Wikimedia Commons
Wikimedia Commons

17 Canadian World Heritage Sites

Wikimedia Commons
Wikimedia Commons

The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) recognizes World Heritage Sites that are of great cultural or natural value. The designations are meant to help drum up an international commitment to preserve the sites. There are currently 981 sites on the list, and 17 of them are in Canada, including two that straddle the border with the United States.

1. L'Anse aux Meadows

This 11th century Viking settlement is the earliest evidence of Europeans living in the Americas. It was inhabited until about 1500. It's on the island of Newfoundland, at the end of the Great Northern Peninsula.

2. Nahanni National Park

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This park spans about 1800 square miles' worth of wilderness in the Northwest Territories. In addition to the super gorgeous Nahanni River, the park contains waterfalls, limestone caves, and forests.

3. Dinosaur Provincial Park

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Located in the province of Alberta, Dinosaur Provincial Park is now stark rocky badlands. But back in the Cretaceous period, the area was subtropical and home to around 35 species of dinosaur. Excavation began in the late 19th century, and since then paleontologists have pulled 300-plus dinosaur skeletons from the park.

4. Kluane/Wrangell-St Elias/Glacier Bay/Tatshenshini-Alsek

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This group of parks straddles the border between the Yukon and Alaska and represents the largest non-polar icefield in the world. 

5. Head-Smashed-In Buffalo Jump

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With easily the best name on the list, this site in Alberta has an amazing number of bison bones below a rocky ridge where wily aboriginal hunters used to chase bison off a precipice for an easy kill.

6. Sgang Gwaay

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This 19th century village, also known as Ninstints, is on an island off the coast of British Columbia north of Vancouver Island. The carved wooden poles on the island were made by the Haida people to remember the dead. The village also includes ruins of cedar long houses.

7. Wood Buffalo National Park

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The grasslands and sedge meadows in this park are home to wood bison and whooping cranes. The park is in the north-central region of Canada.

8. Canadian Rocky Mountain Parks

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This cluster of seven parks includes the national parks of Banff, Jasper, Kootenay and Yoho, along with the provincial parks of Mount Robson, Mount Assiniboine and Hamber. The alpine region has dramatic landscape—mountains, glaciers, waterfalls, canyons, and boreal forest. The Burgess Shale marine fossil site is also here.

9. Historic District of Old Quebec

Courtesy of World Heritage

Quebec City dates to the early 17th century, and still retains parts of its old defensive structures, including ramparts, gates, and garrisons. There are also a number of well-preserved 17th and 18th century houses.

10. Gros Morne National Park

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Newfoundland is a geologist's paradise—especially this park on the west coast, which is apparently a good place to observe the effects of continental drift. The area is noted for coastal lowlands, alpine plateaus, and fjords. Fjords!

11. Old Town Lunenburg

Courtesy of Open Travel

Lunenburg, Nova Scotia is a well-preserved British colonial town dating to 1753. Many of the buildings in this fishing town are original brightly-painted wooden structures more than 200 years old.

12. Waterton Glacier International Peace Park

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This park straddling the border between the United States and Canada, and is comprised of the Canadian Waterton Lakes National Park and the American Glacier National Park. The biodiverse region has a number of endangered species, including great horned owls, wolverines, and red deer.

13. Miguasha National Park

Wikimedia Commons

This park in Quebec is a significant site for fish fossils from the Devonian period, dating from 370 million years ago. The park is especially noted for the lobe-finned fish that are considered to be ancestors of the first terrestrial vertebrates.

14. Rideau Canal

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This canal connects the city of Ottawa with Lake Ontario, and was of great strategic importance in the early 19th century when the British and the United States were duking it out for control of Canada.

15. Joggins Fossil Cliffs

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This site in Nova Scotia is famous for its fossils from the Carboniferous period, also known as the "coal age," which spanned from about 359 million to 299 million years ago. There are a lot of fossilized critters in this site, and some fossilized trees are still upright, embedded in the cliffs.

