|The Rockies (en), Les montagnes Rocheuses (fr), Montañas Rocosas, Rocallosas(es)|
|Peak||Mount Elbert (Colorado)|
|Elevation||4,401 m (14,440 ft)|
|Length||3,000 km (1,900 mi) (straight-line distance)|
|Countries||Canada and United States|
|Parent range||North American Cordillera|
|Age of rock||Precambrian and Cretaceous|
|Type of rock||Igneous, sedimentary and metamorphic|
The Rocky Mountains, also known as the Rockies, are a major mountain range in western North America. The Rocky Mountains stretch 3,000 km (1,900 mi) in straight-line distance from the northernmost part of British Columbia, in western Canada, to New Mexico in the Southwestern United States. Located within the North American Cordillera, the Rockies are distinct from the Pacific Coast Ranges, Cascade Range, and the Sierra Nevada, which all lie farther to the west.
A mountain range or hill range is a series of mountains or hills ranged in a line and connected by high ground. A mountain system or mountain belt is a group of mountain ranges with similarity in form, structure, and alignment that have arisen from the same cause, usually an orogeny. Mountain ranges are formed by a variety of geological processes, but most of the significant ones on Earth are the result of plate tectonics. Mountain ranges are also found on many planetary mass objects in the Solar System and are likely a feature of most terrestrial planets.
North America is a continent entirely within the Northern Hemisphere and almost all within the Western Hemisphere. It is also considered by some to be a northern subcontinent of the Americas. It is bordered to the north by the Arctic Ocean, to the east by the Atlantic Ocean, to the west and south by the Pacific Ocean, and to the southeast by South America and the Caribbean Sea.
The great-circle distance or orthodromic distance is the shortest distance between two points on the surface of a sphere, measured along the surface of the sphere. The distance between two points in Euclidean space is the length of a straight line between them, but on the sphere there are no straight lines. In spaces with curvature, straight lines are replaced by geodesics. Geodesics on the sphere are circles on the sphere whose centers coincide with the center of the sphere, and are called great circles.
The Rocky Mountains formed 80 million to 55 million years ago during the Laramide orogeny, in which a number of plates began sliding underneath the North American plate. The angle of subduction was shallow, resulting in a broad belt of mountains running down western North America. Since then, further tectonic activity and erosion by glaciers have sculpted the Rockies into dramatic peaks and valleys. At the end of the last ice age, humans began inhabiting the mountain range. After Europeans, such as Sir Alexander Mackenzie, and Americans, such as the Lewis and Clark expedition, began exploring the range, minerals and furs drove the initial economic exploitation of the mountains, although the range itself never experienced a dense population.
The Laramide orogeny was a period of mountain building in western North America, which started in the Late Cretaceous, 70 to 80 million years ago, and ended 35 to 55 million years ago. The exact duration and ages of beginning and end of the orogeny are in dispute. The Laramide orogeny occurred in a series of pulses, with quiescent phases intervening. The major feature that was created by this orogeny was deep-seated, thick-skinned deformation, with evidence of this orogeny found from Canada to northern Mexico, with the easternmost extent of the mountain-building represented by the Black Hills of South Dakota. The phenomenon is named for the Laramie Mountains of eastern Wyoming. The Laramide orogeny is sometimes confused with the Sevier orogeny, which partially overlapped in time and space.
Subduction is a geological process that takes place at convergent boundaries of tectonic plates where one plate moves under another and is forced to sink due to gravity into the mantle. Regions where this process occurs are known as subduction zones. Rates of subduction are typically in centimeters per year, with the average rate of convergence being approximately two to eight centimeters per year along most plate boundaries.
The Quaternary glaciation, also known as the Pleistocene glaciation, is an alternating series of glacial and interglacial periods during the Quaternary period that began 2.58 Ma, and is ongoing. Although geologists describe the entire time period as an "ice age", in popular culture the term "ice age" is usually associated with just the most recent glacial period. Since earth still has ice sheets, geologists consider the Quaternary glaciation to be ongoing, with earth now experiencing an interglacial period.
Public parks and forest lands protect much of the mountain range, and they are popular tourist destinations, especially for hiking, camping, mountaineering, fishing, hunting, mountain biking, skiing, and snowboarding.
Hiking is the preferred term, in Canada and the United States, for a long, vigorous walk, usually on trails (footpaths), in the countryside, while the word walking is used for shorter, particularly urban walks. On the other hand, in the United Kingdom, and the Republic of Ireland, the word "walking" is acceptable to describe all forms of walking, whether it is a walk in the park or backpacking in the Alps. The word hiking is also often used in the UK, along with rambling, hillwalking, and fell walking. The term bushwalking is endemic to Australia, having been adopted by the Sydney Bush Walkers club in 1927. In New Zealand a long, vigorous walk or hike is called tramping. It is a popular activity with numerous hiking organizations worldwide, and studies suggest that all forms of walking have health benefits.
