B.C.'s Eastern Mountain System comprises the dominant Canadian Rockies, with the Cariboo, Selkirk, Monashee, and Purcell ranges of the Columbia Mountain system in the south. The Canadian Rockies incorporate the Canadian segment of the North American Rocky Mountains range. The southern end in Alberta and British Columbia borders Idaho and Montana of the United States. The northern end is at the Liard Plain in British Columbia.
The Western Mountain System's Coast Mountains are the westernmost range of the Pacific Cordillera, running along the western shore of the North American continent, extending south from the Alaska Panhandle and covering most of coastal British Columbia. The range is covered in dense temperate rainforest on its western exposures, the range rises to heavily glaciated peaks, including the largest temperature-latitude icefields in the world, and then tapers to the dry interior plateau on its eastern flanks, or to the subarctic boreal forest of the Skeena Mountains and Stikine Plateau.
Mount Waddington (4016 m) is the highest mountain within B.C. and Fairweather Mountain in the Saint Elias Mountains on the B.C. and Alaska border has the highest point. Much of the B.C. coast has a fjord scenery, due to the many islands along the Pacific coast being the highest points of a partly submerged mountain range.
|Mountain||Height (m)||Mountain||Height (m)|
|Saint Elias Mountains||Rocky Mountains (cont.)|
|Fairweather Mountain (highest point on Alaska–B.C. boundary)||4,663||Mount Assiniboine (on Alberta–B.C. boundary)||3,618|
|Mount Quincy Adams (on Alaska–B.C. boundary)||4,133||Mount Goodsir: North Tower||3,581|
|Mount Root (on Alaska–B.C. boundary)||3,901||Mount Goodsir: South Tower||3,520|
|Coast Mountains||Snow Dome (on Alberta–B.C. boundary)||3,520|
|Mount Waddington||4,016||Mount Bryce||3,507|
|Mount Tiedemann||3,848||Selkirk Mountains|
|Combatant Mountain||3,756||Mount Sir Sandford||3,522|
|Asperity Mountain||3,716||Cariboo Mountains|
|Serra Peaks||3,642||Mount Sir Wilfrid Laurier||3,520|
|Monarch Mountain||3,459||Purcell Mountains|
|Rocky Mountains||Mount Farnham||3,481|
|Mount Robson||3,954||Monashee Mountains|
|Mount Columbia (on Alberta–B.C. boundary)||3,747||Mount Monashee||3,274|
|Mount Clemenceau||3,642||Hallam Peak||3,205|
Although little-known to the general public, British Columbia is home to huge area of volcanoes and volcanic activity in the Pacific Ring of Fire. Several mountains that many British Columbians look at every day are dormant volcanoes. Most of them have erupted during the Pleistocene and Holocene. Although none of Canada's volcanoes are currently erupting, several volcanoes, volcanic fields, and volcanic centers are considered potentially active, 49 of which have erupted in the past 10,000 years and many of which have been active in the past two million years. There are hot springs at some volcanoes while 10 volcanoes in British Columbia appear related to seismic activity since 1975, including: Mount Silverthrone, Mount Meager, Wells Gray-Clearwater volcanic field, Mount Garibaldi, Mount Cayley, Castle Rock, Lava Fork, Mount Edziza, Hoodoo Mountain and Crow Lagoon. Numerous shield volcanoes developed during the Tertiary period in north-central British Columbia and some were active intermittently to recent times. Mount Edziza and Level Mountain are most spectacular examples. Mount Edziza is a stratovolcano consisting of a basal shield of basaltic flows surmounted by a central vent and flanked by numerous satellite cones, ash beds and blocky lavas. The complex has a long history of volcanic eruption that began about 10 million years ago and ended about 1300 years ago. The volcanoes are grouped into four volcanic belts with different tectonic settings.
The Garibaldi Volcanic Belt is a north-south range of volcanoes in southwestern British Columbia. It is the northern extension of the Cascade Volcanic Arc in the United States and contains the most explosive young volcanoes in Canada. It was formed by subduction of the Juan de Fuca Plate at the Cascadia subduction zone. Eruption styles within the belt range from effusive to explosive, with compositions from basalt to rhyolite. The most recent major catastrophic eruption was the 2350 BP eruption of Mount Meager. It produced a ash column at least 20 km high into the stratosphere and dammed the Lillooet River with breccia.
