Saint John River

Variant name of place

St. John's River

Geographic position

45°16′N 66°4′W


"Saint John River." Geo coordinates at

General note

The Saint John River, 418 miles long, arises in the province of Quebec and the US state of Maine, and runs along the western edge of the Canadian province of New Brunswick, emptying into the Bay of Fundy. Its harbor is deep and never freezes. While several Europeans entered the harbor in the 16th century, it was French explorers who arrived there on the feast day of St. John the Baptist in 1604 and named the river after the saint. The first permanent French settlement began on the east side of the harbor, now Portland Point. In the later 18th century, the city of Saint John developed at the river's mouth. For a short stretch, the Saint John River forms the boundary with the US. The river valley was home to several Indigenous peoples including the Wolastoqiyiks (Maliseets) who were pushed north with the arrival first, of French settlers, who spread Catholicism, and then English loyalists, fleeing from the American revolutionaries, who settled the town of Fredricton, 90 miles upriver. The river offered transport for logging and wooden ship building. Its most notable feature is "the Reversing Falls," a gorge near the mouth where the falls flow upstream when the immense tide of the Bay of Fundy sends salt water surging into it. This area became a focal point in Wheelock's "grand design" after he moved his School to Hanover, New Hampshire, which was much closer to Cananda. In 1771, Wheelock proposed sending the missionary David Avery on a tour of the River valley, and in 1772, he wrote that Governor Wentworth promised to send a ship to the River to bring back Native students for the Indian School to replace the Oneida students who left en masse in 1769.