Physical Geography of Saskatchewan

Physical
Geography of Saskatchewan
Introduction
Saskatchewan is situated in the central
Prairie between Alberta on the west and Manitoba on the east. Its neighbour
on the north is the North West Territories, and on the south it borders
with the United States. Saskatchewan is rectangular in shape–it is the
only Canadian province none of whose borders was determined by the landform
feature like river or mountain range. The province is located in the Central
Standard Time and doesn’t switch on Daylight Saving Time in summer. The
population of Saskatchewan is around one million people with the area of
651 900 km2.


Physical and Natural Description
Geologic History–Land Formation, Types
of Rocks, and Minerals
The northeastern part of Saskatchewan is
a part of the Canadian Shield that was formed during Precambrian era and
features some of the oldest rocks in the world. The border that separates
the Canadian Shield from the rest of the province runs across Saskatchewan
from south-east to north-west. This part of the province was formed during
Precambrian era and contains igneous and metamorphic rocks. From the minerals
found in that part of the Shield the most abundant and the most important
for Saskatchewan is the metallic mineral uranium that can be used for building
the nuclear reactors or exported to the other countries.

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The rest of the province, except for the
extreme southwest which is occupied by the Hills, is situated on the Saskatchewan
Plain which is a part of the Interior Plains that are, in turn, part of
the Great Plains of North America. This part was formed under water when
the mountains of the Canadian Shield eroded and deposited on the bottom
of the shallow seas that it was surrounded by. The process was completed
during the Mesozoic era. This part is relatively flat with gently rolling
hills and occasional valleys. The most important minerals that are found
in this area composed of soft and hard sedimentary rock are the non-metallic
minerals like potash which is widely used as a fertilizer and some oil.


Major Landform Features
The major landform feature of the province
is the escarpment created by erosion that separates Saskatchewan Plain
from Alberta Plain and Manitoba Plain. Except for the Cypress Hills near
the U.S. border, Saskatchewan lies on a plain. Its landscape is not absolutely
flat–Saskatchewan is the province of gently rolling rounded hills.


Climate
Saskatchewan is a part of the two climatic
regions: Prairie on the south and Boreal on the north. The climatic characteristics
of both are somewhat similar, but there are certain differences. For example,
being situated farther north the Boreal region has colder winters and cooler
summers. Both regions receive little precipitation, but the Prairie region
tends to be drier than Boreal.


Saskatchewan climate is sharply continental.


Since there is no mountain range on the north or on the south, the province
is open to both cold Arctic air masses and warm air coming from the Gulf
of Mexico. This results in long cold winters and hot summers. The annual
temperature range in Saskatchewan, therefore, is one of the highest in
Canada.


There is very little precipitation in Saskatchewan
because the air that is brought to the province from the Pacific coast
is dry–it loses all its moisture before it crosses the mountain range
in form of relief precipitation. The air that comes from the other directions
is also dry. Thus, not only does Saskatchewan have little precipitation,
it also receives more sunshine than any other province. The Saskatchewan
town of Estevan–a “sunshine capital” of Canada –gets 2540 hours of sunshine
per year.


No description of Saskatchewan climate
will be complete without mentioning of the blizzards–prairie storms with
winds of 11m/s that can last for six hours or more. It is most likely
to occur in February, in southwestern Saskatchewan. Right after those storms
the transportation and communication systems are disrupted, so the whole
cities can be paralyzed for several days.


Soil and Natural Vegetation.


Vegetation Regions.


Saskatchewan has three natural vegetation
regions–the grassland, the parkland, and the boreal forest. Each one has
different soil and different natural vegetation.


The very south of Saskatchewan is occupied
by the grassland–the driest area of the province and one of the driest
in the country–where only grass can grow. The general trend is that the
more precipitation the area receives the taller the grass that can grow
in that area. The trees can only grow near the rivers so that they can
get enough moisture.


Another vegetation region of the province
is the parkland that separates the grassland and the boreal forest. This
area is covered with trees–deciduous trees grow in the southern part,
while the coniferous trees occupy the north of the region. Parkland is
a transitional point between the grassland and the boreal forest.


Finally, the most northern of the three
boreal forest occupies the largest area of Saskatchewan. The coniferous
trees are the most abundant in that region because they are much more adaptive
and can survive harsher conditions as compared to the broad-leaved trees.


However, some broad-leaved trees can also be found there.


As the glaciers moved from north to south
during the Ice Age, the thick layer of soil was brought to the southern
part of the province. Therefore, Prairie (grassland and parkland) has a
very good soil and is an ideal region for the certain crops like wheat.


