Canada is the second largest country in the world and extends across the continent of North America from Newfoundland on the Atlantic coast to British Columbia on the Pacific coast. Canada is slightly larger than the United States, its southern neighbour, but has only about a tenth as many people. Much of Canada is uninhabited or thinly populated due to rugged terrain and a severe climate.
Canada occupies nearly all of North America north of latitude 49° north and east of longitude 141° west. It has an area of 9 970 610 km2, of which 7.6 percent or 755 180 km2 is covered by fresh water such as rivers and lakes, including part of the Great Lakes. It is bounded on the north by the Arctic Ocean; on the north-east by Baffin Bay and Davis Strait, which separate it from Greenland; on the east by the Atlantic Ocean; on the south by the United States; and on the west by the Pacific Ocean and Alaska. It extends 4 600 km from its northernmost to its southernmost point and 5 500 km from east to west.
Canada has eight major land regions. They are (1) the Pacific Ranges and Lowlands, (2) the Rocky Mountains, (3) the Arctic Islands, (4) the Interior Plains, (5) the Canadian Shield, (6) the Hudson Bay Lowlands, (7) the St. Lawrence Lowlands, and (8) the Appalachian Region.
The Pacific Ranges and Lowlands make up most of British Columbia and the south-western part of the Yukon Territory, including the Queen Charlotte Islands and Vancouver Island. The Coastal Mountains rise along the coast of British Columbia. The glacier-covered St. Elias Mountains in the Yukon include Canada's highest peak, Mount Logan, near the Alaskan border with an elevation of 5,951 m. The coast of British Columbia has many islands and fjords. Except for the valleys and the upper slopes of the mountains, much of this region is heavily forested. Inland from the coast is an area of plains, river valleys, and smaller mountains.
The Rocky Mountains are east of the Pacific Ranges and Lowlands. The Canadian Rockies vary in height from 2,100 to more than 3,660 m. The tallest peak, Mount Robson in eastern British Columbia, is 3,954 m high.
The Arctic Islands lie almost entirely within the Arctic Circle, north of Hudson Bay and between the Beaufort Sea and Davis Strait. They include about a dozen large islands and hundreds of smaller ones. All the islands are barren, and most remain unexplored. Two of the largest islands, Baffin Island and Ellesmere Island, have many glaciers, tall mountains, and deep fjords. Victoria Island and the other western islands are extremely flat. The seas surrounding the islands remain frozen most of the year. The subsoil of the islands is permanently frozen, and only a thin surface layer of soil thaws during the brief, cool summers.
The Interior Plains include the north-eastern corner of British Columbia, much of Alberta and Saskatchewan, and the south-western part of Manitoba. The region extends north through the Northwest Territories to the Arctic Ocean. About 1300 km wide at the U.S. border, it narrows to about one-quarter of that size west of Great Bear Lake and widens again to about 500 km at the mouth of the Mackenzie River on the Arctic Ocean coast. Grasslands form the natural cover of the vast prairies in the southern Interior Plains, although much of it is now farmed. Farther north, evergreen forests form part of the great northern forest that sweeps across Canada from Alaska to the coast of Labrador. Near the Arctic Ocean, the forests gradually give way to tundra that is frozen for more than half the year.
The designations employed and the presentation of material in this publication do not imply the expression of any opinion whatsoever on the part of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations concerning the legal status of any country, territory, city or area or of its authorities, or concerning the delimitation of its frontiers or boundaries.