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13 Mind-Blowing Facts About Canada’s Geography

From "magical" lakes to record-breaking rocks, these eye-opening Canadian geography facts will have you seeing our country's landscapes in a new light.

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Canadian geography - Mount Thor, NunavutPhoto: Shutterstock

Nunavut is home to the tallest vertical drop on Earth

Named after the Norse god of thunder, Nunavut’s Mount Thor features the world’s tallest vertical drop at a whopping 1.25 kilometres (4,100 feet). (Technically, the granite mountain’s 105-degree overhang means its slope is even steeper than vertical.) Located in Auyuittuq National Park on Baffin Island, Mount Thor has inevitably become a popular climbing and paragliding spot over the years, although the latter activity is banned.

Discover the most gorgeous parks across Canada.

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Canadian geography - Smoking Hills, Northwest TerritoriesPhoto: Wikimedia Commons/Ansgar Walk/CC BY-SA

A range of hills in the Northwest Territories is always on fire

On the east coast of Cape Bathurst in the Northwest Territories, the aptly-named Smoking Hills have been smouldering for hundreds of years. Magic? Not really. The underground oil shales beneath the formations are rich in sulfur and brown coal, causing the rocks to burst into flames when the combustible gases are exposed to oxygen. The first recorded sighting of the phenomenon was made by Irish explorer Robert McClure in the early 1800s.

Inspired to explore the Great White North? Here are 10 great Canadian road trips you need to take at least once.

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Canadian geography - Carcross Desert, YukonPhoto: Shutterstock

The world’s smallest desert can be found in the Yukon

Let’s be clear: the unincorporated community of Carcross in the Yukon uses the moniker in good fun, as the Carcross Desert isn’t a desert at all! In reality, this beautiful 2.5 square kilometre patch of land is a series of sand dunes left over from a glacial lake thousands of years ago—the tiny area is kept dry year-round thanks to the surrounding mountains.

Here are more little-known Canadian attractions worth adding to your bucket list.

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Canadian geography - Lake OntarioPhoto: Shutterstock

Canada has more lakes than the rest of the world combined

Yes, you read that correctly: approximately 60 per cent of all natural lakes in the world are located in Canada! According to the World Atlas, there are an astonishing 31,752 lakes in Canada that are greater than three square kilometres in size, while 561 lakes in the country have a surface area larger than 100 square kilometres.

From adrenaline-pumping mountainside adventures to peaceful sojourns, we’ve rounded up the best hikes in Canada.

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Canadian geography - Spotted Lake, British ColumbiaPhoto: Shutterstock

British Columbia is home to the country’s most unique lake

For most of the year, Spotted Lake in British Columbia’s Similkameen Valley looks like any other lake. During the summer, however, this seemingly unremarkable body of water transforms into something magical. In the scorching sun, the water of Spotted Lake evaporates and crystallizes a variety of minerals, forming dozens of white-rimmed circles. These shallow pools—the result of Spotted Lake’s large amounts of magnesium sulfate, calcium and silver—suddenly appear in stunning shades of yellow and green.

Here are 10 more places in Canada every Canadian should visit.

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Canadian geography - Cape St. Mary, NewfoundlandPhoto: Shutterstock

Canada has the longest coastline in the world

Surrounded by the Pacific, Atlantic and Arctic oceans, Canada—despite being the second-largest country—actually has the longest coastline in the world. Measuring approximately 243,042 kilometres, it’s estimated that it would take more than 30 years to walk Canada’s full coastline at the rate of 19 kilometres a day.

Check out these other mind-boggling facts about Canada!

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Canadian geography - Frank, Alberta in 1903Photo: Wikimedia Commons/George S. Rice

The town of Frank, Alberta, is the site of the deadliest landslide in Canadian history

On the morning of April 29, 1903, 110-million tonnes of limestone rock separated from Turtle Mountain and crashed down onto the mining town of Frank, Alberta. The landslide, which destroyed the entire eastern portion of Frank, resulted in the deaths of between 70 and 90 residents. Indigenous tribes had long considered Turtle Mountain to be unstable—the town’s coal mining activities may have also contributed to the disaster.

