The mountain structures originated in three great orogenic periods, the earliest in the Archean, the second at the end of the Palaeozoic and the third at the end of the Mesozoic. The Archean mountain chains, which enclosed the present region of Hudson Bay, were so ancient that they had already been worn down almost to a plain before the early Palaeozoic sediments were laid down.
The marine-part of the Lafayette is probably covered by sediments of later age.
The Mesozoic sediments were almost entirely laid down to the west and south-west of the protaxis, upon the fiat-lying Palaeozoic rocks, and in the prairie region they are still almost horizontal; but in the Cordillera they have been thrust up into the series of mountain chains characterizing the Pacific coast region.
The ridges and intervening valleys, long parts of which have an approximately parallel trend from south-west to north-east, were formed by the erosion of folded sediments of varying hardness, the weak belts of rock being etched out to form valleys and the hard belts remaining as mountain ridges.
As in other comparable cases, this figure does not make allowance for the oblique attitude in which the sediments were deposited, and should not be construed to mean the vertical thickness of the system.