Originally formed by the undercutting of Cretaceous sandstones by the ancestral Red River, the escarpment was later steepened by glacial scouring. The vista today, of wooded hills with small farms tucked into valleys (such as the Pembina Valley), is reminiscent of pastoral sections of New England. Streams flowing off the escarpment have high gradients and a cobble substrate.
The scarp forms the eastern edge of Riding Mountain National Park, home of a large bison herd, and Duck Mountain Provincial Park in Manitoba. Turtle Mountain Provincial Park and the Porcupine Hills are also part of the Manitoba Escarpment.
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