16. Landscape of Grand Pré

Wikimedia Commons

This marshy area of Nova Scotia contains archaeological evidence of 18th-century agricultural methods, including the aboiteau farming system that allowed the Acadian settlers in the area to farm in spite of the boggy conditions.

17. Red Bay Basque Whaling Station

Courtesy of UNESCO

This seasonal European whaling settlement was founded in 1530 by Basque mariners in current-day Labrador. Here, whales were butchered and the fat was rendered into lamp oil. Archaeologists have found equipment and living quarters used by the whalers. Off shore there are sunken vessels and deposits of whale bones.

Sources: UNESCO World Heritage CentreParks Canada

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This Plant Can Burn Your Skin With its Sap—And It May Be Coming to Your Neighborhood
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It's huge, it's extremely dangerous, and it's spreading. The giant hogweed (Heracleum mantegazzianum) contains a corrosive sap that causes severe rashes, third-degree burns, and even permanent blindness if you get the photosensitive chemicals on your skin or in your eyes, Science Alert reports.

The noxious, invasive weed was just identified in Clarke County, Virginia, near the Massey Herbarium at Virginia Tech. That brings the number of states it's been spotted in to 11, including Washington, Oregon, Illinois, Michigan, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, New York, Connecticut, Massachusetts, and Maine. Beyond the U.S., it has taken root all over the world, from the UK to Iceland to Australia.

Similar to the common but slightly less dangerous cow parsnip, giant hogweed is native to Central Asia and was first brought to North America in the early 1990s as an ornamental plant, its unique shape making it popular among gardeners. But it soon became invasive: Once it’s established in an area, it can take up to five years to eradicate a colony.

Now the plant is considered a public health concern. Hogweed can cause a reaction known as phytophotodermatitis when it comes into contact with skin that is subsequently exposed to UV rays—but the effects of hogweed are much more severe. A painful blister can develop within hours and last for months; the exposed skin can remain sensitive to sunlight for years even after the blisters heal.

Hogweed can be difficult to distinguish from the cow parsnip, and the plant is often misidentified. First, check for height: Hogweeds are typically taller than 8 feet, while cow parsnip tends to be 5 to 8 feet tall. Hogweed stems are green with purple specks and coarse white hairs, while parsnip stems are green with fine white hairs. For more tips and photos, check out the New York Department of Environmental Conservation’s guide.

If you see a plant you think might be a giant hogweed, take a few photos and send them to your state's department of agriculture to identify—and whatever you do, don't touch it.

[h/t Science Alert]

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How to Spot Poison Ivy, According to a Scientist
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If you're a former scout, you've probably heard the rhyme “leaves of three, let it be.” This mnemonic device, used to steer intrepid outdoorspeople away from poisonous ivy and oak, is generally sound advice for ensuring you don’t come home with a nasty rash. Not all three-leaved plants are the enemy, though, and several harmless plants are often confused with poison ivy.

Microbiologist John Jelesko shared some tips with NPR for identifying this pernicious plant. First, it helps to know what you’re up against. Poison ivy is a master of disguise and can take many different shapes and sizes. It can appear in small patches, take the form of creeping vines or a bush, and can even mimic the appearance of a tree it has wrapped itself around. The leaves can have either “smooth, jagged, or lobed edges” and may or may not bear white or greenish berries.

If the plant has thorns, you can be sure it’s not poison ivy, whose mode of attack is a little more stealthy. In the city, Jelesko had found that climbing vines are the more common form; look out for ground-creeping vines in forested areas. While there are exceptions to this rule, Jelesko’s research found that poison ivy tends to take different forms depending on the landscape.

A longer middle stem and a hairy vine are also signs that you could be dealing with poison ivy. If you have a plant in your garden that you can’t identify, you can conduct a “black dot test” to see if it’s poison ivy. Put on a pair of gloves, tear a leaf in half, and place the sap on a sheet of white paper. If it’s urushiol oil (the rash-causing chemical in poison ivy), it will turn black within 30 minutes.

Sometimes, even our best efforts to identify poison ivy may fail. If you think you may have brushed up against it, don’t panic—take a shower within a few hours of contact. That should keep your chance of developing a rash at a minimum.

[h/t NPR]

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