Camping is an outdoor activity involving overnight stays away from home in a shelter, such as a tent or a recreational vehicle. Typically participants leave developed areas to spend time outdoors in more natural ones in pursuit of activities providing them enjoyment. To be regarded as "camping" a minimum of one night is spent outdoors, distinguishing it from day-tripping, picnicking, and other similarly short-term recreational activities. Camping can be enjoyed through all four seasons.
Mountaineering or alpinism is the set of activities that involves traversing mountainous terrain. This terrain, constituting both natural and man-made landscapes, contains steep slopes that may be rocky or covered with ice and snow. The classic mountaineering activity is ascending summits; this is often referred to as peak bagging. Today, the sport encompasses a wide variety of disciplines and endeavors, each requiring various degrees of experience, athletic ability, and technical knowledge. Recreational climbing, skiing, and snow travel are the disciplines most intricately linked to mountaineering. Hiking, camping, and navigation are also a major part of the sport. At its highest level, it is one of the extreme sports, among which it is sometimes cited as an archetypal example.
The name of the mountains is a translation of an Amerindian name that is closely related to Algonquian; the Cree name as-sin-wati is given as, "When seen from across the prairies, they looked like a rocky mass". The first mention of their present name by a European was in the journal of Jacques Legardeur de Saint-Pierre in 1752, where they were called "Montagnes de Roche".
The Algonquian languages are a subfamily of American indigenous languages which includes most of the languages in the Algic language family. The name of the Algonquian language family is distinguished from the orthographically similar Algonquin dialect of the indigenous Ojibwe language (Chippewa), which is a senior member of the Algonquian language family. The term Algonquin has been suggested to derive from the Maliseet word elakómkwik, "they are our relatives/allies". A number of Algonquian languages, like many other Native American languages, are now extinct.
The Cree are one of the largest groups of First Nations in North America.
Jacques Legardeur de Saint-Pierre was a Canadian colonial military commander and explorer who held posts throughout North America in the 18th century, just before and during the French and Indian War.
The Rocky Mountains are often defined as stretching from the Liard River in British Columbia 13 south to the Rio Grande in New Mexico. The Rockies vary in width from 110 to 480 kilometres (70 to 300 mi). The Rocky Mountains are notable for containing the highest peaks in central North America. The range's highest peak is Mount Elbert located in Colorado at 4,401 metres (14,440 ft) above sea level. Mount Robson in British Columbia, at 3,954 metres (12,972 ft), is the highest peak in the Canadian Rockies.:
The Liard River of the North American boreal forest flows through Yukon, British Columbia and the Northwest Territories, Canada. Rising in the Saint Cyr Range of the Pelly Mountains in southeastern Yukon, it flows 1,115 kilometres (693 mi) southeast through British Columbia, marking the northern end of the Rocky Mountains and then curving northeast back into Yukon and Northwest Territories, draining into the Mackenzie River at Fort Simpson, Northwest Territories. The river drains approximately 277,100 square kilometres (107,000 sq mi) of boreal forest and muskeg.
The Rio Grande is one of the principal rivers in the southwest United States and northern Mexico. The Rio Grande begins in south-central Colorado in the United States and flows to the Gulf of Mexico. After passing through the length of New Mexico along the way, it forms part of the Mexico–United States border. According to the International Boundary and Water Commission, its total length was 1,896 miles (3,051 km) in the late 1980s, though course shifts occasionally result in length changes. Depending on how it is measured, the Rio Grande is either the fourth- or fifth-longest river system in North America.
Mount Elbert is the highest summit of the Rocky Mountains of North America and the highest point in the U.S. state of Colorado and the entire Mississippi River drainage basin. The ultra-prominent 14,440-foot (4401.2 m) fourteener is the highest peak in the Sawatch Range and the second-highest summit in the contiguous United States after Mount Whitney. Mount Elbert is located in San Isabel National Forest, 12.1 miles (19.4 km) southwest of the City of Leadville in Lake County, Colorado.
The eastern edge of the Rockies rises dramatically above the Interior Plains of central North America, including the Sangre de Cristo Mountains of New Mexico and Colorado, the Front Range of Colorado, the Wind River Range and Big Horn Mountains of Wyoming, the Absaroka-Beartooth ranges and Rocky Mountain Front of Montana and the Clark Range of Alberta.[ citation needed ]
The Interior Plains are a vast physiographic region that spreads across the Laurentian craton of central North America, extending from the Gulf Coast region to the Arctic Ocean along the east flank of the Rocky Mountains. In Canada, it separates the Rocky Mountains from the Canadian Shield, while in the U.S., it includes the Great Plains of the west and the Tallgrass prairie region to the south of the Great Lakes extending east to the Appalachian Plateau region.
The Sangre de Cristo Mountains are the southernmost subrange of the Rocky Mountains. They are located in southern Colorado and northern New Mexico in the United States. The mountains run from Poncha Pass in South-Central Colorado, trending southeast and south, ending at Glorieta Pass, southeast of Santa Fe, New Mexico. The mountains contain a number of fourteen thousand foot peaks in the Colorado portion, as well as all the peaks in New Mexico which are over thirteen thousand feet.
