The Rocky Mountains can be found in the western region of the North American continent. The Rockies, as they are commonly referred to, extend for a distance of about 3,000 miles beginning in the northern portion of the Canadian province of British Columbia before stretching all the way into the United States where the mighty mountain range ends in the southwestern state of New Mexico. The Rocky Mountains are thought to have come into existence some 80 to 55 million years ago when shifting plates slid under the major North American tectonic plate. Because of this tectonic convergence, a broad mountain range was formed.
The Canadian Rockies
The Rocky Mountains begin in Canada and are part of what’s known as the Canadian Cordillera which includes mountain ranges located from Canada’s Prairie Provinces westward to the coast of the Pacific Ocean. Portions of the Canadian Rockies can be found in Alberta as well as British Columbia. Among the noteworthy peaks present along Canada’s stretch of this mighty mountain range include Mount Columbia (which reaches a height of 12,293 feet) and Mount Robson (measuring in at an impressive 12,972 feet). The Canadian portion of the Rocky Mountains are bordered to the east by the prairies, to the west by the Rocky Mountain Trench (otherwise known as The Valley of a Thousand Peaks), and to the north by the Liard River which flows not only through British Columbia but also into the northern Canadian territories of the Yukon and the Northwest Territories.
Rockies in the United States
The Rocky Mountains in the US can be separated into several ranges including the northern portion located in the states of Montana and Idaho, the middle portion which stretches through the three states of Idaho, Wyoming, and Utah, and the southern portion of the Rocky Mountain range which can be found in Colorado and New Mexico. The lower portion of the mountain range, termed the Colorado Plateau comprises four American states; Colorado, Utah, Arizona, and New Mexico.
History of the Rocky Mountains
Evidence shows that humans began living in the Rockies sometime between 10,000 and 8,000 BCE. The area’s first human inhabitants were thought to be members of various American Indian tribes including the Shuswap, Nez Percé, Shoshone, Hopi, Pueblo, and Navajo as well as several nomadic tribes such as the Crow, Blackfoot, and Cheyenne. All of these tribes left indelible marks on the Rockies with their distinctive cultures, artwork, and belief systems. It’s interesting to note that due to difficult terrain and other natural conditions the Rocky Mountains were one of the final places explored by European settlers in the so-called “New World”.
Wildlife of the Rockies
The Rocky Mountains are brimming with unique plant and animal life. Among the mammals who inhabit this dangerous terrain include grizzly bears, black bears, mountain goats, bighorn sheep, elk, mule deer, bison, wolves, marmot, squirrels, prairie dogs, pika, rabbits, otters, beavers, and rattlesnakes. Birds who call the Rocky Mountains home include the bald eagle, turkey vulture, great horned owl, Canadian geese, egret, crane, various types of ducks, and trumpeter swans have even been known to pay a visit during the warmer months.
Plants native to the Rocky Mountains include trees such as cedar, pine, cottonwood, as well as aspen, Douglas fir, and hemlock. Other plants found on the mountainous terrain include an array of wildflowers including bunchberry, larkspur, and columbine.