Nith rivers. The Grand River has Southern Ontario's largest watershed.

Because a watershed is an ecosystem with natural borders, it includes and crosses many municipal boundaries. Its headwaters are near Dundalk in the north. The Grand River flows south south east.

Luther Marsh, a 52-square-kilometre wetland on the upper Grand, is one of the largest inland wetlands in southern Ontario and provides habitat for waterfowl, including Least Bittern and Black Tern, and amphibians. It is also an important staging area during migration.

The watershed (7000 square kilometers or 2600 square miles) has been recognized by the designation of the Grand as a Canadian Heritage River.


Pre-Laurentide hydrology

Prior to the most recent glaciation—the Laurentide -- an earlier river flowed through a gorge roughly parallel to the current Grand River.[1] Evidence of the "buried gorge" of the previous river has been found when wells have been dug. Rather than finding water-bearing bedrock at a depth of a dozen metres or less, the path of the buried gorge can be found with overburden of dozens of metres.

Plaque by the river bank in Cambridge, Ontario, written in English, Mohawk, and French
The Grand River in Cambridge in 2005
The Grand River in Paris, Ontario


During the 16th and 17th centuries, the Grand River valley was inhabited by the Iroquoian- speaking Attawandaron nation. They were later given the name "Neutral Nation" by European settlers, as they refused to side with either the French or the English during their conflicts in the area.

The Wyandot, another distinct Iroquoian-speaking nation, who resided northeast of the Grand River valley, had long competed to remain independent of their enemy the Iroquois Confederacy. The latter were a powerful alliance of five nations in the present New York state area. Caught in between, the Neutrals paid dearly for their refusal to ally. Historical accounts differ on exactly how the Neutral tribe was wiped out. The consensus is that the Seneca and the Mohawk nations of the Iroquois destroyed the smaller Neutral tribe in the 17th century, in the course of attacking and severely crippling the Huron/Wyandot. The Iroquois were seeking to dominate the lucrative fur trade with the Europeans. It was during this warfare that the Iroquois attacked the famous Sainte-Marie among the Hurons Jesuit outpost. The Jesuits abandoned the mission after many Wyandot and numerous priests were killed.

To survive, remnants of The Neutral tribe migrated in 1667 to La Prairie (Caughnawaga or Kahnawake) just south of Montreal.[citation needed] In 1674 there were still identifiable groups of Neutrals among its population.[citation needed] It can be presumed that many of their descendants are still living there today. In later wars between Britain and France, the Caughnawaga people, many of whom had converted to Catholicism, were allies of the French. The Iroquois League in New York was neutral or sided with the British. Because they were on different sides, it was difficult for the Iroquois to adhere to the Great Law of Peace and avoid killing each other. They managed to avoid this until the American Revolution (1775–83).

Other descendants of the Neutrals may have joined the Mingo, a loose confederacy of peoples who moved west in the 1720s, fleeing lands invaded by Iroquois, and settled in present-day Ohio. The Mingo were among tribes who later fought the Americans in the Northwest Indian Wars for the Ohio Valley (1774–95). During the 1840s, they were among the tribes removed to Oklahoma and Indian Territory west of the Mississippi River. Neutral descendants are among the people now known as the Seneca in Oklahoma.

After the desolation of the Neutral tribe, the Iroquois Confederacy used the Grand River Valley as a hunting and trapping territory. Though the Six Nations (by then including the Tuscarora), conquered the territory, they did not settle it, apart from a limited presence on the northern and western shores of Lake Ontario.

When the French explorers and Coureur des bois came to the region in search of fur and other items of value to Europeans, the Grand River Valley was among the last areas of southern Ontario to be explored. Since the French worked closely with their Native allies in the acquisition of fur, they only went where the natives resided. Even after the English conquered New France in 1760, the Grand River Valley remained unoccupied[citation needed] and still largely uncharted.

Six Nations of the Grand River

Apart from large numbers of Tuscarora and Oneida who allied with the American colonists, the Iroquois Confederacy sided with the British during the American War of Independence. They were unwelcome in the newly created nation. After the war, Six Nations leader Joseph Brant appealed to the British Crown for help, as they had promised aid for allies. In gratitude for their assistance during the war, the Crown awarded the Iroquois land in Upper Canada. Brant lead those who journeyed to Upper Canada. They first settled at what is present-day Brantford, where Brant crossed, or ‘forded’ the river. It was also called Brant's Town. Not all members of the Six Nations moved north. Remnants of the past confederacy live today throughout New York state, some on reservations.

In 1784 the British Crown awarded to the Six Nations the "Haldimand Tract" [2], a tract of land "six miles deep from each side of the river beginning at Lake Erie and extending in that proportion to the [source] of the said river."[3] Much of this land was later sold or otherwise lost to the Six Nations. A portion of this tract near Caledonia, Ontario is the basis for the 2006 Caledonia land dispute. The Six Nations reserve south of Brantford, Ontario is what remains of the Haldimand Tract. Throughout the 19th century, many Anglo-Canadian settlements appeared along the Grand within former Six Nations territory, including Waterloo, Berlin (now Kitchener), Cambridge, Paris, Brantford, Caledonia, Dunnville and Port Maitland.

After the American War of Independence, the Crown purchased land from the Mississauga in Upper Canada to award as grants to Loyalist refugees as compensation for their property losses in the colonies. Loyalists from New York, New England and the South were settled in this area, as the Crown hoped they would create new towns and farms on the frontier. In the 19th century, many new immigrants came to Upper Canada from England, Scotland and Ireland seeking opportunity. Settlements were popping up all over Southern Ontario, and many had their eye on the prize Grand River Valley.

See also


  1. ^ John P. Greenhouse. "The other Elora Gorge - Ancient gorge causes frustrations for well diggers". University of Waterloo. Retrieved 2008-03-11. 
  2. ^ A Map: the Six Nations' opinion of the location of the disputed 1784 Haldimand Tract,
  3. ^ Charles M. Johnston, ed (1964). The Valley Of The Six Nations. The Champlain Society For The Government of Ontario, University of Toronto Press. pp. 50–51. 

External links

Coordinates: 42°51′19″N 79°34′40″W / 42.85528°N 79.57778°W / 42.85528; -79.57778


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