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The isopach map of the interval from the land surface to the top of bedrock () shows the thickness of unconsolidated sediment overlying the bedrock. It includes sediment of both late Tertiary and Quaternary age, although Quaternary sediment forms the major portion of the sequence. The Tertiary sediment is confined largely to the lower parts of the preglacial channels (see Dawson et al., this volume, Chapter 24). This grouping of map units was chosen for Atlas mapping purposes because deposition within the valleys was more or less continuous from the close of the Tertiary into the Quaternary. That is, the deposition of nonglacial fluvial sediment continued until the preglacial drainageways were first blocked by the earliest glacial advance. The first stratigraphic marker positively identifying Quaternary sediment, at any particular site, is the stratigraphically lowest appearance of till and/or stratified sediment containing material transported westward and/or southward by the advancing Laurentide glaciers - typically material from the Precambrian Shield and/or the adjacent Paleozoic carbonate outcrop belt.
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The map shows the basic physiographic features of the Interior Plains. These features include: 1) the three prairie "steps" - the Manitoba Plain, the Saskatchewan Plain and the Alberta Plain (the latter extending only as far north as approximately the Athabasca River) and the Peace River Lowland; 2) the step margins - the Manitoba Escarpment and the Missouri Coteau; and 3) the major topographic highs - Turtle Mountain, Riding Mountain, Duck Mountain and Porcupine Hills in Manitoba; the Pasquia Hills, Wapawekka Hills, Moose Mountain, Wood Mountain and Cypress Hills in Saskatchewan; and the Swan Hills, Pelican Mountains, Buffalo Head Hills, Clear Hills, Milligan Hills (Pettapiece, 1986), Birch Mountains, Caribou Mountains, and Cameron Hills in Alberta. Additional information on these features can be found in Bostock (1970 a,b) and Klassen (1989, Fig 2.16).