Read up on the famous Canadian shipwrecks that have become the stuff of legend.

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Canadian geography - Little Manitou Lake, SaskatchewanPhoto: Courtesy Tourism Saskatchewan

Canada has its own version of the Dead Sea

Known as the “Dead Sea of Canada,” the waters of Little Manitou Lake near Saskatoon are roughly five times saltier than the ocean—and approximately half as salty as the Dead Sea in Israel and Jordan. Fed by underground springs, the lake is so high in sodium, magnesium and potassium salts that it’s almost impossible for swimmers to sink. Locals and visitors alike swear by Little Manitou Lake’s ability to cure skin conditions, arthritis and joint pain, although the science on its healing powers is still out.

Discover the strangest fact about every Canadian province.

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Canadian geography - Saint Pierre and MiquelonPhoto: Shutterstock

You can visit France—just off the coast of Newfoundland

Thought it was impossible to travel from St. John’s to France in just three hours? Think again. Saint Pierre and Miquelon is an archipelago situated 25 kilometres off the southern coast of Newfoundland and Labrador—and the last piece of French territory in North America. Despite being located in the Canadian Maritimes, Saint Pierre and Miquelon is very much a part of France: its currency is the Euro, its customs and traditions are French, and the French its 6,000 inhabitants speak is more similar to Metropolitan French than Canadian French!

These are the French phrases everyone in the world should know.

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Canadian geography - Parliament Hill, Ottawa in winterPhoto: Shutterstock

Ottawa is a perennial contender for “coldest capital city”

It’s no secret that Ottawa in the dead of winter is bone-chillingly cold, as our nation’s capital experiences an average low temperature of -14.8 degrees Celsius in the month of January. During winter, O-Town often finds itself battling Moscow, Helsinki, Reykjavik and Mongolia’s capital, Ulan Bator, for the dubious honour of being the world’s coldest capital.

Find out about the year Canada didn’t have a summer.

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Canadian geography - World's oldest rocks in QuebecPhoto: Shutterstock

The world’s oldest rocks can be found in Quebec

In 2008, a team of Canadian and American researchers discovered rocks along the Northern Quebec coast of Hudson’s Bay that were found to be 4.28 billion years-old. The oldest previously-known rocks were found in a formation called the Acasta Gneiss, located southeast of Great Bear Lake in the Northwest Territories.

Marvel at Canada’s most beautiful waterfalls.

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Canadian geography - Magnetic Hill, MonctonPhoto: Wikimedia Commons/Jim101

A hill in New Brunswick makes visitors question gravity

Shift your car into neutral at the bottom of Magnetic Hill in Moncton, New Brunswick, and you’ll see that it’s moving backwards—uphill. Magnetic Hill, however, is actually a “gravity hill,” a term used to describe any place where the surrounding landscapes produce an optical illusion, making a slight downhill slope appear to be on an incline. Cars that appear to be rolling uphill are actually rolling downhill—just as gravity intended.

Check out the 20 quirkiest roadside attractions across Canada.

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Canadian geography - Joggins Fossil Cliffs, Nova ScotiaPhoto: Wikimedia Commons/Michael C. Rygel

You can find 300-million-year-old fossils in Nova Scotia

Made a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2008, the Joggins Fossil Cliffs contain the most complete fossil record of life during the “Coal Age,” a geological period that took place more than 300 million years ago. The site was discovered by Nova Scotian geologist Sir William Dawson—it was here that he uncovered the fossil of Hylonomus lyelli, the earliest known reptile. The Joggins Fossil Cliffs are even mentioned in Charles Darwin’s revolutionary 1859 text, On the Origin of Species.

Now that you’ve got these Canadian geography facts under your belt, find out 13 incredible facts about Canada’s most famous landmarks.