New Mexico is a state in the Southwestern region of the United States of America; its capital and cultural center is Santa Fe, which was founded in 1610 as capital of Nuevo México, while its largest city is Albuquerque with its accompanying metropolitan area. It is one of the Mountain States and shares the Four Corners region with Utah, Colorado, and Arizona; its other neighboring states are Oklahoma to the northeast, Texas to the east-southeast, and the Mexican states of Chihuahua to the south and Sonora to the southwest. With a population around two million, New Mexico is the 36th state by population. With a total area of 121,592 sq mi (314,920 km2), it is the fifth-largest and sixth-least densely populated of the 50 states. Due to their geographic locations, northern and eastern New Mexico exhibit a colder, alpine climate, while western and southern New Mexico exhibit a warmer, arid climate.
The western edge of the Rockies includes ranges such as the Wasatch near Salt Lake City, the Bitterroots along the Idaho-Montana border, and the Sawtooths in central Idaho. The Great Basin and Columbia River Plateau separate these subranges from distinct ranges further to the west. In Canada, the western edge of the Rockies is formed by the huge Rocky Mountain Trench, which runs the length of British Columbia from its beginnings in the middle Flathead River valley in western Montana to the south bank of the Liard River.
Geographers define three main groups of the Canadian Rockies: the Continental Ranges, Hart Ranges, and Muskwa Ranges. The Rockies do not extend into the Yukon or Alaska, or into central British Columbia. Other mountain ranges continue beyond the Liard River, including the Selwyn Mountains in Yukon, the Brooks Range in Alaska, but those are not part of the Rockies, though they are part of the American Cordillera.
The Continental Divide of the Americas is located in the Rocky Mountains and designates the line at which waters flow either to the Atlantic or Pacific Oceans. Triple Divide Peak (2,440 metres (8,020 ft)) in Glacier National Park is so named because water falling on the mountain reaches not only the Atlantic and Pacific but Hudson Bay as well. Farther north in Alberta, the Athabasca and other rivers feed the basin of the Mackenzie River, which has its outlet on the Beaufort Sea of the Arctic Ocean.
Human population is not very dense in the Rocky Mountains, with an average of four people per square kilometer and few cities with over 50,000 people. However, the human population grew rapidly in the Rocky Mountain states between 1950 and 1990. The forty-year statewide increases in population range from 35% in Montana to about 150% in Utah and Colorado. The populations of several mountain towns and communities have doubled in the last forty years. Jackson, Wyoming, increased 260%, from 1,244 to 4,472 residents, in forty years.
The rocks in the Rocky Mountains were formed before the mountains were raised by tectonic forces. The oldest rock is Precambrian metamorphic rock that forms the core of the North American continent. There is also Precambrian sedimentary argillite, dating back to 1.7 billion years ago. During the Paleozoic, western North America lay underneath a shallow sea, which deposited many kilometers of limestone and dolomite. 76:
In the southern Rocky Mountains, near present-day Colorado, these ancestral rocks were disturbed by mountain building approximately 300 Ma, during the Pennsylvanian. This mountain-building produced the Ancestral Rocky Mountains. They consisted largely of Precambrian metamorphic rock forced upward through layers of the limestone laid down in the shallow sea. The mountains eroded throughout the late Paleozoic and early Mesozoic, leaving extensive deposits of sedimentary rock.
Terranes began colliding with the western edge of North America in the Mississippian (approximately 350 million years ago), causing the Antler orogeny.For 270 million years, the focus of the effects of plate collisions were near the edge of the North American plate boundary, far to the west of the Rocky Mountain region. It was not until 80 Ma these effects began reaching the Rockies.
The current Rocky Mountains arose in the Laramide orogeny from between 80 and 55 Ma. 78 the rug bunches up and forms wrinkles (mountains). In Canada, the terranes and subduction are the foot pushing the rug, the ancestral rocks are the rug, and the Canadian Shield in the middle of the continent is the hardwood floor. :78For the Canadian Rockies, the mountain building is analogous to pushing a rug on a hardwood floor: :
Further south, an unusual subduction may have caused the growth of the Rocky Mountains in the United States, where the Farallon plate dove at a shallow angle below the North American plate. This low angle moved the focus of melting and mountain building much farther inland than the normal 300 to 500 kilometres (200 to 300 mi). Scientists hypothesize that the shallow angle of the subducting plate increased the friction and other interactions with the thick continental mass above it. Tremendous thrusts piled sheets of crust on top of each other, building the broad, high Rocky Mountain range.
The current southern Rockies were forced upwards through the layers of Pennsylvanian and Permian sedimentary remnants of the Ancestral Rocky Mountains.Such sedimentary remnants were often tilted at steep angles along the flanks of the modern range; they are now visible in many places throughout the Rockies, and are shown along the Dakota Hogback, an early Cretaceous sandstone formation running along the eastern flank of the modern Rockies.
