Geomorphology or physiography is study of the surface features of the earth. Land is closely linked to the geomorphology of a particular landscape.

Alberta can be divided into three major regions: the Interior Plains, Cordillera and Canadian Shield, each with distinct landforms and geological structures.

Interior Plains

This region covers almost 87 per cent of Alberta between the Canadian Shield and Cordillera, encompassing mainly the Boreal Plains , the Prairies, and the minor ecozone of the Taiga Plains in northwestern Alberta. Unique features can be found within these ecozones: high gravel lateaus (Cypress Hills), badlands (Red Deer River valley) and deeply eroded river valleys (Peace River valley).


Consists of the Rocky Mountains and Foothills and makes up approximately 10 per cent of Alberta with its Foothills, Front and Main Ranges. Major valleys usually run from southeast to northwest.

Foothills: Transition zone between Rocky Mountains and Interior Plains, characterized by low shale and sandstone ridges and hills that parallel the mountain ranges.

Front Ranges: West of the Foothills, their eastern edge forms a distinct boundary where older dolomite and limestone rock have been exposed.

Main Ranges: West of the Front Ranges and along the Alberta and British Columbia border, they form Alberta's highest mountains, capped by permanent snowfields and glaciers.

Canadian Shield

Covers approproximately three per cent of Alberta in the extreme northeast corner of the province. Consists of rocky outcrops, soil-deficient highlands interspersed with wet hollows; and sparse open forests.


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Updated: Jan 29, 2014