The Anahim Volcanic Belt is an east-west line of volcanoes. These volcanoes probably formed when the North American Plate moved over the Anahim hotspot. The hotspot is considered similar to the one feeding the Hawaiian Islands. The last volcanic eruption within the belt was about 7000 years ago at a small cinder cone called Nazko Cone.
The Northern Cordilleran Volcanic Province (sometimes called the Stikine Volcanic Belt) is the most active volcanic region in Canada, contaning more than 100 volcanoes. Several eruptions are known to have occurred within this region in the past 400 years and contains Canada's largest volcanoes. It formed as a result of faulting, cracking, rifting and the interaction between the Pacific and the North American plates.
The Wells Gray-Clearwater volcanic field in southeastern British Columbia consists of numerous small, basaltic volcanoes and extensive lava flows. Many indivdual volcanoes in the field have been active for the last 3 million years during which time the region was covered by thick glacial ice at least twice, prior to the well known Fraser Glaciation (also known as the Wisconsin Glaciation). The origin of the volcanism is yet unknown but is probably related to crustal thining. The last eruption in the field was at Kostal Cone in 1500. Volcanism within the field has also created the -high Helmcken Falls, which is the fourth highest waterfall in Canada. It owes its foundation to the deposits of volcanic rock that were placed down in the wide valley of the Murtle River. Layer upon layer of fresh lava created flat areas, over which enormous floods flowed during the last ice age. These floods shaped the upright cliff in the lava flows over which the river now flows. The protection of Helmcken Falls was one of the major causes for the development of Wells Gray Provincial Park. As a result, if it had not been for the volcanic eruptions, it is not likely that such a large wilderness region would have been made.
Long, narrow lakes are found throughout the valleys of the southern and central interior. Among these are Atlin, Kootenay, Okanagan, Quesnel, and Shuswap lakes. Several high dams have impounded large reservoir lakes like Kinbasket Lake, particularly on the Columbia (see Hydroelectric dams on the Columbia River) and Peace rivers. Williston Lake, on the Peace River, is the province’s largest freshwater body.
|River||Drainage area (km²)||Length (km)|
|Columbia (mouth to head of Columbia Lake)||2,000|
|(International boundary to head of Columbia Lake)||102,800||801|
|Kettle (to head of Holmes Lake)||4,700||336|
|Okanagan (to head of Okanagan Lake)||21,600||314|
|Thompson (to head of North Thompson)||55,400||489|
|South Thompson (to head of Shuswap)||17,800||332|
|Nechako (to head of Eutsuk Lake)||47,100||462|
|Stuart (to head of Driftwood)||16,200||415|
|Peace (to head of Finlay)||302,500||1,923|
Source Statistics Canada
|Lake||Area (km²)||Altitude (m)||Depth (m)||Volume (km³)|
|Atlin||589 - 775||668||283||54|
Coastal British Columbia experiences the mildest winters in Canada were freezing temperatures are infrequent. Victoria, generally considered the mildest city in Canada, has gone the entire winter without freezing. Along with the moderating effect of the Pacific Ocean, the mountains impede the flow of the cold arctic air during the winter. The only exception is the northeastern portion of the province situated on the eastern side of the Rocky Mountains. Without the protection of the mountains, the climate is similar to that found in the neighboring parts of Alberta. The winters are very cold and the summers are warmer than areas west of the Rockies.
Summer daytime temperatures in the Southwestern Interior are the hottest in Canada. During July, the average daily maximum temperature around Osoyoos and Spence's Bridge is over 29 °C (84.2 °F). This heat combined with little precipitation means that arid animals and vegetation thrive. Although winter temperatures are much colder than Coastal British Columbia, this area is still milder than almost anywhere else in Canada. Although the Southern Interior valleys, including the Okanagan Valley, are spared the copious amounts of precipitation, they receive some the lowest amounts of bright sunshine in Canada during the winter months. This is a result of winter temperature inversions that leave the valleys in a layer of think cloud while the rest of the province basks in sunshine.
