Great Canadian Parks / British Columbia

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The Parks / British Columbia / Tatshenshini-Alsek National Park



The Tatshenshini area is dominated by the St. Elias Mountains, the largest concentration of high peaks in North America, including Mount Fairweather, the highest peak in British Columbia (4633 metres). Composed of sedimentary, metamorphic and volcanic rocks, the St. Elias Mountains have gone through several periods of major uplifting ending about 10 million years ago, that produced 15 summits of more than 4000 metres. These peaks are surrounded by massive ice fields which storms blowing in from the Gulf of Alaska build up with eternal ice and snow.


Rivers of ice flow down from these ice fields to melt into frigid rivers or to slide into coastal waters, reshaping the landscape. It possesses the largest sub-polar ice cap in the world, an estimated 31 surging glaciers and 350 valley glaciers such as the Walker Glacier where one can walk right onto its toe. One of the wildest rivers in the world, on its 300 kilometre journey to the Gulf of Alaska, the Tat runs a ragged course through a variety of terrains from dense forest to deep canyons to broad glacially scoured valleys, carving out the only corridor through the St. Elias Mountains. It begins as a small river, closely skirted by wooded slopes, then quickly gains speed as it plummets down mountains and swells as its tributaries join it. This region has registered some of the most violent earthquakes in North American history including the largest which caused mountains to thrust up 50 feet and surging glaciers to advance half a mile in 5 minutes. More worrisome considering mining industry's plans to proceed with a copper mine, was the 1958 quake just 50 kilometres from Windy Craggy Mountain which measured 7.9 on the Richter scale and released rock slides, shattered glaciers, split rivers and sank an island.



The forests of the Tatshenshini-Alsek region, influenced by their proximity to the ocean, have an unusual diversity, from lush coastal forests backing onto the interior mountain domain of dry spruce and tundra, to the alders and alpine meadows on the sweeping lower slopes of the Alsek Range.

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