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Interior Dry Plateau


Interior Dry Plateau

LAND BETWEEN THE MOUNTAINS


Sandwiched between the Coast Mountains to the west and the Columbia and Rocky Mountains to the east, the Interior Dry Plateau is one of Canada's most diverse natural regions. Choose your clothes carefully for a hike here - within a few miles you can walk from parched desert-like conditions on valley bottoms, through moist sub-alpine forests to alpine tundra on mountain tops.

Chilcotin River Valley
Chilcotin River Valley

THE LAND:

This natural region is characterized by flat or rolling plains, the result of immense lava outpourings 60 million years ago. The plains are dissected by deep narrow valleys, gorges and long, narrow lakes. Hell's Gate, famous with rafters on the Fraser River, is the best known of the river gorges typical of this region.

Lying in the rainshadow of the Coast and Cascade ranges, the region basks under almost guaranteed summer sun. In the parched bottomlands, the temperature can rise to an oven-like 35 degrees Celcius or more. Due to the dry conditions, many species of wildlife occur, in Canada, only in the southern portion of the region where dryness combine with high temperatures produces desert-like conditions.

VEGETATION:

This is one of the most ecologically diverse regions in Canada, and a significant portion of the region's biota is found nowhere else in the country.

In the deepest valleys where the rainshad-ow effect is strongest is a mosaic of open ponderosa pine forests, sagebrush and bunchgrass.

Prickly Pear Cactus
Prickly Pear Cactus

This is cowboy country, an almost-desert unique in Canada, where cactus, sagebrush, bitterroot, bitterbush and other species thrive. Above the open rangelands, forests of Douglas fir darken the higher plateau country. At still higher elevations, on moister slopes, is a narrow band where Engelmann spruce and alpine fir are the climax species. As a result of past fires, lodgepole pine is now the most common species in this zone. Finally, at the highest elevations, patches of alpine tundra cover the mountain slopes.

Not only is there a significant altitudinal gradient within the region, but also a major latitudinal gradient; desert vegetation at the Canada-United States border gives way to boreal spruce forest at the northern end of the region in central B.C.

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National Parks System Plan, 3 rd Edition

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