Saint Lawrence River

Cruise along the St Lawrence River between Canada and the USA for great port visits

About The Saint Lawrence River

French navigator Jacques Cartier, the first European explorer to discover the St. Lawrence River, gave the river its name to celebrate arriving on the feast day of St. Lawrence.
The St. Lawrence begins at the outflow of Lake Ontario and flows 1,900 miles before draining into the Gulf of St. Lawrence, the largest estuary in the world. Running in roughly northeasterly direction, the river connects the Great Lakes with the Atlantic Ocean and is part of the international boundary between Ontario, Canada, and the U.S. state of New York.
The basis of the commercial Saint Lawrence Seaway, the St. Lawrence has long been in important route for trade and travel. The majority of cruising is through Northeastern Canada, home to historic ports of call like Montreal, Quebec City, and Trois-Rivieres, as well as a wealth of dramatic scenery, with rocky cliff bluffs, shorebirds, whales, and colorful native cultures to be explored.
There are lots of options for cruising the St. Lawrence, from larger cruise ships like Holland America, Crystal Cruises, Seabourn, and Silverseas, to international cruise lines like Fred. Olsen and U.S.-based small ships like Blount Small Ship Adventures, Saint Lawrence Cruise Lines, and Pearl Seas. June through October is generally the best time to go, with mild temperatures and summer festivals underway. Fall foliage enthusiasts won’t want to miss this region in October!

Saint Lawrence River Stats

Length: 310 miles
Depth: Up to 250 feet near its mouth
Source: Lake Ontario of the Great Lakes, United States of America & Canada
Mouth: Gulf of Saint Lawrence, Atlantic Ocean, near Quebec City, Quebec, Canada
Locks: 15
Countries: United States of America | Canada

Learn More About the Saint Lawrence River of North America

The Saint Lawrence River, known as “Fleuve Saint-Laurent” in French, is one of North America’s most significant and majestic waterways. Stretching approximately 1,197 kilometers (744 miles) from Lake Ontario to the Gulf of Saint Lawrence, it forms a crucial part of the international border between Canada and the United States, as well as serving as a lifeline for both regions. This iconic river has played a pivotal role in the history, economy, and ecology of the North American continent, and its significance continues to resonate to this day.


Geography and Formation

The Saint Lawrence River’s journey begins at Lake Ontario, one of the five Great Lakes of North America. It serves as the primary outlet for these massive freshwater bodies. Flowing northeastward, the river gradually widens and deepens, ultimately reaching its widest point at the Gulf of Saint Lawrence, which opens into the North Atlantic Ocean. Along its course, the Saint Lawrence is punctuated by various islands, including the Thousand Islands archipelago, providing breathtaking scenery for visitors and locals alike.


Historical Significance

The Saint Lawrence River has a rich history that dates back to the Indigenous peoples who first inhabited the region. These native communities relied on the river for sustenance and transportation, and their influence is still felt today through cultural and archaeological remnants. When European explorers like Jacques Cartier arrived in the 16th century, the river played a pivotal role in their quests to navigate the New World. Later, the river became a critical trade route, allowing fur traders and settlers to access the interior of North America. The city of Quebec, founded in 1608, stands as a testament to the river’s historical importance.


Economic Engine

Today, the Saint Lawrence River remains an economic powerhouse. Its waters are navigable for a significant portion of the year, allowing for the transportation of goods between the Great Lakes region and the Atlantic Ocean. The Saint Lawrence Seaway, a system of locks, canals, and channels, has facilitated this maritime traffic since its completion in the mid-20th century. The seaway is vital for the transportation of goods such as iron ore, grain, petroleum products, and machinery, making it a cornerstone of North America’s economy.


Ecological Diversity

The Saint Lawrence River basin is home to a diverse range of ecosystems and wildlife. Its waters support various species of fish, including Atlantic salmon, sturgeon, and numerous freshwater species. The river’s estuary, where freshwater meets the saltwater of the Atlantic, is a critical habitat for many species of marine life, including whales, seals, and seabirds. Efforts to protect and conserve these ecosystems are ongoing, given the river’s ecological importance.


Recreational and Cultural Hub

The Saint Lawrence River is not only an economic and ecological marvel but also a recreational and cultural hub. Its picturesque landscapes, from the serene beauty of the Thousand Islands to the vibrant cities along its banks, attract tourists, boaters, and nature enthusiasts from around the world. Communities along the river celebrate their heritage through festivals, art, and cuisine, creating a rich tapestry of cultural experiences.


Challenges and Conservation

While the Saint Lawrence River has brought prosperity and beauty to the region, it also faces several challenges. Pollution, invasive species, and habitat destruction have threatened its delicate ecosystems. Efforts are ongoing to mitigate these issues and ensure the river’s long-term health. Additionally, the changing climate poses a risk to the region, with rising water levels and increased storm intensity requiring adaptive strategies to protect communities and infrastructure.


The Saint Lawrence River stands as a symbol of nature’s beauty, human ingenuity, and historical significance. Its role as an economic lifeline, a cultural treasure, and an ecological marvel cannot be overstated. As we continue to navigate the challenges of the modern world, it is imperative that we cherish and protect this majestic waterway for future generations to enjoy and benefit from its many gifts.

Your St Lawrence River Cruise Awaits!

Are you ready to start planning your Saint Lawrence River Cruise Vacation Your Way? A River Cruise Artist at River Cruise Your Way is ready to be your vacation concierge. Contact us today at 1-800-259-7612 or use the form below and let us know when it is most convenient to call you, we will confirm via e-mail, and then reach out at the agreed upon time and date.