UBC Theses and Dissertations

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UBC Theses and Dissertations

The landscape of southwestern Alberta. Anderson, Ellis Albert Ahl


This study of Southwestern Alberta is an attempt to focus attention on the landscape, as a fundamental approach to geographic variation and regionality. It is also an attempt to depart from the marketing region and mathematical approaches, which are at present gaining wide favour in geographic work. The area studied, Southwestern Alberta, was selected for its contrast and diversity. Pew other sections of North America offer the same degree of variety in so small an area. The method of investigation had two aspects, library research and field study. The former consisted of consulting written works, analysing climatic data, interpeting air photos and maps, together with some reference to census statistics. The field work involved several traverses of the area under study, by automobile, aeroplane and foot. Work in the field was conducted not only to check the accuracy of information gathered in the library research, but also to obtain original data and to fill gaps in the published material. It is the purpose of the thesis to (a) clarify the meaning of "landscape" as interpeted in this geographic study, (b) describe the landscape and its "spheres" in detail, and (c) arrive at a broad classification of landscape regions for Southwestern Alberta. Above all else, it is desired to present and give an appreciation of Southwestern Alberta(s landscape character. "The Landscape of Southwestern Alberta", treats the landscape as being composed of a number of "layers" or "spheres". These are the lithosphere, hydrosphere, atmosphere and biosphere, making up the physical (natural) landscape segments and the cultosphere which is the cultural (man-made) landscape segment. In reality these are all interdependent and can not exist alone. In conclusion, the southwestern corner of the province has been subdivided into a number of landscape regions. These regions are as follows: (1) The Southern Rockies, composed of a block-like Precambrian mass, lie south of the Carbondale River valley. Smooth, forested, lower slopes give way to glacially-sculptured, alpine peaks. The chief human activities here, tourism, forestry and watershed-conservation have left little mark on the wild rugged landscape. (2) The Northern Rockies are made up of long, bare, Palaeozoic ranges rising above grassy or forested, subdued, Cretaceous lands. Here the human activities of coal mining, limestone quarrying, forestry and grazing have altered the landscape more than in the south. Population is concentrated in a narrow band of mining nucleations along the Crowsnest Pass. (3) Of the three foothills regions, the Northern High Foothills presents the most rugged and forested appearence. The ridges tend to be parallel and are often herring-bone shaped supporting grass on southern exposures while the remainder is forested. Ranching is the predominent industry. (4) East and south from the High Foothills stretches the Subdued Foothills region. This land is gently rolling, much grassier and with some cultivation toward the eastern margin. (5) South of Mountain View and Cardston lie the Rolling Foothills. This region is a "sandpapered" hill-land mantled in range -grass, but broken by long, rocky ridge-scarps. The foothills are all underlain by soft Cretaceous rocks 'which have been faulted and folded by the Rocky Mountain, building movements. (6) Eastward from the northern foothills rise the Porcupine Hills. Geologically a part of the Alberta syncline, these high, rounded and brokenly - forested hills stand in isolated splendor above the adjacent plains. Forestry and grazing have both left their marks on the vegetation. (7) The Porcupine Transition region, to the east of the high hills, is a grassy rangeland zone with a low population density. (8) The Peigan and Blood Indian Reserves are physically similar to the adjacent plains, but are culturally distinct. Much of the reserves are devoted to rangeland, but some cultivation is also practiced. (9) The Dry-Farming Plains focus on the trade center of Pincher Creek. These great, sweeping plains are cut by steep-sided river valleys and coulees, and broken by the very occasional erosion remnant. Over the wide, dusty land spreads the seemingly endless pattern of golden wheat and black fallow strips. Natural trees are found only in sheltered, well - watered valleys. (10) In the vicinity of the Belly and St. Mary's Rivers stretches the horse-shoe shaped, Mormon Irrigated Belt. This land is characterized by level terrain, irrigation cultivation and nucleated, Mormon (L.D.S.) settlement. Cardston, with its gleaming white temple is both the religious "Mecca" and trade center for the region. (11) Near the Montana border stand the somewhat elevated Milk River Plateaux. High plains and ridges with old meltwater gaps characterize the physical landscape. Grazing, dry-land wheat and petroleum represent human activities in this outlying region.

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