The Cordillera


The Pacific Coast
The Cordillera
The Prairies
The Canadian Shield
The Great Lakes
The Appalachian Region
The Arctic
Geography and identity


From British Columbia to just east of the Alberta border the land is young, with rugged mountains, high plateaus and signs of geologically-recent volcanic activity.


The Rocky Mountains, the Coastal Mountains and other ranges, running north to south, posed major engineering problems for the builders of the transcontinental railways and highways. Canada's highest peaks, however, are not in the Rockies, but in the St. Elias Mountains, an extension of the Cordillera stretching north into the Yukon and Alaska. The highest point in Canada, Mount Logan (5 959 metres), rises amid a huge icefield in the southwest corner of the Yukon.


The British Columbia interior varies from alpine snowfields to deep valleys where desert-like conditions prevail. The Cordilleran mountain system receives heavy amounts of precipitation, as rain at lower altitudes and snow at higher ones.


The best known area of the cordillera is the Rocky Mountains. They are an important source of tourism for Canada, with Banff National Park (founded in 1885 and Canada’s oldest park) and Jasper National Park. Both parks are famous for their turquoise alpine lakes, spectacular icefields, pleasant hot springs and ski resorts.


Photo: Lake Moraine, August 2002


Moraine Lake, elev. 1910 m (6265'), is located in Banff National Park, in the Rocky Mountains of Alberta, Canada. The beautiful cyan or turquoise color of the water is caused by fine rock powder, which is suspended in the water and reflects the blue wavelengths of light. The rock powder, or glacial flour, comes from the meltwater of nearby valley glaciers. As a glacier moves, it grinds the rock comprising the valley floor and walls, reducing it to a fine powder.



















The historical Upper Hot Springs bathhouse in Banff


1932: On July 1, the Upper Hot Springs bathhouse opened, complete with sulfur water swimming pool, plunge baths, steam rooms, tubs, showers and dressing rooms. Its splendour rivaled the famous spas of Europe.

1995: Restoration of the bathhouse to its 1932 appearance occurred.!banff-history/cqg6