Just after the Laramide orogeny, the Rockies were like Tibet: a high plateau, probably 6,000 metres (20,000 ft) above sea level. In the last sixty million years, erosion stripped away the high rocks, revealing the ancestral rocks beneath, and forming the current landscape of the Rockies. :80-81
Periods of glaciation occurred from the Pleistocene Epoch (1.8 million – 70,000 years ago) to the Holocene Epoch (fewer than 11,000 years ago). These ice ages left their mark on the Rockies, forming extensive glacial landforms, such as U-shaped valleys and cirques. Recent glacial episodes included the Bull Lake Glaciation, which began about 150,000 years ago, and the Pinedale Glaciation, which perhaps remained at full glaciation until 15,000–20,000 years ago.
All of these geological processes exposed a complex set of rocks at the surface. For example, volcanic rock from the Paleogene and Neogene periods (66 million – 2.6 million years ago) occurs in the San Juan Mountains and in other areas. Millennia of severe erosion in the Wyoming Basin transformed intermountain basins into a relatively flat terrain. The Tetons and other north-central ranges contain folded and faulted rocks of Paleozoic and Mesozoic age draped above cores of Proterozoic and Archean igneous and metamorphic rocks ranging in age from 1.2 billion (e.g., Tetons) to more than 3.3 billion years (Beartooth Mountains).
There are a wide range of environmental factors in the Rocky Mountains. The Rockies range in latitude between the Liard River in British Columbia (at 59° N) and the Rio Grande in New Mexico (at 35° N). Prairie occurs at or below 550 metres (1,800 ft), while the highest peak in the range is Mount Elbert at 4,400 metres (14,440 ft). Precipitation ranges from 250 millimetres (10 in) per year in the southern valleys to 1,500 millimetres (60 in) per year locally in the northern peaks. Average January temperatures can range from −7 °C (20 °F) in Prince George, British Columbia, to 6 °C (43 °F) in Trinidad, Colorado. Therefore, there is not a single monolithic ecosystem for the entire Rocky Mountain Range.
Instead, ecologists divide the Rocky Mountain into a number of biotic zones. Each zone is defined by whether it can support trees and the presence of one or more indicator species. Two zones that do not support trees are the Plains and the Alpine tundra. The Great Plains lie to the east of the Rockies and is characterized by prairie grasses (below roughly 550 metres (1,800 ft)). Alpine tundra occurs in regions above the treeline for the Rocky Mountains, which varies from 3,700 metres (12,000 ft) in New Mexico to 760 metres (2,500 ft) at the northern end of the Rocky Mountains (near the Yukon).
The USGS defines ten forested zones in the Rocky Mountains. Zones in more southern, warmer, or drier areas are defined by the presence of pinyon pines/junipers, ponderosa pines, or oaks mixed with pines. In more northern, colder, or wetter areas, zones are defined by Douglas firs, Cascadian species (such as western hemlock), lodgepole pines/quaking aspens, or firs mixed with spruce. Near treeline, zones can consist of white pines (such as whitebark pine or bristlecone pine); or a mixture of white pine, fir, and spruce that appear as shrub-like krummholz. Finally, rivers and canyons can create a unique forest zone in more arid parts of the mountain range.
The Rocky Mountains are an important habitat for a great deal of well-known wildlife, such as elk, moose, mule and white-tailed deer, pronghorn, mountain goats, bighorn sheep, badgers, black bears, grizzly bears, coyotes, lynxes, and wolverines.For example, North America's largest herds of moose are in the Alberta-British Columbia foothills forests.
The status of most species in the Rocky Mountains is unknown, due to incomplete information. European-American settlement of the mountains has adversely impacted native species. Examples of some species that have declined include western toads, greenback cutthroat trout, white sturgeon, white-tailed ptarmigan, trumpeter swan, and bighorn sheep. In the United States portion of the mountain range, apex predators such as grizzly bears and gray wolves had been extirpated from their original ranges, but have partially recovered due to conservation measures and reintroduction. Other recovering species include the bald eagle and the peregrine falcon.
Since the last great ice age, the Rocky Mountains were home first to indigenous peoples including the Apache, Arapaho, Bannock, Blackfoot, Cheyenne, Coeur d'Alene, Kalispel, Crow Nation, Flathead, Shoshone, Sioux, Ute, Kutenai (Ktunaxa in Canada), Sekani, Dunne-za, and others. Paleo-Indians hunted the now-extinct mammoth and ancient bison (an animal 20% larger than modern bison) in the foothills and valleys of the mountains. Like the modern tribes that followed them, Paleo-Indians probably migrated to the plains in fall and winter for bison and to the mountains in spring and summer for fish, deer, elk, roots, and berries. In Colorado, along with the crest of the Continental Divide, rock walls that Native Americans built for driving game date back 5,400–5,800 years. A growing body of scientific evidence indicates that indigenous people had significant effects on mammal populations by hunting and on vegetation patterns through deliberate burning.
Recent human history of the Rocky Mountains is one of more rapid change. The Spanish explorer Francisco Vázquez de Coronado—with a group of soldiers, missionaries, and African slaves—marched into the Rocky Mountain region from the south in 1540.In 1610, the Spanish founded the city of Santa Fe, the oldest continual seat of government in the United States, at the foot of the Rockies in present day New Mexico. The introduction of the horse, metal tools, rifles, new diseases, and different cultures profoundly changed the Native American cultures. Native American populations were extirpated from most of their historical ranges by disease, warfare, habitat loss (eradication of the bison), and continued assaults on their culture.
