The Annapolis River starts in the northeastern end of the Annapolis Valley and flows southwest over 80 kilometers (km), swelling into the Annapolis Basin before emptying into the Bay of Fundy. It drains over 2000 sq. km of land and has an average discharge of more than one cubic km per year.
The river lies in a region known for its agriculture, tourism and Acadian heritage. Unlike most river valleys, the Annapolis Valley was not carved by the movement of water. The wide trough runs parallel to Nova Scotia's northern shoreline and is home to two rivers flowing in opposite directions: the Annapolis flowing westward and the Cornwallis flowing eastward. The valley contains one-third of all farmland in Nova Scotia and can successfully grow a wider range of crops than anywhere else in the Maritimes. The pink and white blossoms of apple orchards along the Annapolis are renowned throughout North America. The peat bogs in the valley, some dating back 10,000 years to the last glaciation, support a successful peat moss industry as well as an abundance of wildlife and flora. American eel, winter flounder and sturgeon are some of the fish species that the Annapolis fisheries depend on. Pollution and dam construction have hurt fish populations in recent years, however the Clean Annapolis River Project Society (CARP) has developed a program of fishery rehabilitation and management.
Historically, the Annapolis Valley is famous as the original homeland of Canada's French-speaking Acadians. In 1605 Samuel de Champlain claimed the entire river basin for France, and the French settlement of Port-Royal near the river mouth was the first agricultural settlement established by Europeans in present-day Canada. The early French settlers imported the European technique of making dikes to create farmland from the marshy mudflats along the river. This system of dikes has been maintained and expanded ever since. Port-Royal was captured by the British in 1710 and renamed Annapolis Royal for the British Queen Anne. Many of the Acadians were deported from the area during the mid-1700's, but their heritage remains strong to this day and is an important part of the Annapolis Valley's tourism industry.