Sand Dunes? In Edmonton!

The Edmonton Group has traditionally focused on parkland creation and conservation. These are usually multi-year projects; our favorite, going on fifteen, is the Sand Dunes Natural Area (our name - bureaucratically known as NW384) in the far southwest of Edmonton.

We identified the feature in 2001, characterized its pro-glacial origins, and with the support of the Curator of Geology from our Provincial Museum, induced the City to purchase the lands the following year.  The dunes lie on the easternmost extent of the 200 sq km glacio-lacustrine Devon Dune Field to the west of Edmonton.

After a decade hiatus, the City is developing Natural Area Management Plan for the site, on which we are collaborating.  We are advocating for a partial reforestation of the major dune with Jackpine, our only locally native pines - the first reintroduction of the species to its natural location in our City parks - and continue to work with the City on interpretation and trail design.  

This longitudinal aeolian dune is not high, but visually significant on an otherwise flat landscape. It provides a unique touchstone to our pro-glacial history, including an unusual “blowout” feature, where once high-velocity winds scoured a football field size hole in the dune, now stabilized by vegetation.  Standing at the bottom of the 8 m blowout scarp, one can imagine the force of Holocene winds, and the environment faced by early man as the glaciers retreated.

Canada’s significant dunefields, with Devon Dunefield circled in red (courtesy of Geological Survey Canada) 

Map and satellite image of Devon Dunfield in blue, with Edmonton  location in orange (map - Alberta Geological Survey)

Tour group from City, SCC, Edmonton Area Land Trust views dune (photo CFRichmond)

Dune in Summer and Winter (photo CFRichmond)

Jackpine (P. banksiana), displaying branched habit and “witches broom” caused by a common mistletoe, Arceuthobium. (photo CFRichmond)

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