The Grand River and its major tributaries - the Conestogo, Eramosa, Nith and Speed rivers - were designated Canadian Heritage Rivers in 1994. The designation recognizes the outstanding human heritage values and excellent recreational opportunities along the rivers. The designation carries no regulatory or legal authority or restrictions.
The Canadian Heritage River System was established in 1984 by the federal, provincial and territorial governments. The goal is to conserve and protect the best examples of Canadian river heritage, to give them national recognition and to encourage the public to enjoy and appreciate them.
The Grand River valley has been home to Native peoples for more than 10,000 years. The Six Nations and the Mississaugas have a strong presence to this day. In the 18th and 19th centuries, the region attracted waves of immigrants to its fertile lands: Scots and Irish in the north, Mennonites and Germans in the central area and United Empire Loyalists in the south. Others followed from around the world.
The area's rich history is reflected in the watershed's historic sites and artifacts: dams, mills, canals, unique bridges, historic homes and other features.
The Canadian Heritage River designation recognizes the countless recreational activities that the Grand River watershed offers such as:
In order to be designated a Heritage River, a designation document must be presented to the Canadian Heritage Rivers Board. The document describes a vision for how the river will be managed and includes a commitment to maintaining the river's human heritage, recreational or natural heritage values. The Grand Strategy was developed through an extensive public consultation process and was presented to the Canadian Heritage Rivers Board in 1994.
All actions proposed in the strategy were based on existing laws and regulations as well as respect for the rights of First Nations people, communities, private landowners and other stakeholders.
Yearly and ten-year monitoring reports are prepared by GRCA and submitted to the Canadian Heritage Rivers Board. This is to ensure that the river continues to maintain the values for which is was designated. The reports detail the state of the river's human heritage and recreational values.