The Detroit River is unique in Canada, the United States and indeed, the world. Its shores embrace the largest metropolitan area on any international border - but rather than separating communities, the river connects them culturally and economically.
Archaeological finds date First Nations communities at the river as early as 400 A.D. while French settlers reached the area by the mid-1600's. The river and its watersheds represent the history of North America in a way that is not duplicated anywhere else. Local communities, major industries, and both Canada and the United States owe their development, in part, to the Detroit River and the people who took advantage of its potential. The river was the site of major battles, was the first permanent agricultural community in Ontario, and a terminus of the Underground Railway.
Today, the Detroit River is one of the premier boating areas in North America, with more than 12,000 marina slips. The riverfront offers extensive park systems, outstanding recreational opportunities and historic sites, bird watching, canoeing and one of the finest urban fisheries in North America. This 51 kilometre waterway is the busiest international border crossing point in North America and a key transportation route in the Great Lakes system. It is the only major Canadian river and watershed that lies completely within the Carolinian zone, featuring diverse ecosystems and rare species found nowhere else in this country.
Honoured as an American Heritage River in 1998, the Detroit is the first river with dual designations. Designation of the Detroit as a Canadian Heritage River encourages binational cooperation in its wise management and environmental restoration and is a testament to its significance as a national treasure.