Physical & Human Geography of Canada

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  • 0:00 Geography of Canada
  • 0:44 Physical Geography
  • 2:20 Human Geography
  • 4:25 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: David Wood

David has taught Honors Physics, AP Physics, IB Physics and general science courses. He has a Masters in Education, and a Bachelors in Physics.

Learn about the second biggest country in the world: Canada. Discover its physical and human geography, and then assess your knowledge by completing a quiz.

Geography of Canada

Canada is the second largest country in the world by land area. It might not always look that way on maps, but that's because flat maps don't do a good job of representing a spherical world. Canada makes up almost half of North America, with 3,900,000 square miles of land - that's almost as big as Europe. Canada includes the Arctic, great mountains, volcanoes, and huge numbers of lakes and inlets. With only 35 million people as of 2012, it's one of the most sparsely populated countries on Earth. When thinking about the geography of a place, it's useful to break it down into two parts: physical geography and human geography.

Physical Geography

Physical geography is the physical (natural) features of Earth's surface. This includes lakes, rivers, mountains, coastlines, valleys, deserts, and forests. So, what particular physical features make Canada distinctive?

Canada is home to many mountains, including the Appalachian Mountain Range and Canadian Rockies, which both continue all the way down into the United States. The tallest mountain in Canada is Mount Logan in the Saint Elias Mountains, with an elevation of 19,551 feet.

Canada is a land of water, full of many lakes and rivers. But none are as famous as the Great Lakes in Southeast Canada. The Great Lakes are five interconnected lakes that together, contain 21% of the world's freshwater, found on the border with the United States. They include Lake Superior, Lake Huron, Lake Erie, Lake Ontario, and Lake Michigan, though Lake Michigan is fully in the United States. These lakes are so large they can be easily seen from space. Lake Superior is the second largest lake in the world. Other important lakes include the Great Bear Lake and the Great Slave Lake found in the Northwest Territories. The longest river in Canada is the Mackenzie River, which stretches a total of 2,635 miles - even longer than the Missouri and Mississippi rivers of the United States.

When you look at a map of Canada, one of the first things you might notice is the way the land is broken up towards the north. The north of Canada contains lots of connected and unconnected islands surrounded by the Arctic Ocean. In fact, the Arctic itself is one of Canada's most distinctive physical features.

Human Geography

Human geography is the study of the ways that humans affect the landscape of the earth, and how the landscape of the earth affects humans. Canada is one of the most sparsely populated countries in the world, but humans have still left a major mark on the landscape. One of the major ways that humans affect the landscape is by building cities.

The largest city in Canada is Toronto, with a population of 5.6 million, as of 2011. Montréal comes second with 3.8 million, and Vancouver has 2.3 million. But none of these cities are the capital of Canada. The capital is Ottawa, with only 1.2 million people. Humans have also split Canada is into provinces and territories: 10 provinces and three territories in all. Ontario and Québec are the most populated.

But why have humans settled where they have? What is it about the geography of Canada that causes these cities to be so large?

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