On the Rocks with Geologist Dr. Dale Leckie

By Carly Peters

If you were standing in Edmonton some 22,000 years ago, you’d be surrounded by three-kilometre-thick glaciers—ice, like rocks, with the power to shape the land as it is today. In his new book, The Scenic Geology of Alberta: A Roadside Touring and Hiking Guide, Dr. Dale Leckie merges science with storytelling and art to guide travellers through Alberta’s landscape evolution and fascinating geological formations.

The Rocky Mountains usually come to mind when people think about the province’s most awe-inspiring landforms, but Leckie, an AMA member who worked as a geologist for 40-plus years, wants people to look beyond those big hills.

Rocks Telling a Deep History

“There are so many spectacular scenes that a lot of people don’t know about,” he says, citing places like Milk River Canyon, Red Rock Coulee and Sulphur Gates. Understanding how these formations came to be adds another layer to the experience. “Geology is a form of natural history; it’s another way to appreciate nature and landscapes.”

Leckie’s book provides easy-to-digest explanations about Alberta’s ever-shifting scenery, which has been shaped by catastrophic natural events. The geology buff points to the abandoned hamlet of Dorothy, home of the Dorothy Bentonite. The nine-metre-thick ridge of altered volcanic ash formed some 75 million years ago when ash rained down after a violent eruption in B.C.

Other events, though not as dramatic, were equally as powerful. Leckie points to the unbelievable forces it took to create the mountains in Waterton Lakes National Park. Tectonic forces over the course of millions of years moved and thrust billions of tons of sediment, originating 140 km to the southwest, to create the spectacular topography visible today. The dramatic cliffs include rocks older than the Rocky Mountains in Banff and Jasper.

A Cooperative Effort

From Waterton Lakes National Park to the Prairies to the near north, each region in Leckie’s book includes driving directions, hiking suggestions and some of the best vantage points to soak up Alberta’s photogenic geology.

Alongside the science, the author incorporates works by Alberta painters L.C. Cariou and Brent Laycock to show a different side of the lovely landmasses. “As a geologist, I’m looking at the details of how these formations got there, but artists have a different way of interpreting the land. I want readers to see through the eyes of scientists and artists.”

Like a Rolling Stone

Since the book’s launch, Leckie has been delighted to see travellers tagging him in photos of destinations in the book. “That was my biggest goal: to inspire people to get out and enjoy Alberta.”

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