British Columbia is the third largest Canadian province, both in area and population. It is nearly 1.5 times as large as Texas, and extends 800 miles (1,280km) north from the United States border. It includes Canada’s entire west coast and the islands just off the coast.
Most of British Columbia is mountainous, with long rugged ranges running north and south. Even the coastal islands are the remains of a mountain range that existed thousands of years ago. During the last Ice Age, this range was scoured by glaciers until most of it was beneath the sea. Its peaks now show as islands scattered along the coast.
The southwestern coastal region has a humid mild marine climate. Sea winds that blow inland from the west are warmed by a current of warm water that flows through the Pacific Ocean. As a result, winter temperatures average above freezing and summers are mild. These warm western winds also carry moisture from the ocean.
Inland from the coast, the winds from the Pacific meet the mountain barriers of the coastal ranges and the Rocky Mountains. As they rise to cross the mountains, the winds are cooled, and their moisture begins to fall as rain. On some of the western slopes almost 200 inches (500cm) of rain fall each year.
More than half of British Columbia is heavily forested. On mountain slopes that receive plentiful rainfall, huge Douglas firs rise in towering columns. These forest giants often grow to be as much as 300 feet (90m) tall, with diameters up to 10 feet (3m). More lumber is produced from these trees than from any other kind of tree in North America. Hemlock, red cedar, and balsam fir are among the other trees found in British Columbia.