Maligne Lake Geology
Maligne Lake is the largest lake in Jasper National Park. The Maligne valley in which the lake lies was carved and excavated by valley glaciers, and Maligne lake has been dammed at its northern end by an end moraine deposited by the last glacier, which flowed down the maligne valley towards the Athabasca River. The glacial deposits and landforms forming the end moraine are excellent examples of glacial deposition.
The highest peak in the Maligne Lake area is Mount Brazeau (11,386 ft or 3,470 m), which stands southeast of Maligne Lake at the head of the Brazeau Icefield. It is barely visible behind the towering massif of Monkhead (10,535 ft or 3,211 m). In general, the highest mountains are at the south end of Maligne lake and are composed of strata that were deposited between 4,000 and 5,000 years ago. Northward from the high peaks at the south end of the lake, the maligne valley sides are different in form and composition. The east side of the maligne valley is made of steeply dipping limestone beds of Devonian to Mississippian age that form the spectacular range of sawtooth mountains called the Colin Range, which is part of the Queen Elizabeth Ranges. On the west side of the maligne valley, and in sharp contrast to the east side, is the Maligne Range composed of Cambrian and Precambrian quartzite and shales. These mountains owe their more subdued outline to the glaciers, which moved over them and rounded them to their present form.
The Maligne River, arising at Maligne Pass (6,800 ft or 2,100 m), flows into the northern part of Maligne Lake. At the northern end of Maligne lake, the river flows out in a narrow channel to Medicine Lake. There is no visible northern outlet from Medicine Lake because the Maligne River flows underground (except during flood) for 9 miles (14 km) before reappearing in the remarkable Maligne Canyon
, which is about 180 feet (55 m) in depth. The water flowing in the riverbed between Medicine Lake and Maligne Canyon
is derived from the adjacent mountainsides.
Not only is the Maligne Valley a U-shaped valley, but it is also a hanging tributary valley as a result of deepening or widening of the Athabasca Valley by glacial erosion at a faster rate than the tributary Maligne Valley. This process leaves the tributary at its junction with the main valley hanging above the main valley.
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