The Prairies around 1905

Rich soil

Manitoba, Saskatchewan and Alberta are called the Canadian Prairies because their territory is mainly formed by the physical region of the interior plains, a flat or slightly wavy and grassy landscape. There are no mountains on the horizon and few trees. Just look at the above picture and see for yourself. But because it is such a huge territory, the terrain and climate do vary. On the map, you can see that in addition to plains, the territory is also made up of two other physical regions:

The Canadian Shield: To the north, Manitoba and Saskatchewan are formed by the physical region of the Canadian Shield, a rocky and wooded landscape that is not conducive to farming.

The Rocky Mountains: Southwestern Alberta is hilly and, along British Columbia border, the province is flanked by the Rocky Mountains.

All three provinces are crossed by several streams, rivers and lakes.


It is said that the Prairies is one of the largest grain-growing areas in the world, particularly for wheat. For farmers, there is no need to clear the forest before planting, like in the St. Lawrence Lowlands, because trees are rare on the plains. However, the grassy ground is hard. The climate is characterized by very hot summers and very cold winters; this is called a dry continental climate. The growing season is short and certain areas have a serious problem: little rainfall, which means these areas do not receive much rain.


The subsoil of the Prairies, particularly in Alberta, is rich in coal, oil and natural gas. But not all these resources were being exploited in 1905. The exception was coal; by 1905 it had been exploited for several years, with numerous mines supplying coal for the railways, among other things. As for natural gas, this was still a time of exploration, not yet exploitation. Meanwhile, oil, which is so vital to Alberta’s economy today, would only start to be exploited in the 1940s.

Author: Service national du Récit de l’univers social

Quickly check your knowledge:

Teacher's Corner

Teacher resources specific to this section will be available soon.  Use Educators menu for now.