British Columbia Heritage Rivers Program


British Columbians take pride in their rivers! Few places on earth can boast such a rich endowment of healthy, free-flowing water. Established in 1995, the BC Heritage Rivers System (BCHRS) is the first provincial system of its kind in Canada, and helps to promote stewardship of this natural legacy for all British Columbians.

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The BC Heritage Rivers System showcases outstanding examples of a representative range of our most important waterways. While all rivers require sound stewardship, some rivers deserve special recognition. Heritage status gives these rivers a greater public profile and focus. Heritage Rivers represent the diversity of river landscapes in terms of their natural characteristics, their historical and cultural importance to the human story of the province, and the spectrum of recreational opportunities they support.

What Does Heritage Status Mean?

A Heritage River proclamation does not carry legal or regulatory power. Rather, the designation serves each river by:

  • providing a greater emphasis on river-related values during land-use planning processes,
  • raising awareness of the importance of healthy river systems,
  • helping to protect the special values of the river, and
  • helping to build stronger public support for, and involvement in, stewardship of the river.

Criteria for Selection

Selection criteria focused on a combination of natural, cultural, and recreational values. Each of the 20 designated rivers represents a unique combination of some or all of the selection criteria:

  • Natural Heritage Values
    • Physical examples of evolutionary processes, and/or ecosystems or species of particular interest.
  • Cultural Heritage Values
    • Influential role in the historical development of BC
    • Significant to traditional territories or lifestyles of First Nations.
    • Associated with people, events, movements, ideas, or beliefs of significance to the cultural heritage of people today.
  • Recreational Values
    • Supports recreational activity, and is accessible to a large and diverse group of recreationists.
    • Provides a high-quality recreational experience.
  • Selection Guidelines
    In addition to the selection criteria, candidate rivers were also evaluated according to the following guidelines.
    • Public support for the river from a variety of interests.
    • First Nations relationship to the river.
    • Integration of resource management around the river.
    • Balance of regional representation in the provincial system.
    • Contributes to a diversity of river types represented in the system.
    • Balance of natural history, human history, and recreational values.
    • Ability to recognize a river from source to mouth.
    • Potential to achieve the stated vision for the river.

BCHRS Mandate

The BC Heritage Rivers System was established by the British Columbia government with leadership and financial support from the Ministry of Environment, Lands and Parks and the Ministry of Forests.

During the period from 1995 and 2000, a government appointed BC Heritage Rivers Board recommended 20 rivers as BC Heritage Rivers, of which five were recommended for nomination to the Canadian Heritage River System. Their work stimulated public interest in river stewardship.

The Board has accomplished its task, having nominated 20 rivers that have been proclaimed as BC Heritage Rivers. Also, the profile of rivers has been raised around the province with a heightened recognition of the role of rivers in sound ecological systems planning.

The designation of each BC Heritage River set a vision for the relationship between the river and people. The continuing role of the BC Heritage Rivers program is to encourage community-based stewardship, to provide a model for outreach and participation and to reflect the vision for each river as we move into the future.

List of the Heritage Rivers

The system has grown rapidly, with 20 rivers now proclaimed by the BC Government. Following is a list of the rivers and the year each was proclaimed.
1996 Adams River; Babine River; Blackwater River; Cowichan River; Fraser River; Skagit River; Stikine River
1997 Atnarko River; Bella Coola River; Kechika River; Kettle River

Alouette River; Columbia River; Middle River; Mission Creek; Peace River; Prophet River; Stuart River

1999 Campbell River; Horsefly River



The following reports are available for downloading. They provide a detailed background on BC Heritage Rivers and how the system has developed.

  • What's In It For The River? (252 KB PDF)
    A 1993 advisory committee report to the BC Government, outlining the benefits of BC joining the Canadian Heritage Rivers System. This early report also suggests adopting a provincial system of heritage rivers.
  • Annual Reports
    The BC Heritage Rivers Board has produced the following annual reports dealing with the activities of the Board and presenting the river nominations for that year.
    • 1995 Annual Report (275 KB PDF)
      British Columbia's Heritage Rivers: Inaugural candidates for a provincial system.
    • 1996 Annual Report (288 KB PDF)
      British Columbia's Heritage Rivers: Candidates for a provincial system.
    • 1997 Annual Report (307 KB PDF)
      Candidate Heritage Rivers: A report of the British Columbia Heritage Rivers Board.
    • 1999 Annual Report (274 KB PDF)
      British Columbia's Heritage Rivers: A report of the British Columbia Heritage Rivers Board (Final Report).
  • Government Response Documents
    When the BC Heritage Rivers Board nominated rivers to the system, government reviewed those nominations and responded to the Board publicly through the release of another document. These documents outline the position of the government with respect to the Board's nominations and reflect the accepted vision and management guidelines for those rivers recognized within the BC Heritage Rivers System.
    • 1996 Response (155 KB PDF)
      BC's First Heritage Rivers: Government's response to the BC Heritage Rivers Board's (1995) Nominations.
    • 1997 Response (150 KB PDF)
      Government's response to the BC Heritage Rivers Board's (1996) Nominations.
    • 1998 Response (211 KB PDF)
      Government's response to the BC Heritage Rivers Board's (1997) Nominations.
    • 2000 Response (256 KB PDF)
      Government's response to the BC Heritage Rivers Board's (1999) Nominations.


During the active nomination period, the BC Heritage Rivers Board produced a newsletter called the Heritage Rivers Bulletin. The following issues were produced and are available here for downloading.

Page Last Updated: January 21, 2010