U.S. Mountains: Rockies and Appalachians

The United States is a vast and geographically diverse country that is home to several different climatic zones and landforms.

There are five main major mountain ranges in the United States, including the Rockies, the Appalachians, the Sierra Nevada Range, the Cascade Range, and the Coast Range. Today we will be taking a look at the Appalachian Mountains and the Rocky Mountains, also known as the Rockies.

Great Smoky Mountains in Tennessee

Great Smoky Mountains in Tennessee (part of Appalachians)

The Appalachians

The Appalachians, not to be confused with the European Alps, are an Eastern mountain range located parallel to the Eastern coast of the United States and Southeastern Canada. They stretch from the Canadian island Newfoundland to Central Alabama, a total length of about 2,000 miles. The range is split into Northern, Central, and Southern regions longitudinally and marks a boundary between the Eastern and Midwest areas of the U.S. latitudinally.

The Appalachians are home to a variety of both flora and fauna. The land surrounding the mountains is heavily forested and full of wildlife. The trees that make up this rich landscape consist of firs, pines, hardwood, and spruces. At the ground-level of the forest are shrubberies and herbs, as well as various berries. Animals common to the Appalachians include small and large mammals, large cats and wolves, birds, and snakes. Most well-known are rabbits, deer, wolves, moose, beavers, bears and many species of tree squirrels.

Running through the mountains is the Appalachian National Scenic Trail which connects Mount Katahdin in Maine with Springer Mountain in Georgia.  Hikers that complete the trail through separate trips are called section-hikers, while hikers who complete it in one season are called thru-hikers. The latter group usually hikes from South to North and starts in early spring so they get to the North when the spring does. In total, this 2,000 mile trail usually takes five to seven months to hike.

The Rockies

The Rocky Mountains are a western mountain range located in the United States and Canada. They stretch an impressive 3,000 miles, starting in northern British Columbia and sloping off in Albuquerque, New Mexico. Eight states and provinces are host to the Rockies, including British Columbia, Alberta, Idaho, Montana, Wyoming, Utah, Colorado, and New Mexico.

The Rocky Mountains were formed around 60 million years ago as a result of the gradual shifting of tectonic plates. A fascinating landform that runs through the Rocky Mountains is the Great Continental Divide, which acts as a boundary that diverts water to the Pacific on one side and the Atlantic on the other. The Triple Divide Peak diverts water to the Arctic Ocean as well as the Pacific and Atlantic.

Because of the wide range in latitude that the Rockies encompass, the climate is highly variable. The variability of altitude also affects the climate, as the temperature decreases the higher you travel up the mountains. Snow is characteristic of the highest peaks, even in the summer months.

While the human population in the Rockies is limited, the wildlife population is thriving. The Rocky Mountains are home to a variety of animals including mammals, birds, and fish. Among the wildlife in the area are grizzly bears, wolves, moose, elk, bison, otters, and mountain goats, as well as bald eagles and cutthroat trout.

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