Land and Resources
The province is physically divided into two major units of unequal area: the much larger mainland territory of Labrador to the north; and the smaller island of Newfoundland to the south. Within each there are distinct variations in the physical characteristics of the environment, in the occurrence and availability of natural resources, and corresponding variations in the pattern of human settlement.
In Labrador there are three such sub-regions: a northern coastal region, which is ruggedly mountainous, deeply fjorded, grows only ground-level subarctic vegetation and has very little settlement; a southern coastal region that has a rugged, barren foreshore and a forested hinterland, with light to moderate settlement; and the bulk of the vast interior, which comprises a well-forested, dissected plateau, and where settlement is concentrated in a few large towns.
On the island of Newfoundland there are four distinct regions: the west coast, the interior, the northeast coast and the south coast. The west coast is dominated by the table-topped Long Range Mountains, which rise to 814 m. They are bordered in places by narrow, well-forested coastal plains and are frequently penetrated by glacially-deepened valleys and by several large fjord-like bays, the largest of which are the Bay of Islands and Bonne Bay.
There is almost continuous settlement in the bays and coves along the west coast. There is also some interior settlement in the Codroy Valley to the south and around Deer Lake, which lies on a small plain within the mountain range. The interior is a plateau-like region with frequent undulations in the terrain representing the ridges and slopes of the watersheds carved out by the major stream systems. Four large rivers — Exploits, Gander, Humber and Terra Nova — drain most of the area.
The west coast supports extensive forest stands, particularly on the gentle slopes of the major watersheds. Settlements are widely separated and most of the population is concentrated in a few large towns associated with forest or mineral resource use and with transportation services.
The northeast coast, with its numerous bays, islands and headlands, fronts on the Atlantic Ocean from the Great Northern Peninsula to the Avalon Peninsula. Inland sections of this region are generally well forested, but exposed headlands and offshore islands have low, scrubby vegetation. The region has a shoreline typical of land that was submerged by glaciation and, in places, rebounded after the ice caps melted. Thus, there are innumerable bays, coves, islands and fjords which often provide excellent harbours. It is also an area that can annually expect to be blocked by arctic drift ice throughout the winter and early spring. Settlement has developed along the shores of most of the bays and on some offshore islands.
Federal assistance is generous in the establishment and maintenance of historic sites. Newfoundland's rich, colourful history is honoured in several national historic parks, including Signal Hill overlooking St John's harbour, site of one of the last French-English battles in North America; Castle Hill, near Placentia, commemorating the French fishing and military presence in Newfoundland; Cape Spear, site of one of Canada's oldest surviving lighthouses and the most easterly point in North America; Port au Choix, site of ancient Maritime archaic and native cultures; and L'anse aux Meadows, the sole confirmed Viking site in North America, which was declared a United Nations World Heritage Site in 1978. The Basque Whaling Archaeological site at Red Bay in Labrador has the only fully preserved Basque whaling vessel from the 16th century.