Note that originally the soils weren’t that good for agriculture, however,
as more humus was formed by the decayed vegetation, the wonderful black
soils that are ideal for agriculture (chernozem) were produced. Most of
the boreal forest, however, grows on the Canadian Shield that has very
thin layer of soil that is also less fertile than the black soil of the
Prairie region since trees that produce less humus than the grass does.


Wildlife
The wildlife of Saskatchewan was largely
influenced by people. The “anthropological factor” tends to bring instability
to the balanced ecosystem, and in case with Saskatchewan it’s not an exception.


Most of the wildlife that once was found in the province in abundance is
now very rare.


For example, the huge herds of bison–estimated
50 million in total–were once found in Saskatchewan. However by the end
of the 19th century, they were hunted out and now live only in protected
herds. Black-tailed prairie dog also used to live in southern Saskatchewan
in very large numbers. These animals’ population was significantly reduced
by the farmers because they harmed crops and livestock (their burrows are
dangerous for the livestock.) Today the only place where they can be found
in the local settings is the Frenchman River valley.


On the north, which is less densely populated,
more wildlife was preserved. The moose and beers as well as several smaller
mammals were found there. However, the populations of cougar and lynx in
Saskatchewan north are small and are currently decreasing.


Coyotes and deer are found all across the
province, and the herds of pronghorn live in southwestern part. In the
summer millions of ducks nest and breed in Saskatchewan leaving to the
south when winter comes. There are fish found in the many lakes of Saskatchewan;
nine species of are present in the province.


Not all of the wildlife is desirable. For
instance, the grasshoppers are a serious problem because they can harm
the farming significantly wiping out a lot of crop.


Ecozone Description–Prairie
Prairie occupies the southern part of
Saskatchewan. As it was mentioned earlier in the essay, it is not preserved
in its natural state because it’s a major agricultural area. There are,
however, many birds living in Prairie including Partridges, pheasants,
and sage grouse. The endangered species found in Saskatchewan are the Prairie
Falcon, the Ferrugionus Hawk, the Greater Prairie Chicken, and the Burrowing
Owl. Most of the Saskatchewan population lives here mainly working in agriculture,
mining and petroleum. Of course, there is much more to say about this ecozone,
but the information on climate, wildlife, landform features, and the characteristics
of vegetation regions can be found under these corresponding subheadings
in the other part of the essay.


Natural Resources
Agriculture is the major occupation of
the province and something it is famous for and proud of. The Prairie black
soil and climate are ideal for cultivation of crops, in particular wheat.


More than one half of all the Canadian wheat is grown in Saskatchewan,
for this reason the province is often called Canadian breadbasket. Mining
is also important in both north and south. The northern part situated on
the Canadian Shield possesses a lot of valuable metallic mineral uranium–estimated
on third of total Canadian known resources. On the south the non-metallic
minerals were left after the shallow seas that covered the region evaporated.


The most abundant one is potash that is mined in the southeastern part
of the province.


Salt, oil, gold, gravel, and sand are also
mined in the province as well as sodium sulphate that is used to make paper.


Since there are no oceans or seas anywhere near Saskatchewan fishing is
not very important industry of the province. However, there is some fishery
on the north because in the northern lakes there are walleye, whitefish,
lake trout, and pike present. Most of the Saskatchewan’s electricity is
produced by burning coal. The two major hydroelectric stations are found
on the Churchill River and on the South Saskatchewan River.


Famous Natural Features
On of the famous natural features of Saskatchewan
is the Cypress Hills. They are found in the extreme southwest of the province,
near the U.S. border. These hills rise several hundred metres above the
Prairie. Newcomers to the prairies described the Cypress Hills as an island
of forest in a sea of grass.


National Park
A National Park is an area of area where
wilderness is preserved. The most famous Saskatchewan national park is
Prince Albert National Park which 3875 km2 in area. It’s a region of aspen
parkland and boreal forest. It was established as a national park in 1927.


Being a preserved and protected area, the park is very rich in wildlife
including elk, caribou, moose, deer, lynx, otter, and plains bison. It
also features the only protected White Pelican colony in Canada. There
are 31 provincial parks and another National Park called Grassland National
Park Reserve that is one of the last areas where the colonies of Black-tailed
prairie dogs, rattlesnakes, pronghorn, and the Prairie Falcon are found.


Personal Opinion
I think that Saskatchewan is a wonderful
place to visit. Northern Saskatchewan is well known for its fishing and
hunting camps. Another attractions are summer rodeos. If you want to explore
Canada no tour will be complete without visiting the legendary prairies,
thousands of lakes, wonderful nature of Saskatchewan. Even though history
of Saskatchewan is not in the scope of this essay, I have to mention that
Saskatchewan is where a lot of Canadian history took place–an example
is the creation of the legendary North-West Canadian Mountain Police that
earned great respect and reputation for fairness.

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