Century after century they advanced southward, devastating everything in their path. Up to three kilometres thick these massive glaciers ground mountain ranges down to a fraction of their former glory. They gouged out enormous valleys and created deep depressions in the earth. For millennia Canada was a barren, icy wasteland. And then, ten thousand years ago, the planet began to warm. Like a curtain revealing a magnificent landscape, the ice sheets retreated north. Melt water rushed to fill deep the deepest cavities, creating well over one million pristine lakes and rivers Covering over 750,000 square kilometers these remnants of the ice age contain one tenth of the world’s fresh water supply and account for more than half of the lakes on the planet.
For millennia rocks and trees were the only witnesses to their majesty. Countless streams combining to form rushing torrents, they carved their paths through solid rock, creating verdant valleys on their journey to the sea. If any nation on earth owes its prosperity to its rivers it is Canada. Only three countries can claim more rivers but none can chart their history, trace their affluence or see their future on the water like Canada. After revealing a treasure trove of riches in what was once impenetrable wilderness – Canada’s rivers have helped transform native settlements into global economic centres. Today they still possess the power to light up the nation and inspire awe in travelers who follow them to the very edge of the earth.
It is the world’s longest shoreline, relentlessly pounded by the waves of three separate oceans. To walk the entire length of Canada’s coast, a quarter of a million kilometres, would take more than 30 years. For most of its length it is formidable and barren, the occasional inlet or estuary providing the only respite. Here, nature’s most resilient creatures exploit what little the coastal habitat provides, seeking shelter in remote cliffs or stalking prey on a lonely ice floe. Although activities on the coast now account for a third of Canada’s economic wealth, history tells us that some have paid a terrible price. Reminders that this can be a cruel and unforgiving environment litter The Rugged Coast.