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Laurentian Boreal Highlands

Laurentian Boreal Highlands


This region at first appears monotonous in its simplicity. It is an elemental landscape - Precambrian bedrock scoured and softened by the work of glaciers, with a cold, damp climate giving the final brush-strokes - an uninterrupted cloak of gloomy boreal forest.

Manitou River
Manitou River


This region is most spectacular along its southern border, rising abruptly in bold headlands 300-600 metres from the St. Lawrence Estuary. Moving inland, the interior relief is rugged, undulating and deeply incised by large rivers tumbling downhill into the St. Lawrence. One of these, the Moisie, is famous among white-water wilderness adventurers.

The entire region is underlain by the Pre-cambrian gneisses of the Canadian Shield. The Shield is shattered by two large meteorite craters: The Manicougan and the Malbaie. These have left distinctive marks on the normally impervious shield - a mountainous uplifted core at the centre of the strike and circular depression marking the outer rim of the crater walls. (This feature of the Manicougan Crater has been flooded by hydro-electric power generating dams and is easily visible on a map as a circle of lakes.)


This is a region of dark, damp and dense forests, spreading in uniform monotony along the St. Lawrence to the sea and northward to the tundra. The blanket of boreal forest is interrupted only by the valley of the Saguenay, where the mixed-forest of Region 19 makes a brief appearance.

But within the monotony is variety caused by fire and topography. From the air the land is a patchwork of colour - the black evergreen forest, bright green patches of deciduous trees, and pastel hues of brown and yellow marking the bogs.

A complete cross section of the boreal ecosystem exists in this region. In the southern portions, black spruce and balsam fir dominate, with stands of white birch where logging and fires have occurred. Farther inland, the forests of spruce and fir become denser, with a uniform understory of moss.

Bogs near St. Lawrence River
Bogs near St. Lawrence River

Bogs blot large areas in sinuous stripes or Rorschach-shaped blotches. Along the northern edge of the region, black-spruce forests, perpetuated by fires, take over from the balsam fir.

However, in undisturbed sites, the balsam fir is the climax species. White spruce grows on well-drained sites; bogs soak up excess water in poorly drained depressions.


National Parks System Plan, 3 rd Edition

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