Handbook of the Canadian Rockies

In 2009, the Handbook received its biggest update since the second edition came out in 1995.

The new printing has the latest species names, geological data and recreational info. All known errors were corrected.

New ones have since been found, as always, so you may wish to pencil in the following corrections and updates. These will all be made in the next printing.

Page 22, first paragraph, change "it is visible in photos taken from the moon" to "it can be seen from space." After many years of passing along a story that one of the Apollo astronauts radioed mission control while in lunar orbit to ask about a straight line in northwestern North America, I chanced to view the Apollo photos of the Earth as seen from the Moon. The Rocky Mountain Trench was not discernible. In fact, by using Google Earth I found that the southern section of the trench -- the part between Prince George and the Canada/U.S. boundary -- was not easily visible from beyond 5000 km, while the northern section could not easily be picked out from beyond 500 km. I contacted NASA. William P. Barry, NASA's chief historian, checked the mission transcripts himself, then had them checked very carefully again by one of his staff. As he told me by e-mail on 30 Jan 2014, there is "nothing remotely like a reference to a Rocky Mountain Trench" anywhere in the transcripts. Thus, the Rocky Mountain Trench is certainly visible from space, but no astronaut has reported seeing it from the Moon.

Page 59, last line on the page, change "near the top of" to "in the."

Page 114, it's worth noting that the Morro Member of the Palliser Formation (the thick lower member) is sparsely fossiliferous because it was deposited soon after the late Devonian extinction events. Also, in the second-to-last paragraph, second-to-last line, add a space to "dippingvertically."

Page 131, the second-to-last paragraph should read, "The Gates has been mined for coal at Nordegg, Cadomin, Luscar, Pocahontas (in eastern Jasper National Park), Grande Cache and Tumbler Ridge. Dinosaur tracks can be seen in Gates rock around Tumbler Ridge. The Gething is also coal-bearing, but the seams are thick enough to be worth mining only from the Sukunka River north to the Peace."

Page 165, fourth paragraph, the one about possible rock slide hazard on Grotto Mountain in relation to a quarry at its base, needs correcting and updating after I went along on a tour of the quarry. The paragraph should now read, "In light of this principle, consider the quarrying operation at the base of Grotto Mountain, along the Bow River near the town of Canmore. A lime-products company is removing some of the tilted rock layers there. The company is not undercutting the slabs, as I had thought, which should keep the slide hazard to a minimum, although the quarrying has introduced a lengthy and rather deep notch in the slope. That still worries me. Should this notch destabilize the mountain sufficiently, a large slide could come crashing down into the Bow River and block its flow enough to cause it to back up into Canmore, built on the floodplain." 

Page 173, I use the term "tufa" too loosely. A better term for such deposits in the Canadian Rockies is "travertine." Strictly speaking, tufa is deposited by evaporation of mineral-rich lake water, not by hot springs and mineral springs.

Page 174, in the table about hot springs, under item 24, Kinbasket Lake Hot Springs, a sulphurous odor has been reported.

Page 185, in the Jurassic section of the time line, change "180" to "185" and move the "200-146" item to the top of the box.

More importantly, we have new information on the age of the Canadian Rockies. They are older than we thought.

Radiometric dating of minerals formed along thrust faults during mountain-building shows that the main ranges were on the rise 163 million years ago in the late Jurassic, significantly earlier than the 100 million years (mid-Cretaceous) found on the time line.

The age of the front ranges goes back farther, too, with faults in the western front ranges moving at 100-103 million in the mid-Cretaceous, about the time we used to think the main ranges were starting.

The front ranges were a-building longer than previously thought, because faults at the mountain front didn't begin moving until 52 million (Eocene). This makes the foothills younger than previous estimates, which had them starting not long after the front ranges, i.e. around 75 million. Tectonic activity in the foothills didn't begin until after that 55-million date we used to give for the end of mountain-building in the Canadian Rockies, period. It now seems likely that the foothills belt was on the rise for much of the Eocene, perhaps into the Oligocene.

But that's no surprise to me. When I was an Earth-science undergraduate back in the early 1970s I found evidence that tectonic activity in the foothills might have still been going on at the end of the ice ages only 14,000 years ago. And in geological terms that's practically today. I'm still waiting for a Ph.D.-level study of that.

If you'd like to read the actual scientific paper on the new radiometric dating work, search for "Orogenic pulses in the Alberta Rocky Mountains: Radiometric dating of major faults and comparison with the regional tectono-stratigraphic record," by Dinu Ion Pană and Ben A. van der Pluijm, Geological Society of America Bulletin, May 2015.

Looks like I'm going to have to do some tweaking up of the timeline for the next printing of the Handbook. I'll also have to go back through the entire geological section of the book, looking for passages that likewise need correcting. Such are the joys of authordom.

Page 192, in the correlation chart, move the 488 Ma line up a half-centimetre or so, making the Survey Peak Formation late Cambrian and early Ordovician.

Page 256, in the blue sidebar, "cause" should be "causes."

Page 483, in the item on rainbow trout, first paragraph, change "from one of the tiny Five Lakes to "from First Lake, largest and most northerly of the Five Lakes."

Page 635, second-to-last line in the black-bear item, change “tgime” to “time.”

Page 636, third paragraph from the end of the page, change the first part of the sentence beginning "Like black bears" to "Grizzly-bear females produce young every 4-5 years in Banff National Park and Jasper National Park,"

Page 693, in the item for 1845 about Father Pierre-Jean de Smet, he reported coal not from the Elk River around Fernie -- he did not reach this area -- but from exposures along the Kootenay River in the southern Rocky Mountain Trench, where coal occurs in the Kishenehn Formation, page 143.

Page 695, in the item for 1872, third paragraph, change "Sanford" to "Sandford." (Can't believe how long I've been misspelling Sir Sandford Fleming's first name!)

Page 806, in the index, change "black-felt snow mold  431" to "brown-felt snow-mold  431" and move it to the first column on the next page, just after "brown-eyed Susan."

Please do let me know if you find any others. Your reward for suggesting a necessary update or correction that I haven't already noted will be a free, inscribed copy of the next printing!

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