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Wood Mountain Plateau

(49°14’N 106°23’W: Map sheet 72 G/1). Elevated to a maximum of 1,013 m, Wood Mountain is located close to the international boundary and approximately 30 km southwest of Assiniboia. Like the Cypress Hills to the west, the southeastern portion of the Wood Mountain upland stood above the continental ice-sheet during the last Glaciation, preserving Tertiary sands and gravels at higher elevations. Elsewhere, the uplands are covered with varying amounts of glacial drift. The plateau is deeply dissected by numerous gullies creating a landscape of coulees, separated by flat-topped hills. A prominent feature is Pinto Butte at the western end of the plateau. Most drainage is to the south, but some gullies drain northward into the Wood River and to lakes along the northern flank. When Métis settlers occupied the area in the 1870s, it was well wooded with poplar and still had significant numbers of buffalo and other game. Sitting Bull and his people found temporary refuge there after fleeing the US army. Today the vegetation is dominated by native mixed-grass prairie on the uplands, with shrubs in the moist coulees.

Land use has undergone several changes. The hunting economy disappeared with the buffalo in 1879. Jean-Louis Légaré, who built a trading post at Wood Mountain in 1870, introduced ranching to the region. Homesteading did not begin until 1907. Much of the region is still rangeland, the amount of arable land being severely limited by topography and poor soils. The village of Wood Mountain (pop. 40) is located on the northern flank of the plateau. The site of the former NWMP post was designated a Provincial Historic Park in 1965. The East Bloc of the Grasslands National Park lies around the Kildeer Badlands on the southwestern flank of Wood Mountain.

Marilyn Lewry

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Further Reading

Poirier, T. (ed.). 2000. Wood Mountain Uplands: From the Big Muddy to the Frenchman River. Wood Mountain, Saskatchewan: Wood Mountain Historical Society.
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