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Earth Science: Rocky Mountains


Mountains are landform that ascends well higher than its environs, usually displaying steep slope, a comparatively limited summit region, and significant local relief. They are formed by processes like faulting, folding, or up warping of the earth’s surface as a result of plate movements. The Rockies in North America are an example of mountains that were formed through folding. Many other mountains in the range were however formed by other processes like faulting (Alden 15).

The Rocky Mountains are key varieties of mountains in Western North America. They are also known as North American Rockies. The Rockies stretch from the northern parts of British Columbia covering up to 3,000 miles to New Mexico. This is equivalent to 4,830 km. The highest peak of the Rockies is 14,440 feet above sea level and is found in Mount Albert. They differ in breadth ranging from 70 to 300 miles. Omineca Mountains of British Columbia face the Rocky Mountains to the western Trench. On the eastern end of the Trench exists a minor Prince George, this is the Mc George Plateau and is defined as the Interior Plateau. The eastern boundary of the Rockies ascends exponentially above the Interior Plateau of North America. This includes the ranges namely Wind River Range, Front Range, Big Horn Mountains, the Clark Range of Alberta, Rocky Mountain Front, and Absaroka-Beartooth ranges. To the western boundaries of the Rockies are ranges like Wasatch, Bitterroots, and Salt Lake City. The mountains in the southward stretch are the ones referred to as the Rockies in the US and are found in Canada commonly considered as Eastern System. A Continental Divide along the Mountains marks the channel through which water flows to the Pacific and Atlantic. Water from the Mountain also gets its way into the Hudson Bay.

The Rockies experience a highland climate. The valleys have an average annual temperature of 43 °F. The average monthly temperature for January is 7 °F making it the coldest month while on the contrary, July has a monthly average of 82 43 °F hence the hottest month. Every year has an annual average precipitation of about 14 inches. The Rockies receive warm and dry summers. This is attributed to the fact that the western frontage obstructs the advances of storm systems carrying water. Summer receives an average temperature of 59 °F and 5.9 inches of precipitation. The Rockies experiences a very wet and cold winter of 28 °F and snowfall of 11.4 inches on average. An average of 40 °F and 4.2 inches are experienced in springs for temperature and precipitation respectively while in the fall, the average temperature and precipitation are 44 °F and 2.6 inches respectively (Florence, Gierlich & Nystrom 31).

The Rockies are nearly 76 million years old. They were formed by the Laramide orogeny in the Cretaceous. Over time, erosive effects of water and glacier have shaped the mountain range into spectacular basins and crests (Florence, Gierlich & Nystrom 19). The uplifting of the juvenile ranges occurred between 100 million to 65 million years ago. Although, some parts of the southern parts are dated way back to 3,980 million to 600 million years ago. The geology of the mountains is a complex combination of metamorphic and igneous rocks. Other sets of juvenile sedimentary rocks are evident in the southern Rocky Mountains. Traces of volcanic rocks are also recorded to have occurred in the San Juan Mountains between 65 million to 1.8 million years. Since then, glaciation has been taking place steadily over the years. The present Rocky Mountains have been re-shaped by water. Both melting snow and water surplus have nourished the rivers from the Rockies and lakes substantially to supply a fraction of the United States.

Much of the ranges are currently acting as tourist destinations and are isolated as parks. Some of the major activities and attractions are camps, skiing, fishing, hiking, and snowboarding (Hudman & Jackson 48). Rocky National Park is preserved and covers approximately 265,000 acres. The park does not have any commercial structures. It is open the whole year and is located 75 miles Northwest of Denver. It is accessible by road and the nearby Estes Park village provides accommodation and other tourism-related infrastructures. Tourists who visit the park are treated to a wilderness adventure of a lifetime by the over 350km natural hiking trails. A couple of millions of tourists are reported to visit the picturesque and leisure opportunities of the Rockies annually. The park attracts travelers from all over the world. Language has not been a barrier even though the major Rocky Mountains’ language is English. Native American and Spanish linguistic pockets also exist. Besides, the formal language of Canada’s parks is French.

Human inhabitants began settling on the mountain ranges in the later years of the final ice age when various individuals attempted to discover mineral deposits (Allan & Knapp 50). The developed into economically driven exploration hence the dense population of the ranges. To date, human practices have had various detrimental effects on the Rockies. The majority of the forests have experienced compositional and functional change. These are due to habits like routine gathering practices some of which focus on single species. Besides, the removal of dead or fallen trees has also contributed to this. Vulnerable animals for example caribou, goshawks, and fishers have also been threatened by the fragmentation of their habitat. Recreation and other anthropologically driven development have been evident In the Rocky Mountain.

In addition to tourism, the Rocky Mountains are endowed with several opportunities for economic recourses. Significant amounts of zinc, gold, copper, and silver constitute some of the minerals available in the Rockies. Significant deposits of natural gas, petroleum, coal, and oil shale are also available in The Wyoming Basin. Many people are employed by the mines therefore directly improving their living standards. However, it is important to note that deserted minefields contain poisonous wastes which dot the scenery of the Rockies. A fiscal study of mining-related impacts at this site discovered waning property standards, hampered water quality, and declined recreational opportunities. The result of these economic activities was growth in the human population in the Rocky Mountain estates. Some cities recorded a population of up to 50,000 while others had a population of four people per square kilometer. In 40 years, the population in some communities and mountains doubled.


Naturally, there is a constant activity of glaciations, soil corrosion, as well as chemical and mechanical weathering, which contribute towards the changing of the form and characteristics of mountains. Human activities with a quest for development have also encouraged the degradation of mountains and their related resources. In my opinion, humans ought to exploit mountain resources sustainably.


The federal government has instituted four national parks in the Rockies. Tourism and the discovery of other resources have resulted in the permanent settlement of people in the region and ultimately the formation of states. The fundamental significance of the watershed protection resulted in national forest management, though lumbering developed into a vital industry in the Rockies.

Works Cited

Alden, Peter, et al. National Audubon Society Field Guide to the Rocky Mountain States. New York: Knopf, 1999 15.

Allan, Nigel. & Knapp Gregory. Human Impacts on Mountains. Maryland: Rowman & Littlefield, 1993 50.

Florence, Mason., Gierlich, Marisa. & Nystrom, Andrew. The Rocky Mountains. Australia: Lonely Planet, 2001 19 – 31.

Hudman, Lloyd. & Jackson, Richard. Geography of Travel and Tourism. Florence: Cengage Learning, 2003 48.


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