Major Landforms of Regions in Canada

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  • 0:02 Canadian Landforms
  • 0:23 Cordillera and Plains
  • 1:40 Canadian Shield and Arctic
  • 2:54 Great Lakes and St. Lawrence
  • 3:55 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Christopher Sailus

Chris has an M.A. in history and taught university and high school history.

In this lesson, we explore the major landforms that shape the different regions and landscapes of Canada, from the Arctic Archipelago to the banks of the St. Lawrence River.

Canadian Landforms

In the United States, we have plenty of different interesting landscapes, from the Rocky Mountains to the Great Lakes. But many of these don't stop at the border; our northern neighbor, Canada, enjoys many of these same features, as well as several of its own. In this lesson, we will explore the major landforms of Canada, and get acquainted with how they sculpt the Canadian landscape.

Cordillera and Plains

Let's start out west. While the Rocky Mountains are the dominant mountain range in the western U.S., the Rockies are only one of the mountain ranges in western Canada. The Northern Rockies join several coastal mountain ranges to create the Canadian Cordillera. The Cordillera is a unique geographical area, extending from the Canadian border all the way north to the Arctic Sea in the Yukon. The mountains of the Cordillera were created millions of years ago, when two tectonic plates of the Earth's crust, the North American plate and the Pacific plate, slammed together, creating mountain ranges from the Yukon all the way to the west coast of South America. The mountains and valleys of the Cordillera create a diverse ecosystem, where flora and fauna differ with elevation, and temperatures can vary dramatically.

The Cordillera also helped create the next major Canadian landform: the Canadian plains. These plains get less rain than other regions of Canada because rainstorms are held up by the mountains. However, 500 million years ago, this area, stretching from mountain ranges in Alberta east to Manitoba, was covered by a vast patchwork of inland seas. These seas deposited rich sediment, which supports the plant life that covers this area. In the south, the landscape looks very similar to the plains of the western U.S.: large, sweeping grasslands which are often cleared by farmers. In the northern regions, these grasslands give way to scrubby, low-level tree and bush growth.

Canadian Shield and Arctic

The next major landform as we move east is the Canadian Shield. Also known as the Precambrian Shield, the Canadian Shield covers nearly half the country. Stretching from north of the Arctic Circle in Canada's Northwest Territories, south and east nearly to the U.S. border and the lowlands of Atlantic Canada, the Canadian Shield is an enormous geological feature. The feature is the world's oldest exposed bedrock. Where the rugged shield isn't immediately visible, the shield is covered by vast forests and pockmarked with numerous lakes and ponds.

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