Reason #1: It’s not what you think.

A LOT OF PEOPLE JOKE about the prairies. How boring it is. How flat it is. Most people who drive cross country speed right through the middle of Canada. After living there for several years, I was grateful to learn it’s much more than what it seems. It’s a unique and interesting landscape that contains just as much beauty and history as anywhere else on the planet. You just have to approach it with some perspective.

1

Alberta Range Road

Range Road is a Canadian term that refers to roads that run north-south along the range grid lines of a survey system. Photo: Tobias Mandt

2

Beautiful and beneficial

These sunflowers were tall. According to the photographer, "They must have been 6 feet off the ground." Sunflower crops are used today as bird food, a nutritious snack, for sprouting, to make cooking oil, medicine, and for animal feed. Sunflower oil is used for biodiesel fuel, and the sunflower plant cleans toxins from the environment. Photo: Stuck in Customs

3

Days of old

Nearly 6,000 "standard" grain elevators were built across western Canada between the 1890s and the 1930s. These elevators housed a number of storage bins where the farmers' grain was held prior to shipment. Explosions and fires were not uncommon due to combustible flour or grain dust in the air, the reason many of these historical buildings had to be torn down. They went from dotting the landscape to becoming endangered buildings that many communities attempt to restore by turning them into museums. Photo: danwdotca

Intermission
2

23 scenic natural areas to explore before you die

by Joe Batruny
6

10 death-defying trails you’ll still want to hike [pics]

by Joe Batruny
22

50 places you can’t reach without climbing [pics]

by Hal Amen
4

Spacious home

This silhouette was captured in front of an Alberta sunset. Photo: Chris & Lara Pawluk

5

As far as the eye can see

A canola field is more than just an uplifting sight. Canola is used for animal feed as well as for cooking and salad oil, margarine, and shortening. It is also included in industrial products, cosmetics, inks, fertilizers, pharmaceuticals, and plastics. Photo: Chris & Lara Pawluk

6

Wading through wheat

More wheat is grown in the provinces of Alberta, Saskatchewan, and Manitoba than any other crop, and it's the region's #1 agri-food export. Average annual wheat production on the prairies is 22.3 million tonnes. ecstaticist

7

The harvest

Hay crops are harvested and baled starting in late summer. Photo: ecstaticist

8

Quilted fields

All but a fraction of one percent of the tallgrass prairie has been converted to cropland. Photo: ecstaticist

9

A prairies' double rainbow

Photo: seven_drunk_men

Intermission
27

35 hikes through some of the biggest country on Earth [PICs]

by Carlo Alcos
6

Mustang, the ‘Lost Kingdom of Tibet’ [pics]

by Darren Ornitz

Canada’s version of Torres del Paine: The Tombstone Mountains [PICs]

by Colin Delehanty
10

Gentle rolling hills

It's a common joke in Canada that you can watch your dog run away for three days in the prairies. The landscape can be utterly flat, but there are also many areas with rolling hills and deep ravines. Photo: gm_pentaxfan

11

Foothills

The transition zone between the plains, the low rolling hills and, eventually, the mountains. Photo: Gord Mckenna

12

Thunder of the plains

This photo of a plains bison was taken in Grasslands National Park in Saskatchewan. After 120 years of being absent from the area, they've been reintroduced. After the loss of bison, the mixed-grass prairie also lost the benefits of grazing, wallowing, fertilization (from dung), and other animal interactions. The herds shrank rapidly during the westward migration of European settlement, which brought extreme overhunting and land cultivation. Photo: jaymilesphotography

13

Here a barn, there a barn, everywhere a barn

Photo: ducksarefun

14

Alberta badlands

A type of dry terrain where softer sedimentary rocks and clay-rich soils have been extensively eroded by wind and water, badlands can resemble malpaís, a terrain of volcanic rock. Canyons, ravines, gullies, hoodoos, and other such geological forms are common. Photo: reservoir frog

15

Coulees

Otherwise known as valleys. Photo: gm_pentaxfan

Intermission
3

Inside the Darien Gap: An exploration in 19 photos

by Matthew Karsten
20

California’s giant redwoods, the tallest living things on our planet

by Hal Amen
10

The ultimate road trip through tropical North Queensland [pics]

by Scott Sporleder
16

Migration

Flocks of migrating snow geese fly south from the Arctic. This was the photographer's experience as she was driving through Alberta: "Aptly named, Snow Geese migrate in huge numbers, and when they land in farmers' fields or ponds to rest, they literally look like huge snow drifts..." Photo: madlyinlovewithlife

17

Summer visitors

American white pelican nesting colonies are found on remote, treeless islands and are distributed mostly in the Canadian prairies. They winter from the southern United States to Guatemala. I've seen many of them scooping up fish at the Saskatoon, Saskatchewan weir and the Oldman River in Lethbridge, Alberta. Photo: prairiedog (in and out)

18

Prairie wind

In 2011, wind power generated 2.3% of Canada's electricity demand. There are 23 wind farms in the prairies. Photo: ecstaticist

19

Storm clouds

Dust storms, wicked thunderstorms, wild lightning shows, and tornadoes -- the prairies get it all. ecstaticist

20

Whitetail deer

These beautiful creatures can be recognized by the characteristic white underside to their tails. A deer will raise its tail and move it from side to side as a signal of alarm during escape. gm_pentaxfan

21

Winter's abstraction

The winters in these provinces can mean living at least half a year without seeing a temperature above 0° C. Photo: madlyinlovewithlife

22

Where the dinosaurs roamed

The Royal Tyrrell Museum in Drumhellar, Alberta is Canada’s only museum dedicated exclusively to the science of palaeontology. It houses one of the world’s largest displays of dinosaur remains. Photo: nicora

23

Saskatchewan sky

I never knew how fortunate I was to gaze at skies like this most days. I love living in the mountains now, but I sure do miss these colours. Photo: gm_pentaxfan

24

Horshoe Canyon

A region of badlands surrounded by prairie in the province of Alberta. Photo: gmcmullen

25

Fiery sunset

The slogan on Saskatchewan licence plates is "Land of Living Skies." The prairie provinces enjoy 300-400 more sunshine hours per year than the rest of Canada. ecstaticist