Sunday, March 7, 2010
THE DUCK MOUNTAINS
On the back: "West Favelle gorge in Duck Mountain looking south. The river is just to right of Seth's hand."
On the back: "West Favelle Gorge in Duck Mountain looking east.
"Geologically, the Duck Mountains are part of the Manitoba Escarpment, along with the Turtle Mountains, the Riding Mountains, and the Porcupine Hills. Their underlying rocks are Cretaceous shales and (below that) sandstone, which overlie deeper deposits of Devonian limestone, which in turn overlie Precambrian granite . The vertical relief of the mountains is the result of erosion of the Cretaceous shale by the ancestral (pre Ice Age) Red River to the east, and by the ancestral Assiniboine River to the west, and so the Duck Mountain's apparent height is the result of a lowering of the surrounding prairie, rather than any orogen. Glacial scouring exaggerated the vertical relief of the mountains, and the glaciers deposited thick beds of glacial till that now overlay the bedrock. The post-ice age Duck Mountains then formed the western shore of Lake Agassiz. The flat bottom of Lake Agassiz now forms the Manitoba lowlands, and it is from these lowlands that the vertical relief of the Duck Mountains is most impressive (indeed, really the only place from which it is even readily noticeable), as the mountains provide an obvious contrast to the monotonous flat of Manitoba's prairie.
"The area represents the southern limit of the boreal forest in its transition zone to aspen parkland. The forest soils are stony and the landscape is rolling, with numerous ponds and creek channels. The forest trees include white spruce, black spruce, tamarack larch, balsam fir, jack pine, quaking aspen, balsam poplar, and paper birch."
In the early years the Strachans were here, moose meat was a major part of their diet. More than that, the mountains engaged their imaginary lives, a wild place full of potential and surprises in a nearly religious way. When the boys got to June, just before time to cut hay, they would have had a few slack days to pedal bicycles over to the alluring Duck Mountains. One of my father's favorite songs was "The Bear Went over the Mountain to See What He Could See."