In 1739, French fur traders Pierre and Paul Mallet, while journeying through the Great Plains, discovered a range of mountains at the headwaters of the Platte River, which local American Indian tribes called the "Rockies", becoming the first Europeans to report on this uncharted mountain range.
Sir Alexander MacKenzie (1764 – March 11, 1820) became the first European to cross the Rocky Mountains in 1793.He found the upper reaches of the Fraser River and reached the Pacific coast of what is now Canada on July 20 of that year, completing the first recorded transcontinental crossing of North America north of Mexico. He arrived at Bella Coola, British Columbia, where he first reached saltwater at South Bentinck Arm, an inlet of the Pacific Ocean.
The Lewis and Clark Expedition (1804–1806) was the first scientific reconnaissance of the Rocky Mountains.Specimens were collected for contemporary botanists, zoologists, and geologists. The expedition was said to have paved the way to (and through) the Rocky Mountains for European-Americans from the East, although Lewis and Clark met at least 11 European-American mountain men during their travels.
Mountain men, primarily French, Spanish, and British, roamed the Rocky Mountains from 1720 to 1800 seeking mineral deposits and furs. The fur-trading North West Company established Rocky Mountain House as a trading post in what is now the Rocky Mountain Foothills of present-day Alberta in 1799, and their business rivals the Hudson's Bay Company established Acton House nearby.These posts served as bases for most European activity in the Canadian Rockies in the early 19th century. Among the most notable are the expeditions of David Thompson (explorer), who followed the Columbia River to the Pacific Ocean. On his 1811 expedition, he camped at the junction of the Columbia River and the Snake River and erected a pole and notice claiming the area for the United Kingdom and stating the intention of the North West Company to build a fort at the site.
By the Anglo-American Convention of 1818, which established the 49th parallel north as the international boundary west from Lake of the Woods to the "Stony Mountains";the UK and the USA agreed to what has since been described as "joint occupancy" of lands further west to the Pacific Ocean. Resolution of the territorial and treaty issues, the Oregon dispute, was deferred until a later time.
In 1819, Spain ceded their rights north of the 42nd Parallel to the United States, though these rights did not include possession and also included obligations to Britain and Russia concerning their claims in the same region.
After 1802, American fur traders and explorers ushered in the first widespread Caucasian presence in the Rockies south of the 49th parallel. The more famous of these include Americans William Henry Ashley, Jim Bridger, Kit Carson, John Colter, Thomas Fitzpatrick, Andrew Henry, and Jedediah Smith. On July 24, 1832, Benjamin Bonneville led the first wagon train across the Rocky Mountains by using South Pass in the present State of Wyoming.Similarly, in the wake of Mackenzie's 1793 expedition, fur trading posts were established west of the Northern Rockies in a region of the northern Interior Plateau of British Columbia which came to be known as New Caledonia, beginning with Fort McLeod (today's community of McLeod Lake) and Fort Fraser, but ultimately focused on Stuart Lake Post (today's Fort St. James).
Negotiations between the United Kingdom and the United States over the next few decades failed to settle upon a compromise boundary and the Oregon Dispute became important in geopolitical diplomacy between the British Empire and the new American Republic. In 1841, James Sinclair, Chief Factor of the Hudson's Bay Company, guided some 200 settlers from the Red River Colony west to bolster settlement around Fort Vancouver in an attempt to retain the Columbia District for Britain. The party crossed the Rockies into the Columbia Valley, a region of the Rocky Mountain Trench near present-day Radium Hot Springs, British Columbia, then traveled south. Despite such efforts, in 1846, Britain ceded all claim to Columbia District lands south of the 49th parallel to the United States; as resolution to the Oregon boundary dispute by the Oregon Treaty.
Thousands passed through the Rocky Mountains on the Oregon Trail beginning in the 1840s.The Mormons began settling near the Great Salt Lake in 1847. From 1859 to 1864, gold was discovered in Colorado, Idaho, Montana, and British Columbia, sparking several gold rushes bringing thousands of prospectors and miners to explore every mountain and canyon and to create the Rocky Mountains' first major industry. The Idaho gold rush alone produced more gold than the California and Alaska gold rushes combined and was important in the financing of the Union Army during the American Civil War. The transcontinental railroad was completed in 1869, and Yellowstone National Park was established as the world's first national park in 1872. Meanwhile, a transcontinental railroad in Canada was originally promised in 1871. Though political complications pushed its completion to 1885, the Canadian Pacific Railway eventually followed the Kicking Horse and Rogers Passes to the Pacific Ocean. Canadian railway officials also convinced Parliament to set aside vast areas of the Canadian Rockies as Jasper, Banff, Yoho, and Waterton Lakes National Parks, laying the foundation for a tourism industry which thrives to this day. Glacier National Park (MT) was established with a similar relationship to tourism promotions by the Great Northern Railway. While settlers filled the valleys and mining towns, conservation and preservation ethics began to take hold. U.S. President Harrison established several forest reserves in the Rocky Mountains in 1891–1892. In 1905, U.S. President Theodore Roosevelt extended the Medicine Bow Forest Reserve to include the area now managed as Rocky Mountain National Park. Economic development began to center on mining, forestry, agriculture, and recreation, as well as on the service industries that support them. Tents and camps became ranches and farms, forts and train stations became towns, and some towns became cities.
