Cypress Hills (Canada)
|Elevation||1,468 m (4,816 ft)|
|Provinces||Alberta and Saskatchewan|
The highest point in the Cypress Hills is at Head of the Mountain in Alberta at 1,466 metres (4,810 ft). The highest point in Saskatchewan is 1,392 m (4,567 ft), in a farmer's field in the Cypress Hills, at .
The Cypress Hills have been known by a wide number of native and European names throughout their history. An 1882 Blackfoot–English dictionary written by C. M. Lanning provided the Blackfoot name I-kim-e-kooy, which translates as "striped earth" or "earth over earth". The Cree name, in use at the same time, is manâtakâw, (spelled in a variety of anglicized forms including "Mun-a-tuh-gow"), sometimes said to mean "beautiful upland" but more accurately referring to "an area to be respected, protected, taken care of and/or taken care with". The Assiniboine name is wazíȟe. The Gros Ventre name is θáaciih "pine trees". Early Métis hunters, who spoke a variation of French, called the hills les montagnes des Cyprès, in reference to the abundance of jack pine trees. In the Canadian French spoken by the Métis, the jack pine is called cyprès, although it is not a true cypress tree. The English translation is Cypress Hills.
Geology and geomorphology
The Cypress Hills reach a maximum elevation of 1,466 metres (4,810 ft), rising about 600 m (1970 ft) above the surrounding plains. They are the remnant of a more widespread plateau, most of which has been removed by erosion. The plateau is capped by the resistant conglomerate and sandstone beds of the Cypress Hills Formation. That formation was deposited by rivers that flowed from the mountains of southwestern Alberta and northwestern Montana during late Eocene to middle Miocene time, and it known for its wealth of vertebrate fossils.
During the Pleistocene, the top of the Cypress Hills was not overridden by the Laurentide Ice Sheet and remained unglaciated. As the ice sheet paused periodically during its final retreat, a series of morainal ridges of glacial till built up around the hills. Rivers of meltwater cut large channels through the area as the retreat continued, and smaller streams carved coulees and areas of badlands.
Today the Cypress Hills are part of a major drainage divide that separates rivers that drain south to the Gulf of Mexico via the Missouri River system from those that drain to northeast to Hudson Bay via the Nelson River system. At the Dividing Springs Ranch northwest of Eastend, Saskatchewan, the water from a spring goes both south to Gulf of Mexico and northeast to Hudson Bay.
Due to their higher elevation, the upper slopes and summit of the Cypress Hills experience cooler temperatures and greater rainfall than the surrounding semi-arid plains, and they support a flora and fauna that is much like that of the mountains south of the United States-Canada border in Montana and Wyoming.
The north-facing slopes and some of the valleys host forests of aspen, lodgepole pine, and white spruce. The remainder of the area is covered by mixed grass prairie, with fescue prairie in higher areas. Wildflowers include prairie crocus, three-flowered avens, lupine, blue bells, and prairie rose. There are fourteen species of orchids, including the Venus's slipper orchid and the striped coralroot orchid, which are found primarily in wooded areas and along the banks of springs and streams.
Small mammals of the area include a wide variety of rodents, as well as shrews, bats, jackrabbits, skunks, mink, weasels, foxes, bobcats, Canada lynx, and others. Large mammals include moose, elk, mule deer, white-tailed deer, coyotes, cougars, and others. There are several species of snakes, including the prairie rattlesnake, as well as lizards and turtles. The many species of birds range from mountain bluebird and greater sage-grouse to the great horned owl and other birds of prey. Fish in Elkwater Lake and other lakes and streams in the area include walleye, yellow perch, northern pike, several species of trout, and others.
Historically the Cypress Hills were a meeting and conflict area for various Native Americans and Aboriginal Canadians (First Nations) including the Cree, Assiniboine, Atsina, Blackfoot, Saulteaux, Sioux, Crow, and others. During the 19th century Métis settled in the hills, hunting and often wintering there. The Cypress Hills Massacre, a key event in Canadian history leading to the creation of the North-West Mounted Police, occurred in the hills when a group of American wolfers from Montana massacred an Assiniboine encampment. Fort Walsh was established to bring law and order to the Canada–US border region.
The Cypress Hills Provincial Park in Saskatchewan was established in 1931, and it was extended into Alberta in 1951, and Cypress Hills Interprovincial Park was created in 1989 which joined the parks on either side of the provincial border and also includes Fort Walsh National Historic Site. Cypress Hills Interprovincial Park.
The Saskatchewan side of the park is divided into two blocks, Centre Block which has fully developed yearround tourist facilities and West Block Wilderness area with rustic camping and also where Fort Walsh is also located. The Centre Block is located 30 kilometres south of Maple Creek on Highway 21. The West Block is located 45 kilometres southwest of Maple Creek on Highway 271.
The Alberta portion of the Cypress Hills contains the tourist destination of Elkwater, a community with campground facilities located on the southern shore of Elkwater Lake. The townsite is mainly made up of summer cabins. Elkwater is located about 70 kilometres southeast of Medicine Hat.
Cypress Hills has a subarctic climate (Dfc) due to its elevation above the surrounding area. Summer days are mild to warm coupled with cool nights, while winters are cold and snowy with annual snowfall averaging 100 inches (255 cm). Precipitation peaks during the month of June, where thunderstorms are common. Chinook winds can raise the temperature 9 °F (5 °C) in an hour, with it not being uncommon for the temperature to go from 14 °F (-10 °C) to 68 °F (20 °C) in a 12 hour period. The highest single day snowfall is 23.6 inches (60 cm) and occurred on May 15, 1999. The highest snow depth recorded is 31.5 inches (80 cm) and occurred on February 28, 1994. The highest temperature recorded is 104.9 °F (40.5 °C) and occurred on May 29, 1988. The lowest temperature recorded is -44.5 °F (-42.5 °C) and occurred on January 13, 2005.
|Climate data for Cypress Hills (1196m)|
|Record high °C (°F)||19.0
|Average high °C (°F)||−3.0
|Daily mean °C (°F)||−9
|Average low °C (°F)||−15.0
|Record low °C (°F)||−42.5
|Average precipitation mm (inches)||33.3
|Source: Environment Canada|
- List of highest points of Canadian provinces and territories
- Geography of Saskatchewan
- Geography of Alberta
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