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Alberta: Location and Land


Alberta is the westernmost of Canada's three prairie provinces, bordering Saskatchewan on its east and British Columbia on its west. Alberta lies north of the conterminous US and south of the North West Territories between the 49th and 60th parallels.


Alberta is the fourth largest province in Canada. It has an area of 661,185 sq km. Alberta is 1217 km from north to south and between 293 and 650 km in width from west to east. Alberta's highest point, Mount Columbia, 3747 m. is in the Rocky Mountains along the southwestern border; the lowest, 170 m, is in Wood Buffalo National Park in the northeast. The province is roughly the shape of a rectangle lacking only its southwestern corner. It covers an area roughly equal in size to the state of Texas in the United States of America.

The Land:

Roughly half of the southwestern section of the province is dominated by the Rocky Mountains and their foothills. The mountains were formed over millions of years of glacial activity as the great ice ages swept across the land and receded over time. The remainder of the province - approximately 90 percent of the land area - forms part of the interior plain of North America. The plains include the forested areas that dominate the northern part of the province and the vast stretches of northern muskeg that overlay much of Alberta's oil and gas deposits and oil sands. Moving east the land rolls gently through the foothills into the great Canadian plains.

Mountain Ranges:

Peaks of the Rocky Mountains located in Alberta range from 2130 to 3747 m. in elevation. The foothills, which form a gentle link between mountain and prairie landscapes, feature heavily forested areas and grasslands used for grazing cattle. Beneath their surface, the foothills contain some of the province's richest deposits of sour gas and coal.


The province's largest lakes, Claire and Athabasca, are located in the north, but numerous smaller lakes are also found in the region. Many of the icy mountain lakes, such as Lake Louise and the Waterton Lakes are located in National Parks. Other lakes, such as Silvan Lake in Central Alberta are used mostly for recreational activities in the summer.


Alberta's two longest rivers, the Peace and the Athabasca, flow from the Rockies north to the Arctic Ocean. In the extreme south, the Milk River and its tributaries flow south into the Mississippi Basin. The headwaters of many of the mighty prairie rivers, which eventually lead to the arctic waters of the Hudson's Bay, start in the foothills of the Rocky Mountains in Alberta. The mighty and historic Saskatchewan and Red Deer rivers flow out of the many mountain streams to cross the prairies and connect with rivers leading to the Bay.


Over one-half of the province of Alberta, or approximately 350 000 km2, is covered by forests. Of the total forest area, 216 000 km2 are classified as commercially productive forest land and contain both hardwood and softwood species.

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