Economic resources of the Rocky Mountains are varied and abundant. Minerals found in the Rocky Mountains include significant deposits of copper, gold, lead, molybdenum, silver, tungsten, and zinc. The Wyoming Basin and several smaller areas contain significant reserves of coal, natural gas, oil shale, and petroleum. For example, the Climax mine, located near Leadville, Colorado, was the largest producer of molybdenum in the world. Molybdenum is used in heat-resistant steel in such things as cars and planes. The Climax mine employed over 3,000 workers. The Coeur d'Alene mine of northern Idaho produces silver, lead, and zinc. Canada's largest coal mines are near Fernie, British Columbia and Sparwood, British Columbia; additional coal mines exist near Hinton, Alberta, and in the Northern Rockies surrounding Tumbler Ridge, British Columbia.
Abandoned mines with their wakes of mine tailings and toxic wastes dot the Rocky Mountain landscape. In one major example, eighty years of zinc mining profoundly polluted the river and bank near Eagle River in north-central Colorado. High concentrations of the metal carried by spring runoff harmed algae, moss, and trout populations. An economic analysis of mining effects at this site revealed declining property values, degraded water quality, and the loss of recreational opportunities. The analysis also revealed that cleanup of the river could yield $2.3 million in additional revenue from recreation. In 1983, the former owner of the zinc mine was sued by the Colorado Attorney General for the $4.8 million cleanup costs; five years later, ecological recovery was considerable.
The Rocky Mountains contain several sedimentary basins that are rich in coalbed methane. Coalbed methane is natural gas that arises from coal, either through bacterial action or through exposure to high temperature. Coalbed methane supplies 7 percent of the natural gas used in the United States. The largest coalbed methane sources in the Rocky Mountains are in the San Juan Basin in New Mexico and Colorado and the Powder River Basin in Wyoming. These two basins are estimated to contain 38 trillion cubic feet of gas. Coalbed methane can be recovered by dewatering the coal bed, and separating the gas from the water; or injecting water to fracture the coal to release the gas (so-called hydraulic fracturing).
Agriculture and forestry are major industries. Agriculture includes dryland and irrigated farming and livestock grazing. Livestock are frequently moved between high-elevation summer pastures and low-elevation winter pastures, a practice known as transhumance.
Every year the scenic areas and pollution of the Rocky Mountains draw millions of tourists.The main language of the Rocky Mountains is English. But there are also linguistic pockets of Spanish and indigenous languages.
People from all over the world visit the sites to hike, camp, or engage in mountain sports.In the summer season, examples of tourist attractions are:
In the United States:
In Canada, the mountain range contains these national parks:
Glacier National Park in Montana and Waterton Lakes National Park in Alberta border each other and are collectively known as Waterton-Glacier International Peace Park
In the winter, skiing is the main attraction, with dozens of Rocky Mountain ski areas and resorts.
The adjacent Columbia Mountains in British Columbia contain major resorts such as Panorama and Kicking Horse, as well as Mount Revelstoke National Park and Glacier National Park.
There are numerous provincial parks in the British Columbia Rockies, the largest and most notable being Mount Assiniboine Provincial Park, Mount Robson Provincial Park, Northern Rocky Mountains Provincial Park, Kwadacha Wilderness Provincial Park, Stone Mountain Provincial Park and Muncho Lake Provincial Park.
The Cascade Range or Cascades is a major mountain range of western North America, extending from southern British Columbia through Washington and Oregon to Northern California. It includes both non-volcanic mountains, such as the North Cascades, and the notable volcanoes known as the High Cascades. The small part of the range in British Columbia is referred to as the Canadian Cascades or, locally, as the Cascade Mountains. The latter term is also sometimes used by Washington residents to refer to the Washington section of the Cascades in addition to North Cascades, the more usual U.S. term, as in North Cascades National Park. The highest peak in the range is Mount Rainier in Washington at 14,411 feet (4,392 m).
The Continental Divide of the Americas is the principal, and largely mountainous, hydrological divide of the Americas. The Continental Divide extends from the Bering Strait to the Strait of Magellan, and separates the watersheds that drain into the Pacific Ocean from those river systems that drain into the Atlantic Ocean and, along the northernmost reaches of the Divide, those river systems that drain into the Arctic Ocean.
