How some of your favourite landscapes around Calgary came to be

Dale Leckie, geologist and author of The Scenic Geology of Alberta: A Roadside Touring and Hiking Guide explains the history behind some popular landscapes near the city.

Geologist and author Dale Leckie explains the history around formations in the foothills

Today, Nosehill Park looks over a sea of grass but geologist Dale Leckie says at one time, it was covered in over a kilometre of ice. (davebloggs007/Creative Commons)

Taking a day trip around Calgary this summer? Dale Leckie, geologist and author of The Scenic Geology of Alberta: A Roadside Touring and Hiking Guide joined The Homestretch on Thursday to explain the history behind some popular landscapes near the city.

Nose Hill Park

When you walk along the south side of Nose Hill Park, overlooking the city, you can see the Rocky Mountains in the distance.

"That's where the story begins," said Leckie. "When you look at those Rocky Mountains off to the west, they were formed 165 million years ago to 60 million years ago. And then mountain building quit."

"That's the interesting thing that most people don't realize. Mountain building came to an end, and since then we've had uplift and erosion."

A big cause of the landscape erosion was glaciation.

"When you're on the top of Nosehill Park, I like to tell people to look up and imagine a kilometre and a half of ice above you, because that's how thick the ice was during the last glaciation 20,000 to maybe 16,000 years ago," says Leckie. "And just think about that much ice and what it did to the landscape."

Big Hill Spring Provincial Park 

Bill Hill Spring Provincial Park, northwest of Calgary, is closed for renovations right now, but it's a good spot for families and kids, says Leckie.

And the spring there is full of the mineral calcite.

"You get little crystals of calcite that build up on everything — on stones, on algae, on sticks, on lichen," he said.

The geologist says you can feel the build up of calcite on lichen that has turned crispy or hard. The mineral has also caused a series of dams in the park.

Kananaskis Country

There are lots of fascinating stops in K-Country to make, said Leckie. First up is Morley Flats, just south of the TransCanada on Highway 40. If you look west to the Bow River Valley, you can see the big, broad, U-shaped valley cut by the last glaciers.

A 20-minute drive past Morley will get you to Mount Yamnuska — the beginning of the Rocky Mountains.

Mount Yamnuska is closed to hikers for the season, but you can still look at the mountain, where a 500-million-year-old rock was pushed on top of a much younger 100-million-year-old rock. (Helen Pike/CBC)

"What happened there, was 500 million year old rocks were pushed on top of much younger 100 million year old rocks," said Leckie. "You can see the nice, sharp contact that happened when those rocks were really deeply buried."

Continuing south to Kananaskis Village, you can look at the Kananaskis River Valley, where the peaks of the mountains are rough because they weren't covered in ice during the last glaciation. They're called nunataks, said Leckie, or glacial islands.

Further south, you'll hit Rock Glacier, which is near the summit of Highwood Pass.

"Rock Glacier is a great example of how mountains erode," said Leckie. "It's the result of freeze-thaw action and and landslides, little slumps and failures. And it's really worth stopping there to take a bit of a tour."

With files from The Homestretch.


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