Mackenzie River

2007 Schools Wikipedia Selection. Related subjects: North American Geography

The lower Mackenzie River at the end of August. Source: NASA.
The lower Mackenzie River at the end of August. Source: NASA.
Origin Great Slave Lake, in Northwest Territories
Mouth Arctic Ocean
Basin countries Canada
Length 1,738 km (1,079 mi) without headstreams, 4,241 km (2,634 mi) with headstreams
Avg. discharge 9,700 cubic metres per second
Approximate extent of the Mackenzie River watershed
Approximate extent of the Mackenzie River watershed

The Mackenzie River (French: Fleuve Mackenzie) originates in Great Slave Lake, in the Northwest Territories, and flows north into the Arctic Ocean. It is the longest river in Canada at 1,738 km and, together with its headstreams the Peace and the Finlay, the second longest river in North America at 4,241 km in length; only the Mississippi-Missouri is longer. The Mackenzie and its tributaries drain 1,805,200 square kilometers. Its mean discharge is 9,700 cubic metres per second.

The large marshy delta of the Mackenzie River provides habitat for migrating Snow Geese, Tundra Swans, and Brant as well as breeding habitat for other waterfowl. The estuary is a calving area for Beluga whales.

The river is navigable for approximately five months of the year. It freezes over in October and the ice on the river breaks up in May. During the winter months, sections of the river are used as an ice road.

During the ice-free period the river is navigable over its entire length. Barge traffic from an intermodal hub at the railhead at Hay River serves much of the Western Arctic.

The Mackenzie (previously Disappointment River) was named after Alexander Mackenzie who travelled the river while trying to reach the Pacific Ocean. In the Dene languages it is called Deh Cho.

The divide between the Mackenzie basin and the basin of the Yukon River to the west forms the central portion of the boundary between Northwest Territories and the Yukon.

Lakes and tributaries

The Mackenzie River system includes:

  • Great Bear Lake
  • Great Slave Lake
  • Lake Athabasca

and the following rivers:

  • Arctic Red
  • Athabasca
  • Finlay
  • Fond du Lac
  • Fort Nelson
  • Hay
  • Liard
  • Parsnip
  • Peace
  • Peel
  • Pembina
  • Petitot
  • Slave
  • Smoky
  • South Nahanni

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