Great Canadian Parks / Manitoba

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The Parks / Manitoba / Riding Mountain National Park





The escarpment is a tilting shelf of siliceous shale - a form of sedimentary rock that is harder than the surrounding limestone - which extends into northern Saskatchewan, where it forms similar upland areas. Although only 756 metres at its highest edge on the northeastern side, relative to the plains that stretch away from it on all sides, it is a mountain. The park includes a diversity of landscapes: evergreen and hardwood forests, rolling hills, valleys, lakes and streams. A highland plateau in the centre of North America, the park is a crossroads where prairie, boreal and deciduous life colonies intermingle. Manitoba is famous for thousands of prairie potholes - lakes of all sizes that were left as glaciers retreated - which are now havens for waterfowl, fish, birdlife and insects. Riding Mountain Park is one of the few places in habitable parts of Manitoba where these prairie potholes have not been drained off and plowed under.


 


 

Three distinctive vegetation zones are recognized, although they do, in fact, intermix. In the south aspen parkland, open, rough fescue grasslands and aspen groves, edge the eastern side of Lake Audy. Bordering the aspen parkland is a zone of mixed-wood forest containing various combinations of coniferous (white spruce and balsam fir) and deciduous (white birch, aspen, elm, maple and balsam poplar) species. Very few stands of eastern deciduous forest are left in southern Manitoba, because most have been destroyed in clearing land for agriculture. But here you see a rich remnant of this complex ecological zone. In the surrounding forest, there is an understory of vines, berry bushes, mushrooms, and flowers that are at the height of their beauty amidst the prairie grasses in June and July. Areas that are mostly boreal forests, in the extreme north of this natural region, appear as seemingly endless stretches of black spruce muskeg that dominate much of the flat, poorly drained land. This combination of communities in the Riding Mountain portion of the escarpment forms a distinctive Canadian habitat that is unique in the world.



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