Driving Directions Canada

CANADA is the second-largest country in the world and the largest in North America. Canada is a land of great climatic and geographical extremes. It lies to the north of the USA and has Pacific, Atlantic, and Arctic coasts. The country has the highest number of inland waters and lakes globally, including the Great Lakes on the border with the USA. The Rocky Mountains and Coast Mountains run down the west side, and the highest point, Mount Logan (6,050 meters or 19,524 feet), is in the Yukon. Climates range from polar conditions in the north to cool tem­perate in the south with considerable differences from west to east.

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More than 80 percent of its farmland is in the prairies that stretch from Alberta to Manitoba. Wheat and grain crops cover three-quarters of the arable land. Canada is rich in forest reserves, which cover more than half the total land area. The most valuable mineral deposits (oil, gas, coal, and iron ore) were found in Alberta. Most industries in Canada are associated with processing their natural resources, and it is one of the world’s leading exporters of food products.

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Topographically, Canada is divided into the Atlantic provinces, the Great Lakes-St. Lawrence Lowlands, the Canadian Shield, the Interior Plains, the Western Cordillera, and the Northwest Territories (including the Nunavut Territory’s political division). The Territories cover the region east of the Western Cordillera and north of the Interior Plains and the Canadian Shield. There are two distinct sub-regions within this large area: the subarctic Mackenzie River Valley to the west and the islands’ arctic area, and the north-central mainland.

The Canadian Shield is surrounded by a series of lowlands: the Atlantic region and the Great Lakes-St. Lawrence Lowlands to the east, the Interior Plains to the west, and the Arctic Lowlands to the north. The Atlantic provinces have rugged, indented coasts – the Great Lakes-St. Lawrence Lowlands constitute the heartland of the country’s population. This region has the largest area of level land easily accessible by water from the east.

Canada is located on the North American Tectonic Plate. Because much of Canada has low population density (averaging just three people per square kilometer, or eight people per square mile), many species of wildlife thrive in large expanses of native habitat. The northern Arctic region’s habitat supports Arctic fox populations, wolves, Arctic hare, ptarmigan, ookpik (a species of owl), musk ox, polar bear, seal, and caribou. The Rocky Mountain region supports bears (brown, black, and grizzly), cougar, elk, deer, moose, bighorn sheep, mountain goats, and coyotes. The vast plains region supports coyotes, deer, and hawks, among others. The ocean waters surrounding Canada support whales’ species, and the country’s many lakes support trout, salmon, and pike.

Canada borders three oceans: the Pacific on the west, the Arctic to the north, and the east. The Beaufort Sea in the Arctic Ocean lies off the country’s northwest border, near the border shared with Alaska. The Arctic Archipelago lies on a submerged plateau of the Arctic Ocean, with a floor that varies from flat to gently undulating. From the Alaskan border eastward to the Mackenzie River’s mouth, the continental shelf is shallow and continuous, with its outer edge at a depth of 64 meters (210 feet) at about 74 kilometers (46 miles) from the shore. The underwater Mackenzie Trough (formerly known as the Herschel Sea Canyon) is located near the Mackenzie River Delta’s western edge. The Mackenzie Delta submerged portion forms a pock-marked undersea plain, most of it less than 55 meters (180 feet) deep. A deeply submerged continental shelf runs along the entire western coast of the Arctic Archipelago, from Banks Island to Greenland.

Along the Atlantic coast, the submerged continental shelf has great width and diversity. From the coast of Nova Scotia, its width varies from 111 to 185 kilometers (69 to 115 miles), from Newfoundland 185 to 518 kilometers (115 to 322 miles) at the entrance of Hudson Strait, and northward from there, it merges with the submerged shelf of the Arctic Ocean.

The outer edge varies in depth from 189 to 3,110 meters (620 to 10,201 feet). The overall gradient is slight, but the shelf is studded with shoals, ridges, and banks.

The Pacific coast is strikingly different and is characterized by bold, abrupt relief—a repetition of the mountainous landscape. From the islet-strewn coast, the continental shelf extends from 93 to 185 kilometers (58 to 115 miles), except on the western slopes of Vancouver Island and the Queen Charlotte Islands, where the seafloor drops rapidly.

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Visitors to Gros Morne National Park in Newfoundland can see plate tectonics in action. Geologists believe that North America and Europe were a single landmass at least six hundred million years ago. As the two continents pulled apart, magma from deep inside Earth oozed up between them. This solidified magma and fossils preserved in the sedimentary rock are on display at Gros Morne, which also contains some of eastern Canada’s most dramatic scenery.

The North Magnetic Pole is located at 78°N latitude and 104°W longitude, in the Queen Elizabeth Islands of northern Canada. The earth’s magnetic poles represent the two nearly opposite ends of the planet, where the earth’s magnetic intensity is the greatest. These differ slightly in the location from the geographic poles, which are designated as 90°N latitude/0° longitude (North Pole) and 90°S latitude/0° longitude (South Pole). The South Magnetic Pole is located at 66°S latitude and 139°E longitude, on the Adélie Coast of Antarctica.

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