Rio Mackenzie: location, map, and all you need to know

Want to know all about the world’s rivers? How much do you know about the Temesis River in London or the Arauca River? Read this article to find out about the Mackenzie River in Canada.

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History of the Mackenzie River

Formerly known as Disappointment River, the Mackenzie River as it is known today is named in honour of the British explorer Alexander Mackenzie, who led major expeditions in the Canadian North and is considered one of the great explorers of North America, having travelled the entire length of the Mackenzie River with his expedition team in the 18th century.

Location and map of the Mackenzie River

The Mackenzie River is a long river that flows in a northerly, or more precisely northeasterly, direction and empties into the Beaufort Sea in the Arctic Ocean. It is the longest of all the rivers flowing towards the American Arctic, a river of respectable size that lives up to the magnitude of the North American rivers (see link Colorado River).

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The length of this river is about 1,800 kilometres, which is a long river if we consider other rivers such as the Thames in England, which is less than 400 kilometres long. If we also take into account that this river is part of the system that includes the Mackenzie, the Great Slave Lake, the Slave Lake and the Peace Lake, as well as Lake Williston and the Finlay, we are talking about a total length of more than 4,000 kilometres, 4,241 kilometres to be exact, which makes it the second longest river in North America after the Mississippi and the Missouri and the 12th longest river in the world.

Mackenzie River Basin

The basin of this huge river is 1,800,000 square kilometres, smaller than the basins of rivers such as the Nile, which are over 3,000,000 square kilometres.

Flow rate

Its flow rate is 9700 cubic metres per second and in addition to Slave Lake and Williston Lake, Lake Mackenzie drains a number of other lakes including; Athabasca, Great Bear Lake, Grouard, Hottah, Eileen, Artillery, Clinton-Colden la Martre, Indin, Buffalo, Claire, Cree, Black, Scott, Selwyn, Wollaston, Little Slave Lake, Utikuma, Nonacho, Aylmer and Lake Mackay.

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Mackenzie River tributaries

The main tributaries of the Mackenzie River are the following rivers and lakes which are named and described below:

  • On the right bank the Peel River
    On the right bank the Artic Red River
    On the right bank the Great Bear River
    On the right bank of Liard River
    South Nahanni, Fort Nelson and Petitot
    Great Slave Lake
    Also found here are the Hay River, Taltson River, Slave River, Peace River and Athabasca River.

Mackenzie River source and geography

The Mackenzie River rises in Great Slave Lake and flows through northeastern Canada, flowing from the southeast through Inuvik and Fort Smith. The headwaters of the Mackenzie River are the Liard River, the Peace River and the Athabasca River. These rivers water a region of forested plains in northeastern British Columbia and northern Alberta.

Passing the great Slave Lake, the Mackenzie River receives the above rivers as tributaries from the Canadian Shield on its right bank.

On its right bank, the rivers descending from the Rocky Mountains are its tributaries. The lakes known as Great Bear Lake and Lake Athabasca are also part of the system of lakes that feed the Mackenzie River.

Territories it flows through

The Mackenzie River flows through forested territory for most of its length, through boreal and sparsely populated coniferous forests inhabited by fur trappers, Eskimos and loggers.

Mackenzie River mouth

The Mackenzie River flows into the Arctic Ocean, but first it forms a delta in the Beaufort Sea between Alaska, Canada’s Northwest Territories and the Yukon.


From Fort Simpson and Norman Wells, many tourists flock to the banks of the Mackenzie River to enjoy the scenery and all of its natural features, such as the lush forests that are home to a rich local fauna. In certain parts of the river, the water flow is very fast, making rafting possible. A large number of birds such as the peregrine falcon, bald eagle and white crane pass through the area during their migration.

Rio Mackenzie

In this video you can watch the peregrine falcon migrate along the Mackenzie River.


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