What is a Watershed?
A watershed is the area of land that carries water after rain falls and snow melts through the soil, groundwater, wetlands, lakes and streams making its way into larger rivers and eventually an ocean.
The physical landscape, such as topography, geology, soils and ecosystems, form the natural characteristics of a watershed. Man-made landscapes, such as roads, cities, farms and industry, can affect the natural balance within a watershed.
We all live in a watershed.
What we do on the land impacts
the health of our watershed.
The North Saskatchewan River Watershed
The North Saskatchewan River watershed,
one of seven major watersheds in Alberta,
is a large and very diverse drainage area.
The watershed begins in the ice fields of Banff National Park and flows north easterly to the Alberta-Saskatchewan border. The watershed covers a diverse area of the province including alpine, foothills, boreal forest and parkland ecosystems.
In one day, people can travel
from towering mountains,
down through forested foothills,
around fens, bogs and marshes,
and along tributaries and lake shores.
They can drive past ranches and oil pump jacks, raft through an urban area of over a million people, pass through fields of grain and canola and watch the moon rise over prairie skies.
The North Saskatchewan River eventually joins the South Saskatchewan River near Prince Albert, Saskatchewan and travels across Saskatchewan and Manitoba before draining into the Hudson’s Bay. Saskatchewan River Basin Map
Did you Know?
- The North Saskatchewan River originates at the Saskatchewan Glacier in Banff National Park.
- The North Saskatchewan River flows northeasterly for over 1,000 kilometers before crossing the Alberta-Saskatchewan border.
- The North Saskatchewan watershed encompasses over 57,000 square kilometers of land within Alberta’s borders.
- About 11% of the total area of the watershed is made up of surface water bodies such as wetlands, riparian areas, lakes, streams and rivers.
- There are two man-made hydroelectric dams on the North Saskatchewan River system – the Bighorn Dam on the main stem and Brazeau Dam on the Brazeau River.
- The average annual discharge for the North Saskatchewan River is 7,510 million cubic meters with 90% of the volume being generated in the headwaters subwatersheds (Cline, Ram, Clearwater and Brazeau).
- Over 1.4 million people live in the North Saskatchewan River watershed – making it one of Alberta’s most populated watersheds.