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  Home>> Natural Heritage>> Natural History>> Geology

Geology

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hoodoosThe land within Alberta’s borders can be subdivided into three major geographical regions: the Canadian Shield Region, the Interior Plains Region, and the Rocky Mountains and Foothills Region. Each of these regions carries a unique set of geological structures and landforms that distinguish it from the other regions.

The Canadian Shield Region underlies all the land in the province of Alberta, but is exposed to the surface only in the extreme northeast corner of the province, taking up about three percent of Alberta’s total land surface area. This geographical region is distinguished by its high concentration of igneous and metamorphic rocks such as granite and slate. The landscape of the Canadian Shield Region features rock that has been eroded down to a flat, icy plain.

The Interior Plains Region takes up 87 percent of Alberta’s land surface area, covering all of the land that lies between the Canadian Shield Region in the northeast and the Rocky Mountains and Foothills Region along the western and southwestern borders. The Interior Plains Region is made up primarily of sedimentary rocks such as limestone, sandstone, and shale. The landscape of this region, while also relatively flat, is the most varied of all of Alberta’s geographical regions, ranging from deep, lush river valleys to stark, desert-like badlands.

The Rocky Mountains and Foothills Region is the second largest geographical region in Alberta, taking up about 10 percent of Alberta’s land surface area. Like the Interior Plains Region, the Rocky Mountains and Foothills Region is made up primarily of sedimentary rocks, but it is distinguished from the Plains Region in that the rocks of the Rocky Mountains and Foothills have been compressed and thrust upwards into high elevated formations.

The geographical regions of Alberta each trace the geological age of various parts of the Alberta landscape, as well as the dominant patterns of rock formation in particular areas. This geological information is useful in understanding the earliest history of the land that came to be known as Alberta.

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