Prairie, often considered a featureless flatland, actually contains great diversity, reflecting the depositional features associated with the Wisconsinan GLACIATION. Topography ranges from broad undulating plains to rolling hills and plateaus, often dissected by beautiful valleys and escarpments. While GRASSES dominate the natural vegetation, prairie flowers such as VIOLETS, daisies, crocus (see ANEMONE) and GOLDENROD add to its beauty. The prairie is also the natural habitat of PRAIRIE DOG, BISON, COYOTES, GRASSHOPPERS, POCKET GOPHERS, prairie chickens, songbirds, DEER and antelope (see PRONGHORN).
Extremes of CLIMATE typify the prairies: cold winters, hot summers, one or more wet years with widespread flooding (see FLOODS AND FLOOD CONTROL) followed by periods of DROUGHT or very dry conditions. The frequency and severity of drought increases with distance from the forest margins. Rarely are climatic normals realized; instead periods of above- and below-average conditions are typical and tend to be cyclical.
The highly fertile prairie soils induced settlers from Europe, eastern Canada and the US to move into the region to farm and ranch in the latter part of the 19th century. Native prairie grasses have been almost entirely replaced by another grass, WHEAT, the major component of western Canadian agriculture, although PULSE CROPS and oilseeds such as CANOLA are increasingly common.
In Canada, the word prairie is also used to refer collectively to the provinces of Manitoba, Saskatchewan and Alberta (see PRAIRIE WEST).
Author D.F. ACTON Revised: A. BEDARD-HAUGHN
Links to Other Sites
Ojibway Nature Centre
Explore the history and flora and fauna of the Windsor, Ontario region at this extensive City of Windsor website. Many interesting photographs.
Grasslands National Park of Canada
Grasslands is the first national park of Canada to preserve a portion of the mixed prairie grasslands.
Main Street, Saskatchewan
Take a stroll down Main Street, Saskatchewan. This extensive compilation of photographs and other archival material highlights more than a century of Saskatchewan history. Search the Saskatchewan Archival Information Network or browse the Virtual Displays and the Town List. Produced by the Saskatchewan Council for Archives and Archivists.
An extensive information source about the geological history, human settlement patterns, earth and water resources, and natural hazards found in locations across the country. Click on the red symbols on the interactive map of Canada to explore aerial landscapes, maps, photos, colourful online posters, and more. A Geoscape Canada website from Natural Resources Canada.
A glossary of commonly used terms relating to geography, agriculture, and the environment. A Government of Manitoba website.
Saskatchewan Settlement Experience
View an extensive collection of photographs, textual documents, and media clips that bring the settlement experience in Saskatchewan to life. From the website for the Saskatchewan Archives Board.
Celebrating Saskatchewan's Heritage
An extensive multimedia source of archival material depicting Saskatchewan's history and heritage. From the Online Learning Centre, the Western Development Museum, and Saskatoon Public Schools.
Glossary: Grassland Conservation
Glossary of ecological terms related to grassland conservation. From the website for the Grasslands Conservation Council of BC.
Planting the Seed
A guide to establishing prairie and meadow communities in Southern Ontario. From Environment Canada.
Canadian Forces Base Suffield
This site highlights the biodiversity found within the boundaries of Canadian Forces Base Suffield, which is the largest remaining intact block of undisturbed native prairie habitat. Well documented with numerous maps. From the Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency.
Return of the Swift Fox
View a film that documents the impact of human activity on the fragile prairie grasslands ecosystem in Alberta and Saskatchewan. From the National Film Board.
Droughts in Canada: An overview
Watch an online presentation about research into the occurrence of drought in Canada’s prairie region, as well as a discussion on causes, monitoring, and management strategies relating to drought conditions. From the website for the Drought Research Initiative.
The website for Candace Savage, a Saskatoon-based author who has written extensively on nature and cultural history. Includes references to the 19th century Cypress Hills Massacre.
Seven Wonders of Canada
See highlights of the CBC's "Seven Wonders of Canada."