Monday, September 19, 2011

The Rocky Mountains

The rocky mountains are the largest mountain ranges in North America. They are found in the west of North America and Canada, and are also known as 'Rockies'. The ranges are not continuous but are segregated. All the peaks rise above 3000 m. Mt. Elbert (4401 m) is the highest peak of Rocky mountains, while, Mt. Massive (4398 m) and Mt. Harvard (4397 m) are the second and third highest peaks respectively. Mt. Robson (3955 m) is the highest peak in Rocky mountains of Canada.


Rocky mountains extend from British Columbia to New Mexico. They stretch nearly 3000 miles. They are found in the American states like New Mexico, Wyoming, Utah, South Dakota, Idaho, Montana and Colorado as well as in Canadian states like British Columbia and Alberta.

The Rocky Mountains - North America
The rocky mountains are classified into Southern, Middle and Northern Rockies, the Rocky mountain system in Canada and the Brook range in Alaska. The Southern, Middle and Northern Rockies are found in the United States. Canadian rockies are the largest among the Rocky mountains and stretch along nearly 900 miles. Sawatch, Sangre de Cristo, San Juan Mts, Gore, Yellowstone Plateau, Wasatch, Park and Mosquito are the major mountain ranges.

Formation of the Rocky Mountains

The process of mountain formation is known as Orogeny. The formation of mountains in the world began in Paleozoic era (300-250 million years ago). The ancient rockies were formed in this era. Followed by it was the Mesozoic era or the age of dinosaurs (249-200 million years ago). Tectonics and sedimentation took place in North America in mesozoic era. In both of these eras, huge sediments from the oceans were deposited on land due to invasion of the oceans. At the end of mesozoic era, the process of formation of the Rockies started taking place. They were formed due to plate tectonic activity. The outermost layer of the Earth's interior is called as Lithosphere. It is broken into several plates. These plates are present below the surface of the earth. The collision of any two of these plates result in upliftment of vast land areas. The mountains are formed in this way.

Before the formation of the Rockies took place, there was a shallow sea in the area where Colorado is situated today. The youngest ranges of the Rockies were formed some 100-60 million years ago. The sedimentary as well as igneous rocks are found in the Rockies.

Erosion has played greater role in shaping of the Rockies since ancient times. As compared to their present day height, the Rockies were very large earlier. Tremendous amount of erosion took place and the sediments were washed away. These sediments were deposited eastwards and plains were formed.

Colorado Rocky Mountains

The highest and the broadest mountain ranges lie in Colorado. Many peaks are found in this region. Various summits rising above 4000 m are found in Colorado. The Sawatch is the principle range in Colorado. Rocky mountain National Park, situated in center of Colorado state, is a major tourist attraction. It incorporates nearly two hundred thousand acres of land. Peaks, glaciers and lakes are found in the park. There are grasslands at the lowest part of the National Park. Rock climbing, mountaineering, fishing and camping is found here.

The Rocky Mountain
Features of the Rocky Mountains

The rocky mountains have very slanting sides and most of the peaks are covered with snow. Inter-mountain basins are remarkable characteristics of the rockies. They are the areas formed due to less amount of upliftment. Many basins are seen in the rockies. The Wyoming Basin is one such example. It is a flat grassy prairie which divides the Rocky mountains into two. Biologically, these two parts of the rockies are completely different. Different kinds of fauna are found in these two parts.

The rocky mountains are the source of rivers like Mackenzie, Missouri, Fraser and Colorado. The Great Divide, created by the rivers in the rockies, separates the rivers flowing into Atlantic or Arctic from the rivers that flow into the Pacific ocean.

As they are rugged terrains, rocky mountains are thinly populated. The chief economic assets are natural resources, gold, copper and places of tourist attraction. Lake Louise and Jasper National Park are the major tourist attractions in the rockies of Alberta. Gold was discovered in the state of Idaho, Colorado and Montana, in the 19th century. Copper, lead, zinc is found sparsely in these areas. Leadville is a major mining center. Abundant forests are found that are major natural resources. These are under government control. Spruce, fir and pine are the species of trees that dominate these forests.

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