13 Jun 2014

Cypress Hills Conglomerate Cliffs: A unique formation

By Marie Powell

Rockhounds will find a rare treat in the Cypress Hills Interprovincial Park, spanning Alberta and Saskatchewan: the Conglomerate Cliffs.

Cypress Hills covers about 2,600 square kilometres (1000 square miles), reaching altitudes of about 1,400 metres (4,500 ft). The formation was created when glaciers pushed the surrounding terrain up. It's known to be less effected by erosion than the surrounding plain, and about 200 sq km (80 sq mi) on the Alberta side was also left untouched by glacial erosion.

On a recent visit to the park, I had the chance to explore the Conglomerate Cliffs, a unique area looking down some 30 m to Adams Lake. This area is located a short drive from the Fort Walsh Historical Site.

The surface of the Conglomerate Cliffs is made up of a combination of gravel and stones known as "cobbles."

Water drains from the cliff edge, creating calcium carbonate, according to some sources, and with enough geological pressure it cemented this material together to form the cliffs.

In turn, this conglomerate material resists erosion by wind or water, protecting the softer rock formations underneath and preventing the cliffs from eroding.

It's well worth exploring the footpath leading down from the cliffs for interesting and unexpected details, like this rock "cave."

As well, a variety of flowers and some 220 species of birds can be found in the park.

Here are some of the sights along the path.

Here are some links to more information about Cypress Hills and the Conglomerate Cliffs:


SEAWA: "Geology"

Kroll Travel:

Cypress Hills pages:


Marie Powell is the author of 15 books for children, including Dragonflies are Amazing (Scholastic Canada) and a six-book Word Families series (Amicus Publishing). Her second six-book series is expected this fall, along with two middle-grade books of Canadian history.

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