Gros Morne National Park

The Beauty of Gros Morne National Park

Newfoundland, Canada
Area of Gros Morne National Park: 700 sq mi (1,813 sq km)
Average temperature (summer): 68°F (20°C)
Average temperature (Winter): 17°F (-8°C)

Sometimes referred to as the "Galapagos of Geology," this national park in Newfoundland's western highlands contains some of the oldest rocks in the world, which provide an illuminating insight into the geological evolution of Earth. The bedrock here tells the 1.2 billion-year-old story of shifting and colliding continental plates that once united North America with Europe and Asia. Scientists have discovered that Gros Morne's ancient Long Range Mountains (20 times older than the Rocky Mountains) are part of the same mountain range that runs through Scotland on the other side of the Atlantic Ocean. The ancient rocks of Gros Morne have been worn down by successive waves of advancing and retreating ice over the past two million years, leaving the rounded summits and natural beauty of Gros Morne, Big Hill, and Kildevil Mountains. The result is a remarkable landscape of ancient mountains, fjord valleys, deep glacial lakes, coastal bogs, and, along the coast, wave-carved cliffs.

By traveling from the warmer coastal lowlands up to the alpine barrens of the Long Range Mountains, one can encounter a unique mixture of temperate, boreal, and arctic plant and animal species. The lower elevations are home to black bear and moose; the uplands to animals, such as arctic hare and woodland caribou, that have adapted to the colder weather. All of these animal species found their way to the island in the last 15,000 years, after the ice sheets retreated following the end of the last ice age. Nine of the island's 14 land mammals are subspecies, subtly different from their relatives on the mainland.

One of the most awesome features of Gros Morne is Western Brook Pond, a deep fjord- like canyon containing a freshwater lake. The canyon was shaped by the great ice sheet that once covered all of Newfoundland. Meltwater from the ice sheet flowed down the canyon to the sea. But once the ice retreated, the land, relieved of the weight of the ice, lifted up and raised the fjord shoreline above sea level. The "pond" has since filled with runoff that still cascades into it from the plateau above in the form of spectacular waterfalls. The park has numerous excellent hiking trails through the wild, uninhabited mountains, as well as several campgrounds near the sea.