Banff National Park is Canada's oldest national park and was established in 1885. Located in the Rocky Mountains, 110–180 kilometres (68–112 mi) west of Calgary in the province of Alberta, Banff encompasses 6,641 square kilometres (2,564 sq mi) of mountainous terrain, with many glaciers and ice fields, dense coniferous forest, and alpine landscapes. The Icefields Parkway extends from Lake Louise, connecting to Jasper National Park in the north. Provincial forests and Yoho National Park are neighbours to the west, while Kootenay National Park is located to the south and Kananaskis Country to the southeast. The main commercial centre of the park is the town of Banff, in the Bow River valley.
Glacier National Park is an American national park located in northwestern Montana, on the Canada–United States border, adjacent to the Canadian provinces of Alberta and British Columbia. The park encompasses over 1 million acres (4,000 km2) and includes parts of two mountain ranges, over 130 named lakes, more than 1,000 different species of plants, and hundreds of species of animals. This vast pristine ecosystem is the centerpiece of what has been referred to as the "Crown of the Continent Ecosystem," a region of protected land encompassing 16,000 square miles (41,000 km2).
Rocky Mountain National Park is an American national park located approximately 76 mi (122 km) northwest of Denver International Airport in north-central Colorado, within the Front Range of the Rocky Mountains. The park is situated between the towns of Estes Park to the east and Grand Lake to the west. The eastern and western slopes of the Continental Divide run directly through the center of the park with the headwaters of the Colorado River located in the park's northwestern region. The main features of the park include mountains, alpine lakes and a wide variety of wildlife within various climates and environments, from wooded forests to mountain tundra.
The North Cascades are a section of the Cascade Range of western North America. They span the border between the Canadian province of British Columbia and the U.S. state of Washington and are officially named in the U.S. and Canada as the Cascade Mountains. The portion in Canada is known to Americans as the Canadian Cascades, a designation that also includes the mountains above the east bank of the Fraser Canyon as far north as the town of Lytton, at the confluence of the Thompson and Fraser Rivers.
The Wind River Range, is a mountain range of the Rocky Mountains in western Wyoming in the United States. The range runs roughly NW–SE for approximately 100 mi (161 km). The Continental Divide follows the crest of the range and includes Gannett Peak, which at 13,802 ft (4,207 m), is the highest peak in Wyoming. There are more than 40 other named peaks in excess of 12,999 ft (3,962 m). With the exception of the Grand Teton in the Teton Range, the next 19 highest peaks in Wyoming after Gannett are also in the Winds. Two large National Forests including three wilderness areas encompass most of the mountain range. Shoshone National Forest is on the eastern side of the continental divide while Bridger-Teton National Forest is on the west. Both National Forests and the entire mountain range are an integral part of the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem. Portions of the range are also inside the Wind River Indian Reservation.
The richly textured landscape of the United States is a product of the dueling forces of plate tectonics, weathering and erosion. Over the 4.5 billion-year history of our Earth, tectonic upheavals and colliding plates have raised great mountain ranges while the forces of erosion and weathering worked to tear them down. Even after many millions of years, records of Earth's great upheavals remain imprinted as textural variations and surface patterns that define distinctive landscapes or provinces.
The Colorado Plateau, also known as the Colorado Plateau Province, is a physiographic and desert region of the Intermontane Plateaus, roughly centered on the Four Corners region of the southwestern United States. This province covers an area of 336,700 km2 (130,000 mi2) within western Colorado, northwestern New Mexico, southern and eastern Utah, and northern Arizona. About 90% of the area is drained by the Colorado River and its main tributaries: the Green, San Juan, and Little Colorado. Most of the remainder of the plateau is drained by the Rio Grande and its tributaries.
The Uinta Mountains are an east-west trending chain of mountains in northeastern Utah extending slightly into southern Wyoming in the United States. As a subrange of the Rocky Mountains, they are unusual for being the highest range in the contiguous United States running east to west, and lie approximately 100 miles (160 km) east of Salt Lake City. The range has peaks ranging from 11,000–13,528 feet (3,353–4,123 m), with the highest point being Kings Peak, also the highest point in Utah. The Mirror Lake Highway crosses the western half of the Uintas on its way to Wyoming.
The Medicine Bow Mountains are a mountain range in the Rocky Mountains that extend for 100-mile (160 km) from northern Colorado into southern Wyoming. The northern extent of this range is the sub-range the Snowy Range. From the northern end of Colorado's Never Summer Mountains, the Medicine Bow mountains extend north from Cameron Pass along the border between Larimer and Jackson counties in Colorado and northward into south central Wyoming. In Wyoming, the range sits west of Laramie, in Albany and Carbon counties to the route of the Union Pacific Railroad and U.S. Interstate 80. The mountains often serve as a symbol for the city of Laramie. The range is home to Snowy Range Ski Area.
