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Voyageurs National Park Natural Features

Voyageurs National Park is sometimes called the "Gift of the Glaciers." The natural features that define this area--expansive waterways, interconnected lakes, rocky outcrops, boreal forests and extensive wetlands, are all connected to the scouring, sculpting, advance and retreat of a sequence of glaciers, the most recent of which receded around 11,000 years ago.

This geologically youthful landscape is perched atop the ancient foundation of the Canadian Shield, an area of exposed Precambrian rocks that formed two-billion years before the age of dinosaurs. The smoothed rocky outcrops and low elevations that now characterize the park's terrain provide little hint of the area's more dramatic history.

Study of the park's rocks has shown that what is now Voyageurs National Park was once an area where volcanoes erupted beneath an ocean that no longer exists. They provide evidence that this area also contained mountains, and that beneath the surface of the archaic landscape were vast chambers of molten rock. These magma chambers cooled hundreds of millions of years ago, forming the granitic rocks that now comprise the Vermillion batholith.

These ancient rocks are found at the surface of the park because continental glaciers ground the overlying layers away over hundreds of thousands of years. As these glaciers retreated, large lakes would fill in the areas where softer rocks had been worn and gouged out from the surrounding material.

When we think of the changes that have occurred in what is now Voyageurs National Park over this great span of years, the landscape and natural features that define it take on a kaleidoscopic quality--as glaciers, lakes and forests advance, retreat, change, disappear, and return again and again over time.

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