A travel route and dwelling site for over 12,000 years, the Canadian River supported stone and adobe Indian villages from the 12th to the 14th Centuries.Recorded Texas Historic Landmark
This waterway was also one of the first interior rivers of the U.S. known to early explorers. Coronado, coming from Mexico, crossed the Canadian in 1541 in his search for the famed city of Quivira. Juan de Onate, also seeking Quivira, saw the river in 1601. The Canadian traders Pierre and Paul Mallet followed it in 1741. Josiah Gregg, famous Missouri trader, took $25,000 worth of goods to Santa Fe along the river trails in 1839. Gold seekers bound for California were escorted along the trails in 1849 by Army Captain R.B. Marcy.
During its history, the river has borne many names. The origin of the word "Canadian" is disputed. A possible source is the Caddo word "Kanohatino", which means "Red River". Some think it was named by the French-Canadians who traveled it in the 1700s, while others believe the river is called "Canadian" because it rises in a "canyon" (from the Spanish word meaning "boxed-in").
Beginning near the Colorado-New Mexico line in the Sangre de Cristo Mountains, the Canadian flows 900 miles. Its course runs southeast, then east until it finally joins the Arkansas 36 miles from Fort Smith.