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Hillsborough River

Splendid isolation

Original Mi’kmaq name: Elsetkook, meaning ‘running close by high rocks
Current official name: Hillsborough, after the British Earl of Hillsborough
Source: Groundwater springs in the centre of Prince Edward Island
Mouth: Northumberland Strait
Direction of flow: southwest
Length : 45 kilometres
Main Characteristic: Prince Edward Island’s passageway to the sea.

More on the Hillsborough River:

Hillsborough River:
Splendid isolation

From Away:
Charlottetown relies on world tourism

Country Cradle:
Birthplace of Canadian Confederation

Timeless Timber:
The original forest of Prince Edward Island

Tranquility Base:
How Islanders see themselves

The Hillsborough River is symbolic of Prince Edward Island itself. A river in miniature, its personality is formed by the mixing of Prince Edward Island's rich agricultural heritage with the inescapable presence of the sea.

Prince Edward Island was densely wooded with oak, maple, and giant white pine when it was the quiet domain of the Mi'kmaq natives. The natural harbour formed by the mouth of the Hillsborough River became the logging basin when the island's forests were stripped by early British settlers.

Half of the river's length is an ocean estuary in which fresh water and saltwater blend to create a rich marshland habitat for fish and birds. For three-quarters of its entire length, the level of the Hillsborough rises and falls under the influence of the ocean tides. Nowhere does the river empty directly into the sea. Instead, it dissolves softly into the seawater of Charlottetown Harbour.

Charlottetown nestles around its harbour like a colony of roosting seabirds. The city is often called the 'Cradle of Confederation.' It was here, in 1864, that the political leaders of all of the British colonies in North America met and planned a union to form a single, self-governing colony. The image of Canada's 'Fathers of Confederation' standing together in Charlottetown's Colonial Building has become a lasting symbol of Canada's first big step towards nationhood. Renamed, 'Province House,' the building continues to serve as the seat of Prince Edward Island's government.

Canada's smallest province is known as the 'Garden of the Gulf' because of its rich, red soil, moderate climate and, above all, its well-kept, beautiful farms that seem to come straight from a storybook. The island's fields are separated by hedgerows that provide a home for pheasant, rabbit, and fox. Many farms run down to wide beaches of fine sand decorated by long, lacy fringes of white ocean surf.

Agriculture, especially potato-growing, and tourism have become the mainstays of the island economy. Today the Hillsborough is valued for its history and its marshland habitat for waterfowl.

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