|Zone||Average annual temperature||Average July daily high||Record Max||Average January daily low||Record Min||Average snowfall||Average rainfall|
|North East (Fort Nelson)||-0.7 °C||23 °C||36.7 °C||-25.6 °C||-51.7 °C||177.8 cm||319.8 mm|
|North West (Dease Lake)||-0.8 °C||19.4 °C||35.3 °C||-22 °C||-51.2 °C||218.4 cm||264.8 mm|
|Peace (Dawson Creek)||1.6 °C||21.7 °C||34.5 °C||-20.6 °C||-49.2 °C||174.2 cm||325.6 mm|
|Central Interior (Prince George)||4.0 °C||22.1 °C||36.0 °C||-13.6 °C||-50.0 °C||216.1 cm||418.9 mm|
|North Coast (Prince Rupert)||7.1 °C||16.1 °C||28.7 °C||-2.1 °C||-24.4 °C||126.3 cm||2468.5 mm|
|Southwestern Interior (Kamloops)||8.9 °C||28.3 °C||40.6 °C||-7.6 °C||-37.2 °C||75.5 cm||217.9 mm|
|Southeastern Interior (Cranbrook)||5.7 °C||25.6 °C||36.6 °C||-11.8 °C||-40.0 °C||139.9 cm||270.7 mm|
|South Coast (Vancouver)||10.1 °C||21.7 °C||33.3 °C||0.5 °C||-17.8 °C||48.2 cm||1154.7 mm|
|Warmest Annual Temperature||Coldest Annual Temperature||Sunniest||Cloudiest||Driest||Wettest|
|City||Chiliwack - 10.5 °C||Fort St. John - 2.0 °C||Cranbrook - 2205 hours||Prince Rupert - 1229 hours||Kamloops - 279 mm||Prince Rupert - 2594 mm|
British Columbia contains seven of Canada's national parks:
BC also contains a large network of provincial parks, run by BC Parks of the Ministry of Water, Land and Air Protection.
In addition to parks, British Columbia also protects approximately 47,000 square kilometers of agricultural land via the Agricultural Land Reserve.
1: Cameron Young, The Forests of British Columbia (North Vancouver: Whitecap Books, 1985); R.C. Hosie, Native Trees of Canada, seventh edition (Ottawa: Canadian Forestry Service, 1969)
British Columbia is carved into 27 regional districts. These regional districts are federations of member municipalities and electoral areas. The unincorporated area of the regional district is carved into electoral areas. Each electoral area elects one director who sits on the Regional Board and the Electoral Area Directors Committee. The Islands Trust acts similar to a regional district for several unincorporated islands between the Lower Mainland and Vancouver Island.
The regional districts are used to provide local government services (e.g. building inspection) to unincorporated areas, sub-regional services (e.g. street bridge over a border) between two or more members, and regional services (e.g. funding the regional hospital district) required for the entire area. Also, as a collection of municipalities they are able to borrow funds for capital projects at lower interest rates.
For representation in the Legislative Assembly B.C. is carved into 79 electoral districts. Each one of these ridings elects one candidate to become its Member of the Legislative Assembly (MLA) in a first past the post race contained within the electoral district. In the last general election, in May 2005, three political parties, the British Columbia Liberal Party, New Democratic Party of British Columbia and the Green Party of British Columbia all ran one candidate in each electoral district while 22 other minor parties, as well as 23 independents, ran at least one candidate in an electoral district. However, the results produced a two party system wherein the two major parties, the right-wing B.C. Liberal Party and the left-wing New Democratic Party of B.C., won all the electoral districts. The B.C. Liberals have dominated provincial politics since 2001 when they won. 77 of 79 seats.The B.C. New Democraic Party still won the other two ridings left. The right-wing predecessor of the B.C. Liberal Party, the B.C. Social Credit Party, dominated provincial politics for much of the latter part of the twentieth century. The right-wing parties draw their support from the Lower Mainland suburbs (like Langley, Abbotsford, etc.), Kelowna, Kamloops, and northeastern B.C. The New Democratic Party has traditionally drawn its support from more urbanized areas such as Vancouver and Victoria, as well as northwestern B.C, and the mining towns of the Kootenays and key areas of Vancouver Island. Swing areas include the B.C. Interior, certain urban areas within the Lower Mainland (like Surrey) and certain rural areas (like in southeastern B.C.)