Geography of Canada

Location: Northern North America, bordering the North Atlantic Ocean and North Pacific Ocean, north of the conterminous US

Geographic coordinates: 60 00 N, 95 00 W

Map references: North America


  • total: 9,976,140 sq km
  • land: 9,220,970 sq km
  • water: 755,170 sq km

Area – comparative: slightly larger than the US

Land boundaries: total: 8,893 km border countries: US 8,893 km (includes 2,477 km with Alaska )

Coastline and Shoreline

Shoreline and Coastline are different concepts:

  • Coastline follows the general line of the coast, but sometimes, in the case of small inlets or bays, the coastline is measured as running directly across the bay or inlet to rejoin the coastline on the opposite side. Coastline is not measured as precisely as is shoreline.
  • Shoreline is the perimeter of the land along the waters edge, measured to the closest exactness possible. Shoreline is, therefore, usually longer for a particular location than is its coastline.

Canada has the longest coastline of any country in the world. The coastline includes the mainland coast and also the coasts of offshore islands. The total length of Canada s coastline is 202 080 kilometers.

Maritime claims: contiguous zone: 24 nm continental shelf: 200 nm or to the edge of the continental margin exclusive economic zone: 200 nm territorial sea: 12 nm

Climate: varies from temperate in south to sub arctic and arctic in north

Terrain: mostly plains with mountains in west and lowlands in southeast

Elevation extremes: lowest point: Atlantic Ocean 0 m highest point: Mount Logan 5,959 m

Natural resources: iron ore, nickel, zinc, copper, gold, lead, molybdenum, potash, silver, fish, timber, wildlife, coal, petroleum, natural gas, hydropower

Land use: arable land: 5% permanent crops: 0% permanent pastures: 3% forests and woodland: 54% other: 38% (1993 est.)

Irrigated land: 7,100 sq km (1993 est.)

Natural hazards: continuous permafrost in north is a serious obstacle to development; cyclonic storms form east of the Rocky Mountains , a result of the mixing of air masses from the Arctic , Pacific, and North American interior, and produce most of the countrys rain and snow

Environment – current issues: air pollution and resulting acid rain severely affecting lakes and damaging forests; metal smelting, coal-burning utilities, and vehicle emissions impacting on agricultural and forest productivity; ocean waters becoming contaminated due to agricultural, industrial, mining, and forestry activities

Environment – international agreements: party to: Air Pollution, Air Pollution-Nitrogen Oxides, Air Pollution-Persistent Organic Pollutants, Air Pollution-Sulphur 85, Air Pollution-Sulphur 94, Antarctic Treaty, Biodiversity, Climate Change, Desertification, Endangered Species, Environmental Modification, Hazardous Wastes, Marine Dumping, Nuclear Test Ban, Ozone Layer Protection, Ship Pollution, Tropical Timber 83, Tropical Timber 94, Wetlands, Whaling signed, but not ratified: Air Pollution-Volatile Organic Compounds, Antarctic-Environmental Protocol, Climate Change-Kyoto Protocol, Law of the Sea, Marine Life Conservation

Geography – note: second-largest country in world (after Russia ); strategic location between Russia and US via north polar route; nearly 90% of the population is concentrated within 160 km of the US/Canada border

The Great Lakes
The Great Lakes – Superior , Michigan , Huron, Erie and Ontario – are the largest group of freshwater lakes in the world. They have a total surface area of 245 000 square kilometers, of which about one third is in Canada ; only Lake Michigan is entirely within the USA .

Extremities of the Canadian landmass

  • Most northerly point: Cape Columbia , Nunavut ; 83 degrees 7 minutes North, 70 degrees 22 minutes West
  • Most southerly point: Middle Island , Ontario ; 41 degrees 41 minutes North, 82 degrees 40 minutes West
  • Most easterly point: Cape Spear , Newfoundland : 47 degrees 31 minutes north, 52 degrees 37 minutes West.
  • Most westerly point: A long portion of the Yukon-Alaska boundary which runs along the 141st meridian The point at the southern end of this line would be the furthest west. This is at: 60 degrees 8 minutes north, 141 degrees 0 minutes west).

Center of Canada
The center of Canada can be measured in many ways. The most readily understood would be by taking the mid-point of the four points given in (i), above. The resulting location (62 degrees 24 minutes North, 96 degrees 28 minutes West) is located just south of Yathkyed Lake in Nunavut , about 150 kilometers northwest of Arviat , Nunavut .