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Encyclopedia > Rockies
Rocky Mountain National Park (photo courtesy of NPS)
View of Colorado Rockies. The aspens are turning their fall colors.

The Rocky Mountains, often called the Rockies, are a broad mountain range in western North America. The Rocky Mountains stretch more than 3000 miles (4800 km) from Mexico, through the continental United States, into Canada and Alaska. The highest peak is Mount Elbert, in Colorado, which is 14,433 feet (4399 m) above sea level. Mount Robson (12,972 feet/3954 m) is the highest peak in the Canadian Rockies. The Rocky Mountain System is a United States physiographic region.


Geography and geology

Snowpack accumulation at 14,255 ft. on Longs Peak in Rocky Mountain National Park (photo courtesy of USDA).

The Rocky Mountains were created during what geologists call the Laramide orogeny during a period that started 70 million years ago and ended 30 million years ago. After the mountains were raised nearly as high as what the Himalayas are today, then part of western North America started to stretch and much of the south western part of the high mountain plateau started to get broken up into horsts (ranges) with grabens (basins) in between them. This area is now called the Basin and Range Province.

On July 24, 1832, Benjamin Bonneville led the first wagon train across the Rocky Mountains by using Wyoming's South Pass.

The rivers that flow from the Rocky Mountains eventually drain into three of the world's five Oceans: the Atlantic Ocean, the Pacific Ocean, and the Arctic Ocean. These rivers include:

Tourism and Industry

Snowmelt runoff fills a reservoir in the Rocky Mountains near Dillon, Colorado.

The population is not very dense in the Rocky Mountains, with an average of four people per square kilometer and there are few cities with over 50,000 people. Although the Rockies are not the most populated area in North America, it is considered a popular tourist destination by many Americans. People from all over the country visit the beautiful sights or do their mountain sport. In the summer, main tourism attractions are Pikes Peak, Royal Gorge, Rocky Mountain National Park, Yellowstone National Park, Grand Teton National Park, and Glacier National Park (U.S.). Canadian National Parks in the mountain are Banff National Park, Glacier National Park, Jasper National Park, Kootenay National Park, Mount Revelstoke National Park, Waterton Lakes National Park, and Yoho National Park. Glacier National Park (U.S.) and Waterton Lakes National Park border each other on the Canadain U.S. international boundry and collectively are nown as the Waterton-Glacier International Peace Park.{See also International Peace Park.)

In the winter, skiing is the main attraction. The major ski resorts are Aspen, Vail, Keystone, Breckenridge, and Copper Mountain in Colorado; Alta and Snowbird in Utah; Sun Valley, Idaho in Idaho; Big Mountain and Big Sky in Montana; Lake Louise and Sunshine Village in Alberta; and Fernie in British Columbia. (The adjacent Columbia Mountains in British Columbia and Idaho contain major resorts such as Schweitzer, Panorama and Kicking Horse.)

The main language is English. The two major commercial activities are mining and of course tourism. 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 in the Crowsnest Coal Field near Sparwood, British Columbia and Elkford, British Columbia; additional coal mines exist near Hinton, Alberta.


The Rocky Mountains have a highland climate. The average temperature in the Rockies per year is 43 F (6 C). July is the hottest month with an average temperature of 82 F (28 C). In January, the average monthly temperature is 7 F (−14 C), making it the coldest month in the Rockies. The average precipitation per year is approximately 14 inches (360 mm).

The summers in the Rockies are warm and dry, because the western fronts impede the advancing of water-carrying storm systems. The average temperature in summer is 59 F (15 C) and the average precipitation is 5.9 inches (150 mm). Winter is usually wet and very cold, with an average temperature of 28 F (−2 C) and average snowfall of 11.4 inches (29.0 cm). In spring, the average temperature is 40 F (4 C) and the average precipitation is 4.2 inches (107 mm). And in the fall, the average precipitation is 2.6 inches (66 mm) and the average temperature is 44 F (7 C).

External links

  • U.S. Geological Survey website on the Rocky Mountains (http://wrgis.wr.usgs.gov/docs/parks/province/rockymtn.html)
  • Blue Planet Biomes - Rocky Mountains (http://www.blueplanetbiomes.org/rocky_mountain.htm)
  • Rocky Mountain National Park Pictures (http://www.nationalparksgallery.com/parks/Rocky-Mountain-National-Park)

  Results from FactBites:
Rocky Mountaineer Official Site – Canadian Train Travel, Rail Tours (385 words)
Join us onboard the Rocky Mountaineer as we journey through Canada’s winter wonderland and discover the ultimate luxury rail travel experience for the entire family.
In recognition of any travel concerns that our guests and partners may have, Rocky Mountaineer Vacations is pleased to introduce a “Peace of Mind” policy designed to provide flexibility and confidence for all concerned.
Effective immediately and until further notice, Rocky Mountaineer Vacations will allow guests to change their booking 72 hours in advance of the first day of the original travel date to a later travel date provided that a new date is given at that time.
ESPN.com - Page2 - The making of 'Rocky' (2251 words)
I was going to make a creation called Rocky Balboa, a man from the streets, a walking cliché of sorts, the all-American tragedy, a man who didn't have much mentality but had incredible emotion and patriotism and spirituality and good nature even though nature had not been good to him.
I felt Rocky to be the vehicle for that kind of sensibility.
It had been written as "Rocky does several two-handed pushups." But something crazy happens every time that camera rolls and before I knew it, I was flying from one hand to another doing an exercise that no boxer in his right mind would ever do; and I continued to do it.
  More results at FactBites »



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