Great Canadian Parks / Nova Scotia

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The Parks / Nova Scotia / Cape Breton National Park





Along the western shore, steep wooded cliffs rise precipitously from the Gulf of St. Lawrence to as high as 427 metres, creating a rugged and picturesque coastline broken by bays and inlets. In the northwest, the hills sweep back to form a broad plateau that extends over 90% of the park. Where the plateau borders the Atlantic Ocean on the east, a broader more gently sloping coastline is characterized by low headlands, sometimes eroded to sea level, and long curving beaches such as Ingonish Beach. In comparatively recent geological times, this huge plateau was lifted 532 metres at its highest point, White Hill, the stress creating long cracks in the earth®s crust which became steep-walled canyons and broad valleys. The 17 watersheds that drain the park are fed by waterfalls that plunge in torrents from the highlands during spring melt rushing down river valleys to the sea.

 





Although there are no definite boundaries, the park is roughly divided into three major vegetation regions because of the effects of land elevation: deciduous, boreal and taiga. The deciduous sector encompasses the protected lower slopes and moist valley floors where the centuries old sugar maple and yellow birch reach the northeast limit of their range. Here also are found beech trees, mushrooms and wildflowers: rose-twisted stalk, Dutchman's breeches, toothwort and sweet Cicely. On the steeper slopes of the Gulf coast, harsh weather and salt stunt the birch, spruce and pin-cherry. Wildflowers and rare arctic-alpine plants such as the golden saxifrage and western rattlesnake plantain are in abundance. In contrast, on the Atlantic side, balsam fir, black spruce, pine and red maple grow along the rocky shoreline. The boreal region of the central and western highlands, the more exposed upper slopes of canyons, and the ridges in the north central part of the park are characterized by balsam fir which becomes undersized in the transitional forests next to taiga areas marked by bogs and barrens. On these bleak rocky headlands, low hardy plants such as crowberry thrive. The taiga conditions in the bogs and wetlands of the poorly drained depressions and flats of the high plateau as well as the exposed barrens, which resemble the wind-swept tundra of the north, support dwarfed tree growth, reindeer lichens, blueberry and sheep laurel shrubs (tuckamore), waist-high Labrador tea plants and pink sphagnum moss.

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