Aerosols play a key role in polar climate, and are affected by long-range transport from the mid-latitudes, both in the Arctic and Antarctic. This work investigates poleward extreme transport events of aerosols, referred to as aerosol rivers (AeR), leveraging the concept of atmospheric rivers (AR) which signal extreme transport of moisture. Using reanalysis data, we build a detection catalog of polar AeRs for black carbon, dust, sea salt and organic carbon aerosols, for the period 1980–2022. First, we describe the detection algorithm, discuss its sensitivity, and evaluate its validity. Then, we present several extreme transport case studies, in the Arctic and in the Antarctic, illustrating the complementarity between ARs and AeRs. Despite similarities in transport pathways during co-occurring AR/AeR events, vertical profiles differ depending on the species, and large-scale transport patterns show that moisture and aerosols do not necessarily originate from the same areas. The complementarity between AR and AeR is also evidenced by their long-term characteristics in terms of spatial distribution, seasonality and trends. AeR detection, as a complement to AR, can have several important applications for better understanding polar climate and its connections to the mid-latitudes.