The Atlas Mountains are a mountain range in North Africa that stretches for 1,600 miles across Tunisia, Algeria, and Morocco. The range separates the Atlantic and Mediterranean coasts from the Sahara Desert. The highest peak in the Atlas Mountains is Toubkal, which is located in southwestern Morocco and has an elevation of 13,671 ft. The formation of the Atlas Mountains began 80 million years ago following the collision of the Eurasian and African plates. The mountainous region is rich in minerals including iron ore, silver, copper, phosphate, rock salt, mercury, anthracite coal, natural gas, marble, and phosphate. The mountain range is divided into six subranges: Anti-Atlas, High Atlas, Middle Atlas, Saharan Atlas, Tell Atlas, and Aurès Mountains.
The Anti-Atlas range extends for 420 miles from the coast of the Atlantic Ocean in southwest Morocco to the city of Ouarzazate, and then east to Tafilalt. The southernmost region of the range bounds the Sahara, while the Jbel Saghro range forms the eastern boundary, and the High Atlas range flanks the northern section. Jbel Sirwa is the highest peak in the subrange, with an elevation of 10,840 ft.
High Atlas Range
The High Atlas range is located in central Morocco, rising from the coast of the Atlantic Ocean and extending east to the Morocco-Algeria border. The two highest peaks in the Atlas Mountains, Toubkal (13,671 ft) and m'Goun (13,356 ft), are located in the High Atlas subrange. The landscape of the range is characterized by green valleys, deep gorges, and rock outcroppings.
Middle Atlas Range
The Middle Atlas range is located entirely within Morocco, sitting south of the Rif mountains and north of the High Atlas. The region receives more rainfall than the other subranges, making it a critical water catchment area. The highest peak in the Middle Atlas is Jbel Bou Naceur, which has an elevation of 10,960 ft. The range is home to the largest population of Barbary macaques in the world.
Saharan Atlas Range
The Saharan Atlas range stretches from Algeria to Tunisia, and runs parallel the Tell Range situated to its north. The average altitude of the Saharan Atlas is lower than the High Atlas. During the rainy season, the southern slopes sustain agriculture, although it remains dry for much of the year. Mount Chélia, which has an elevation of 7,638 ft, is the highest peak of the Saharan Atlas.
Tell Atlas Range
The Tell Atlas range is the longest subrange of the Atlas Mountains, covering a distance of about 930 miles. The range runs parallel to the Mediterranean coast and stretches across Morocco, Algeria, and Tunisia. A large part of the Tell Atlas lies within Morocco, and the Algerian capital of Algiers, as well as the city of Oran, are both located within the Tell Atlas range.
Aurès Mountains Range
The Aurès Mountains occupies the easternmost section of the Atlas Mountains, and are located on the border between Tunisia and Algeria. The slopes of the range support agricultural development during the rainy season, except for the northern side, which is characterized by extremely rugged cliffs. A small Shawia population inhabits certain parts of the range.