Cypress Hills

From Academic Kids

The Cypress Hills are a region of hills in southwestern Saskatchewan and southeastern Alberta, Canada. The highest point in Saskatchewan at 1,468 metres (4,816') is located at an unnamed point in the Cypress Hills. They get their name from the presence of Jack pine (Pinus banksiana), traditionally but incorrectly called cyprès in Canadian French.

The hills are not true mountains, but are rather the remnants of erosion of a Tertiary plateau of sediment formed during the initial uplift of the Rocky Mountains. This uplift caused the plain above which the hills now rise to be elevated, with the result that rivers flowing to the north and south eroded most of the softer sediments onto the lower part of the Great Plains. Today, the Cypress Hills form a major drainage divide separating rivers draining to the Gulf of Mexico (via the Missouri River) from those draining to Hudson Bay and James Bay via the Nelson River.

Because they formed a suture zone between the Laurentide and Cordilleran ice sheets, the Cypress Hills are the northernmost point in North America that remained south of the continental ice sheets during the Wisconsin glaciation. In fact, along with northern Yukon Territory, Banks Island, some nunataks (eg on the Gaspé Peninsula and western Newfoundland) and possibly the Brooks Peninsula the hills and their southern slopes are the only unglaciated land in present-day Canada. This gives them an appearance very different from the typical "alpine" mountains of most of Canada, with a flat top and steep sides. This suggests that during the very severe Kansan Glaciation the hills would have become a true nunatak, like the serpentine hills of Newfoundland.

The hills, because of the higher precipitation they receive, support extensive forest and also some rare fescue grassland. Most of the flora is shared with the mountains in states such as Montana and Wyoming rather than with the rest of Canada.

The Alberta portion of the Cypress Hills contains the popular tourist destination of Elkwater. Elkwater is the name of the lake and the local townsite/campgrounds. The townsite is mainly made up of summer cabins. Elkwater is located about 40 km south of Medicine Hat.

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