The Canadian Shield refers to the exposed portion of the continental crust underlying the majority of North America. The crust, also known as the North American Craton, extends from northern Mexico to Greenland and consists of hard rocks at least 1 billion years old. With the exception of the Canadian Shield, the rocks of the North American Craton are buried deep within the continent and covered by soil and other material. At 5 million km2, the Shield makes up roughly 50 per cent of Canada’s land mass. Shaped like a horseshoe — or the shields carried during hand-to-hand combat — the Canadian Shield extends from Labrador in the east to include nearly all of Québec, much of Ontario and Manitoba, the northern portion of Saskatchewan, the northeast corner of Alberta, much of the Northwest Territories and Nunavut and into the Arctic Archipelago. (It also reaches into parts of the United States, in New York, Wisconsin and Minnesota.) While at times a barrier to settlement, the Shield has also yielded great resources, including minerals, coniferous forests and the capacity for hydroelectric developments.2
British Columbia is Canada's most westerly province, and is a mountainous area whose population is mainly clustered in its southwestern corner. BC is Canada’s third-largest province after Québec and Ontario, making up 10 per cent of Canada’s land surface. British Columbia is a land of diversity and contrast within small areas. Coastal landscapes, characterized by high, snow-covered mountains rising above narrow fjords and inlets, contrast with the broad forested upland of the central interior and the plains of the northeast. The intense "Britishness" of earlier times is referred to in the province's name, which originated with Queen Victoria and was officially proclaimed in 1858.1
Lake St. Clair, 1,114 km, elevation 175 m, average depth 3.7 m, is bordered by the province of Ontario to the east and the state of Michigan to the west. Almost circular in shape, it has a length of 42 km and a maximum width of 39 km. It is connected to Lake Huron to the north by the St. Clair River and drains into Lake Erie to the south via the Detroit River. Lake St. Clair is part of the St. Lawrence Seaway, a significant transportation route stretching from Lake Superior through the Great Lakes to the Gulf of St. Lawrence. The cities of Windsor, Ontario, and Detroit, Michigan, are located at the southwest end of the lake, making it a popular site for recreational fishing and boating.
The Fraser River is the longest river in British Columbia, stretching 1,375 km. It begins on the western side of the Rocky Mountains at Mount Robson Provincial Park, and ends in the Strait of Georgia at Vancouver. Named for explorer Simon Fraser, the river was a transportation route and source of food for the Indigenous people of the region long before Fraser travelled its waters. In 1858, gold was discovered on sandbars south of Yale, setting off the Fraser River Gold rush.
The Athabasca River is the longest river in Alberta (1,538 km). The first 168 km (located in Jasper National Park) are designated as a Canadian Heritage River. As a tributary to the Mackenzie River, water flowing on the Athabasca River eventually drains into the Arctic Ocean. River flow is highest during the summer and lowest during winter, and it is ice-covered from mid-November to mid-April.
The political boundaries that are of concern to Canada today are the international boundaries primarily with the US and Greenland and, because they are of more than local importance, the boundaries of the provinces and territories. The evolution of both types involved 2 distinct stages. After political decisions were made on the allocation of territory, such territories were delimited and the boundaries described in state documents. Then, usually some time later, the boundaries were surveyed and marked on the ground (the process of demarcation).1
Bonavista Bay is an inlet on the Atlantic coast of Newfoundland between Cape Freels and Cape Bonavista. Roughly 65 km wide, it contains a large number of densely forested islands that shelter the mainland from northeasterly winds and create hundreds of kilometres of virtually landlocked waters.
The South Saskatchewan River (1,392 km long) is a heavily utilized water source in southern Alberta and Saskatchewan and is a major tributary to the Saskatchewan River, ultimately discharging to Hudson Bay. Mean flow is 280 m3/s, but varies throughout the year, largely controlled by several dams and reservoirs along the river system. The South Saskatchewan River flows through an agriculturally productive region and is prone to periodic droughts and floods.
The Saskatchewan River is 1,939 km long from the Rocky Mountains headwaters to Cedar Lake in central Manitoba. When including its longest tributary, the South Saskatchewan River, the Saskatchewan River is the fourth-longest river in Canada. It’s a major tributary to the Nelson River, ultimately draining into Hudson Bay. Its name is derived from the Cree word kisiskâciwanisîpiy meaning swift-flowing river. The Saskatchewan River was a major transportation route for First Nations for thousands of years and was an instrumental transportation and resource corridor during the fur trade and early European exploration.
The North Saskatchewan River (1,287 km long, the first 48.5 km of which is designated as a Canadian Heritage River) is a major tributary to the Saskatchewan River, which ultimately flows into Hudson Bay. The mean annual flow is 241 m3/s; however, flow varies between the peak in July and minimum in February. It served as a major transportation route from the end of the last Ice Age through the mid-20th century.