Red River of the North

Red River of the North

Infobox River
river_name = Red River of the North

caption = The Red River drainage basin, with the Red River highlighted
origin = confluence of the Bois de Sioux River and Otter Tail River
mouth = Lake Winnipeg
basin_countries = United States, Canada
length = convert|550|mi|km|0|abbr=on
elevation =
mouth_elevation =
discharge =
watershed = km2 to mi2|287500|abbr=es|precision=0 [Cite web|url=|author=Atlas of Canada|title=Rivers of Canada|accessdate=2008-08-02]
The Red River ( _fr. rivière Rouge) is a North American river. Formed by the confluence of the Bois de Sioux and Otter Tail rivers in the United States, it flows northward through the Red River Valley and forms the border between the U.S. states of Minnesota and North Dakota before continuing into Manitoba, Canada. At its mouth the river flows into Lake Winnipeg. The Red River flows through several major urban areas along its path including Fargo-Moorhead and Greater Grand Forks in the United States and Winnipeg in Canada. The Red is about convert|550|mi|km|0 long. [ [ Red River of the North] , Minnsota DNR] The US portion is convert|395|mi|km|0 long and the Canadian portion is convert|155|mi|km|0. [ [ Red River Map 3] , Minnesota DNR; map shows the international border at river mile 155.] The river falls convert|70|m|ft|0 on its trip to Lake Winnipeg where it spreads into the vast deltaic wetland known as Netley Marsh. In the United States, the Red River is sometimes called the Red River of the North which helps to distinguish it from the other Red River which is a tributary of the Mississippi River that forms part of the border between Texas and Oklahoma. In Canada, the Red has been designated as a Canadian Heritage River.


Along its course, the Red River flows across the flat, fertile flood plain of the ancient glacial Lake Agassiz. The Red River forms at Wahpeton, North Dakota and Breckenridge, Minnesota, passes through Fargo, North Dakota/Moorhead, Minnesota and Grand Forks, North Dakota/East Grand Forks, Minnesota, and then continues on to the province of Manitoba in Canada. Manitoba's capital — Winnipeg — is at the Red's confluence with the Assiniboine River, at a point commonly referred to as The Forks. The Red then flows further north before draining into Lake Winnipeg which is part of the Hudson Bay watershed.


Originally part of Rupert's Land, the Red was a key river in the early settlement of Canada, a centre of the fur trade and the Métis people, and the site of the Red River Colony — the primary settlement of which eventually became Winnipeg, Manitoba.

The River is well known for flooding in spring due to snow runoff, and has been a topic of "paleoflood" study. [ [ Paleofloods in the Red River Basin] ] Although only three major floods are generally talked about since Europeans have settled in the area, in 1826, 1950 and 1997, there have been many other floods of equal size and even larger ones that can be studied due to their effects on the local landforms. [ [ Major Historical Floods in the Red River Basin] ]

1950 flood

On May 8, 1950 the Red River reached its highest level since 1861. Eight dikes protecting Winnipeg gave way and flooded much of the city, turning convert|600|sqmi|km2|0 of farmland into an enormous lake. The city turned to the Canadian Army and the Red Cross for help, and nearly 70,000 people were evacuated from their homes and businesses (which was one of the largest in Canadian history). Four of eleven bridges in the city were destroyed, and damage was estimated at between $600 million and $1 billion.

As a result of the floods, a flood control project was started to ensure the same would never happen again. The Red River Floodway was cause for some derision at the time, as it seemed massively overbuilt and was the largest earth-moving project in the world at the time. The project was completed under-budget, and has been used for at least some flood control twenty times in the thirty-seven years from its completion to 2006. The Floodway has saved an estimated $10 billion (CAD) in flood damages.

1997 flood

In April 1997, the Red River rapidly swelled and eventually caused widespread flooding. Damages to the city of Grand Forks, North Dakota totaled US$2 billion and resulted in the largest civilian evacuation in the United States since the burning of Atlanta during the Civil War. [ [ Information about 1997 evacutaion of Grand Forks] - Knight Foundation] In Winnipeg, the Floodway diverted most of the floodwaters around the city, although the surrounding area and some parts of the city were flooded, causing C$500 million in damage. In April 2006, another large flood caused the Gretna, Manitoba border crossing to close as the water levels rose considerably.

The Red River Floodway is now under expansion and is slated for late 2010 at a final cost of more than $665,000,000 CAD.

ee also

*Red River Valley
*Red River Floodway
*Red River Settlement


External links

* [ Canadian Council for Geographic Education page with a series of articles on the history of the Red River] .
* [ Geological Survey of Canada page describing the nature and history of Red River floods] .
* [ Minnesota DNR Red River website]

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