Reconnaissance field work along the Alaska Highway in northern British Columbia and southeastern Yukon furnishes preliminary data on the later Quaternary history of the region, and on the processes and results of intensive frost action. Extensive erosion surfaces were developed prior to glaciation, such as the Alberta Plateau of northeastern British Columbia and the Yukon Plateau in southern Yukon.
In the region from Dawson Creek to Fort Nelson, British Columbia, the drift is dominantly a slightly weathered bouldery clay till of Wisconsin age, deposited by ice that came from the east. In the northern Rocky Mountains, the last eastward advance of the Wisconsin glaciers to the mountain front preceded the maximum westward advance of the ice sheets. In the foothills belt west of the Highway, the tills of these two advances are separated by lake deposits. Much of the drift is probably pre-Altamont in age and was subjected to vigorous frost action during the Altamont substage. The climate ameliorated perhaps with the advent of the post-glacial optimum and possibly coincident with the development of prairies. A recent change from prairie to forest perhaps indicates a slight cooling in recent time. In the northern Rocky Mountains, four substages of Wisconsin glaciation are recognized tentatively on the basis of morainal deposits and outwash terraces. The upper Liard basin is characterized by extensive pitted outwash plains, probably of late Wisconsin age. From Teslin Lake to Whitehorse, the Highway is bordered by extensive terraces of gravel and sand deposited in ice-marginal streams and lakes.
Intensive frost action has modified pre-existing land forms and has produced a wide variety of features, such as talus, blockfields, stone rings, stone stripes, and terraces. Long smooth slopes, chiefly due to mass movements such as solifluction, are characteristic of the landscapes. These slopes and ancient soil structures extend down into forested areas and probably developed prior to the advent of forests, doubtless prior to the post-glacial optimum. Phenomena resulting from intensive frost action at the present time are restricted largely to areas above timber line.