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The Milk River

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The Milk River is an uncommon Canadian river, set apart by its landscape, its pale and sediment-laden hue, its rugged ranching history, and most of all, its southern-seeking drainage. Here is some very brief information about the Milk River, but feel free to do more research on your own into the history, origin and geography of the Milk River.  You’ll find it fascinating!

The meandering Milk claims dual citizenship, originating in the mountains of northern Montana, flowing north and east for 385 kilometres though the plains of southern Alberta, and turning south again to end its 1,005 kilometre run at its confluence with the Missouri River.

 The Milk River is the only river in Canada which drains south into the Mississippi River drainage system.

The Milk River is much smaller than the actual valley through which it flows. This is known to as an underfit river system. “Most of the canyon cutting took place when virtually all of the runoff from southwestern Alberta was being diverted into the Milk River as a result of blockage by ice of drainage to the northeast. With recession of the Laurentide glacier out of the region and opening of a route around the Cypress Hills, evolution of the modern South Saskatchewan drainage began, waters that previously were feeding the Milk River became incorporated into the Hudson Bay catchment basin” (Beaty, Chester B., 1975. The Landscapes of Southern Alberta: A Regional Geomorphology. Lethbridge: University of Lethbridge Production Services, 95 pp.).

The waters of the Milk River are nearly always milky in color.  The river passes through the badlands and whenever there has been a heavy rain, the white silt from the badlands is washed into the river making it look milky.  The river gets its name from this milky-looking water.  From the journals of Lewis and Clarke, we can read “…The water of this river possesses a peculiar whiteness, being about the color of a cup of tea with the admixture of a tablespoon of milk.  From the color of its water we called it the MILK RIVER….”

Thanks to the following for the above information:

A Virtual Field Trip of Milk River, Alberta

Great Canadian Rivers

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