Mackenzie River, NWT, Yukon, British Columbia, Alberta, Saskatchewan
Mackenzie © Tessa Macintosh / WWF-Canada

Named Deh Cho, or "big river," by the Dene people, the Mackenzie River is one of the world's longest free flowing rivers, traveling 1,738 km north from Great Slave Lake to the Arctic Ocean. The river receives water from three provinces and two territories - water that ultimately replenishes the 50,000 lakes that make up the Mackenzie Delta, where the river meets the Beaufort Sea. Water flowing from the Mackenzie into the Arctic Ocean plays an important role in regulating ocean circulation and climate.

Threats: Many of the threats to environmental flows in the Mackenzie originate in its major upstream tributaries, the Athabasca and Peace Rivers. Large withdrawals from the Athabasca River for oil sands development pose threats to the health of downstream ecosystems in the Mackenzie watershed. The W.A.C. Bennett Dam on the Peace River is a major source of hydropower, but has significantly altered flow regimes in the watershed. Growing interest in new hydropower development in the Mackenzie watershed represents an emerging threat.

Climate change will continue to impact the Mackenzie's fragile ecosystem - a region that has already experienced an average temperature increase of 1.7°C over the past century, which is more than anywhere else in Canada.

Mackenzie Watershed

View Mackenzie River Report Card

Blue indicates a natural status; flows are not noticeably altered from the natural regime, and key species and ecosystems that depend on natural flows are generally healthy. The horizontal arrow indicates a steady forecast.
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View Mackenzie River Report Card