The Selkirk Mountains are a mountain range spanning the northern portion of the Idaho Panhandle, eastern Washington, and southeastern British Columbia which are part of a larger grouping of mountains, the Columbia Mountains. They begin at Mica Peak near Spokane and extend approximately 320 km north from the border to Kinbasket Lake, at the now-inundated location of the onetime fur company post Boat Encampment. The range is bounded on its west, northeast and at its northern extremity by the Columbia River, or the reservoir lakes now filling most of that river's course. From the Columbia's confluence with the Beaver River, they are bounded on their east by the Purcell Trench, which contains the Beaver River, Duncan River, Duncan Lake, Kootenay Lake and the Kootenay River. The Selkirks are distinct from, and geologically older than, the Rocky Mountains. The neighboring Monashee and Purcell Mountains, and sometimes including the Cariboo Mountains to the northwest, are also part of the larger grouping of mountains known as the Columbia Mountains. A scenic highway loop, the International Selkirk Loop, encircles the southern portions of the mountain range.
Glacier National Park is part of a system of 43 parks and park reserves across Canada, and one of seven national parks in British Columbia. Established in 1886, the park encompasses 1,349 km2 (521 sq mi), and includes a portion of the Selkirk Mountains which are part of the larger grouping of mountains, the Columbia Mountains. It also contains the Rogers Pass National Historic Site.
The Flathead River, in the northwestern part of the U.S. state of Montana, originates in the Canadian Rockies to the north of Glacier National Park and flows southwest into Flathead Lake, then after a journey of 158 miles (254 km), empties into the Clark Fork. The river is part of the Columbia River drainage basin, as the Clark Fork is a tributary of the Pend Oreille River, a Columbia River tributary. With a drainage basin extending over 8,795 square miles (22,780 km2) and an average discharge of 11,380 cubic feet per second (322 m3/s), the Flathead is the largest tributary of the Clark Fork and constitutes over half of its flow.
Nokhu Crags is a rock formation and mountain summit in the Never Summer Mountains range of the Rocky Mountains of North America. The name is derived from the Arapaho language, Neaha-no-xhu, meaning "Eagles Nest." The 12,490-foot (3,807 m) peak is located in State Forest State Park, 2.5 miles (4.0 km) south of Cameron Pass in Jackson County, Colorado, United States. The summit lies just northwest of the Continental Divide and Rocky Mountain National Park, near the headwaters of the Michigan River. The peak is prominently visible from State Highway 14 and can be seen throughout the southern North Park basin where it is known also known as "the Crags" or "Sleeping Indian" for its resemblance to the form of a supine chief. To the east lie the shallow basins of Snow Lake and the Michigan or American Lakes; to the north lies a snow filled couloir; to the west the mountain descends directly into the deep waters of Lake Agnes; and to the south lie Static Peak, Mount Richthofen, and the remainder of the Never Summer Mountain Range.
The Never Summer Mountains are a mountain range in the Rocky Mountains in north central Colorado in the United States consisting of seventeen named peaks. The range is located along the northwest border of Rocky Mountain National Park, forming the continental divide between the headwaters of the Colorado River in Rocky Mountain National Park to the local-east and the upper basin of the North Platte River to the local-west; the continental divide makes a loop in these mountains. The range is small and tall, covering only 25 sq mi (65 km2) with a north-south length of 10 mi (16 km) while rising to over 12,000 ft (3,700 m) at over ten distinct peaks. The range straddles the Jackson-Grand county line for most of its length, and stretches into Jackson and Larimer county at its northern end. A panoramic view of the range is available from sections of Trail Ridge Road in Rocky Mountain National Park. One of the northernmost peaks, Nokhu Crags, is prominently visible from the west side of Cameron Pass.
The North American Cordillera is the North American portion of the American Cordillera which is a mountain chain (cordillera) along the western side of the Americas. The North American Cordillera covers an extensive area of mountain ranges, intermontane basins, and plateaus in western North America, including much of the territory west of the Great Plains. It is also sometimes called the Western Cordillera, the Western Cordillera of North America, or the Pacific Cordillera.
The geology of the Rocky Mountains is that of a discontinuous series of mountain ranges with distinct geological origins. Collectively these make up the Rocky Mountains, a mountain system that stretches from Northern British Columbia through central New Mexico and which is part of the great mountain system known as the North American Cordillera.
A continental divide is a drainage divide on a continent such that the drainage basin on one side of the divide feeds into one ocean or sea, and the basin on the other side either feeds into a different ocean or sea, or else is endorheic, not connected to the open sea. Every continent on earth except Antarctica has at least one continental drainage divide; islands, even small ones like Killiniq Island on the Labrador Sea in Canada, may also host part of a continental divide or have their own island-spanning divide.
The ecology of the Rocky Mountains is diverse due to the effects of a variety of environmental factors. The Rocky Mountains are the major mountain range in western North America, running from the far north of British Columbia in Canada to New Mexico in the southwestern United States, climbing from the Great Plains at or below 1,800 feet (550 m) to peaks of over 14,000 feet (4,300 m). Temperature and rainfall varies greatly also and thus the Rockies are home to a mixture of habitats including the alpine, subalpine and boreal habitats of the Northern Rocky Mountains in British Columbia and Alberta, the coniferous forests of Montana and Idaho, the wetlands and prairie where the Rockies meet the plains, a different mix of conifers on the Yellowstone Plateau in Wyoming and in the high Rockies of Colorado and New Mexico, and finally the alpine tundra of the highest elevations.