Our Glacial Landscape

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Glaciers carved sharp mountain peaks, steep U-shaped valleys, and fjords. Glaciers also left thick blankets of sediment in our lowlands and valleys that include gravels used for construction and sands that form our beaches. Soils developed on these sediment blankets support our forests and farms. 

Some mountain peaks, such as Mt. Arrowsmith, protruded above the ice as Nunataks (small areas of rock which are isolated from the main mountains), but most of the bedrock, even Mount Benson,  was completely covered and  smoothed as ice moved over it. Smoothed rock is extensive on the lower slopes of valleys. 

The present day landscape of the Nanaimo area has been shaped and sculpted by the last period of glacial activity, the Fraser Glaciation.  This glaciation has given us aggregate materials, soils, and the landscape basis of a tourist industry (steep mountain slopes for skiing; cliffs in U-shaped valleys for climbing; sharp mountain peaks and ice rounded bedrock; thousands of kilometers of fiords, such as the Alberni Inlet, to explore by boat and kayak. At the present time, the remnants of this massive glaciation are to be found as small glaciers at the upper end of previously glaciated valleys on Vancouver Island and the Coastal mountains.

This older glaciated landscape is, at the present day, being redesigned by rivers eroding, moving and depositing sediment.  At times, particularly on steep slopes, the water and sediment reaching rivers is influenced by land use activities, such as forestry and farming, and we are learning how to reduce our impact through improved land use regulations. 

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