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A Journey to a New Land

Mountain Goats
Secondary Level Resources

Glacial Landforms

Glaciers are responsible for the creation of many of the topographic features we see in the landscape today. A few of these features are discussed below:

Foothills Erratics Train

Erratics are large boulders that have been transported and deposited by glaciers. In southern Alberta, along the eastern side of the Rocky Mountains, thousands of erratics form a train over 600 kilometers long. When geologists examined the rocks, they discovered that they were all made of the same kind of rock, and they traced the source of that rock to an area around Mount Edith Cavell in Jasper Park. Thousands of years ago, these large stones fell onto the surface of the Cordilleran ice sheet during a landslide, and then were slowly carried by the ice sheet outward onto the Plains. When the ice melted, the long train of boulders was left behind.

These rocks contain clues that have helped scientists to understand the movements of the ice sheets that covered Canada during the Late Wisconsinan glacial stage. The pathway of the erratics takes a sharp right-angle turn out on the Plains, changing from an easterly to a southerly direction. Scientists believe that the western Cordilleran ice sheet which was carrying the erratics met the eastern Laurentide ice sheet, and got deflected southward.


Eskers are long, sinuous ridges formed of gravel, sand and other sediments that have been deposited by glacial melt water. Eskers range in height from a few meters to tens of meters, and in length from a few meters to hundreds of kilometers. Eskers are very common in northern Canada, and were important as dry transportations route for animals and people in the early post-glacial period.

Kame Terraces

Kame terraces are narrow, raised ridges of land found along the sides of glacial valleys. These features are formed by the deposition of sand, gravel and other sediments between a melting glacier and an adjacent valley wall.

Today, kame terraces are an important economic resource because the gravel they contain can be extracted for use in road building and concrete.


QuickTime videos:

Dr. John Clague

Dr. John Clague
Department of Earth Sciences
Simon Fraser University

Dr. Michael Wilson

Dr. Michael Wilson
Geology Department
Douglas College