Great Canadian Parks / Saskatchewan

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The Parks / Saskatchewan / Grasslands National Park


 


Of the two land blocks that comprise the park, the one on the west has the Frenchman River Valley as its dominant feature. Carved out by a glacial stream 10 000 years ago, the valley abounds in coulees, creeks, and buttes that rise as high as 100 metres above the valley floor. In the eastern sector, the park encompasses diverse natural features including deep wooded coulees in the north, extensive grasslands to the south, and the Killdeer Badlands in the east. The Badlands were unglaciated and centuries of erosion have produced sand dunes, potholes and rocky canyons. Retreating glaciers sculpted the smooth rolling hills that tilt the plains toward the Rockies. Soils in the grasslands are mainly the product of shale, sandstone and clay.

 


 


 

The park preserves a rich and complex ecosystem supporting an incredible diversity of plants, encompassing over 40 different varieties of grasses. Grasses, such as spear grass, wheat grass, and blue grama grass, have always dominated the region because they adapt to the lack of water and spring back quickly after the dry land fires that consume other forms of vegetation. Generally confined to the riverbottoms and some upland slopes and coulees where there is more moisture, trees and shrubs such as aspen, green ash, wolf willow, oaks, American elm, cottonwood, Manitoba maple and buffalo berry flourish, while drier areas are able to nurture sage, rabbit brush, mosses, lichens and the prickly pear and pincushion varieties of cactus. Wildflowers, such as the Gumbo Evening primrose and the Prairie Crocus briefly add their vibrant colours to the prairie landscape. Thirty-six rare plant species that have been identified within the park include dwarf fleabane, BesseyŪs focoweed, squirrel tail grass, oat grass and Rocky mountain juniper. One of the parkŪs projects to restore the mixed grasslands is the rehabilitation of fields plowed under by homesteaders who were required to break 10 acres of land each year as part of their land deed agreement.



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