Rocky Mountains
Overview
 
The Rocky Mountains (or the Rockies) are a major mountain range
Mountain range
A mountain range is a single, large mass consisting of a succession of mountains or narrowly spaced mountain ridges, with or without peaks, closely related in position, direction, formation, and age; a component part of a mountain system or of a mountain chain...

 in western North America
North America
North America is a continent wholly within the Northern Hemisphere and almost wholly within the Western Hemisphere. It is also considered a northern subcontinent of the Americas...

. The Rocky Mountains stretch more than 3000 mile from the northernmost part of British Columbia
British Columbia
British Columbia is the westernmost of Canada's provinces and is known for its natural beauty, as reflected in its Latin motto, Splendor sine occasu . Its name was chosen by Queen Victoria in 1858...

, in western Canada
Canada
Canada is a North American country consisting of ten provinces and three territories. Located in the northern part of the continent, it extends from the Atlantic Ocean in the east to the Pacific Ocean in the west, and northward into the Arctic Ocean...

, to New Mexico
New Mexico
New Mexico is a state located in the southwest and western regions of the United States. New Mexico is also usually considered one of the Mountain States. With a population density of 16 per square mile, New Mexico is the sixth-most sparsely inhabited U.S...

, in the southwestern United States
United States
The United States of America is a federal constitutional republic comprising fifty states and a federal district...

. Within the North American Cordillera
North American Cordillera
The North American Cordillera is the North American portion of the American Cordillera which is a cordillera extending up and down the western side of the Americas. The North American Cordillera covers an extensive area of mountain ranges, intermontane basins, and plateaus in western North...

, the Rockies are somewhat distinct from the Pacific Coast Ranges
Pacific Coast Ranges
The Pacific Coast Ranges and the Pacific Mountain System are the series of mountain ranges that stretch along the West Coast of North America from Alaska south to Northern and Central Mexico...

 and the Cascade Range
Cascade Range
The Cascade Range is a major mountain range of western North America, extending from southern British Columbia through Washington and Oregon to Northern California. It includes both non-volcanic mountains, such as the North Cascades, and the notable volcanoes known as the High Cascades...

 and Sierra Nevada which all lie further to the west.

The Rocky Mountains were formed from 80 million to 55 million years ago by the Laramide orogeny
Laramide orogeny
The Laramide orogeny was a period of mountain building in western North America, which started in the Late Cretaceous, 70 to 80 million years ago, and ended 35 to 55 million years ago. The exact duration and ages of beginning and end of the orogeny are in dispute, as is the cause. The Laramide...

.
Encyclopedia
The Rocky Mountains (or the Rockies) are a major mountain range
Mountain range
A mountain range is a single, large mass consisting of a succession of mountains or narrowly spaced mountain ridges, with or without peaks, closely related in position, direction, formation, and age; a component part of a mountain system or of a mountain chain...

 in western North America
North America
North America is a continent wholly within the Northern Hemisphere and almost wholly within the Western Hemisphere. It is also considered a northern subcontinent of the Americas...

. The Rocky Mountains stretch more than 3000 mile from the northernmost part of British Columbia
British Columbia
British Columbia is the westernmost of Canada's provinces and is known for its natural beauty, as reflected in its Latin motto, Splendor sine occasu . Its name was chosen by Queen Victoria in 1858...

, in western Canada
Canada
Canada is a North American country consisting of ten provinces and three territories. Located in the northern part of the continent, it extends from the Atlantic Ocean in the east to the Pacific Ocean in the west, and northward into the Arctic Ocean...

, to New Mexico
New Mexico
New Mexico is a state located in the southwest and western regions of the United States. New Mexico is also usually considered one of the Mountain States. With a population density of 16 per square mile, New Mexico is the sixth-most sparsely inhabited U.S...

, in the southwestern United States
United States
The United States of America is a federal constitutional republic comprising fifty states and a federal district...

. Within the North American Cordillera
North American Cordillera
The North American Cordillera is the North American portion of the American Cordillera which is a cordillera extending up and down the western side of the Americas. The North American Cordillera covers an extensive area of mountain ranges, intermontane basins, and plateaus in western North...

, the Rockies are somewhat distinct from the Pacific Coast Ranges
Pacific Coast Ranges
The Pacific Coast Ranges and the Pacific Mountain System are the series of mountain ranges that stretch along the West Coast of North America from Alaska south to Northern and Central Mexico...

 and the Cascade Range
Cascade Range
The Cascade Range is a major mountain range of western North America, extending from southern British Columbia through Washington and Oregon to Northern California. It includes both non-volcanic mountains, such as the North Cascades, and the notable volcanoes known as the High Cascades...

 and Sierra Nevada which all lie further to the west.

The Rocky Mountains were formed from 80 million to 55 million years ago by the Laramide orogeny
Laramide orogeny
The Laramide orogeny was a period of mountain building in western North America, which started in the Late Cretaceous, 70 to 80 million years ago, and ended 35 to 55 million years ago. The exact duration and ages of beginning and end of the orogeny are in dispute, as is the cause. The Laramide...

. Since then, erosion by water and glaciers have sculpted the mountain range into dramatic valleys and peaks. At the end of the last ice age, humans started to inhabit the mountain range. After Europeans, such as Sir Alexander MacKenzie and the Lewis and Clark expedition
Lewis and Clark Expedition
The Lewis and Clark Expedition, or ″Corps of Discovery Expedition" was the first transcontinental expedition to the Pacific Coast by the United States. Commissioned by President Thomas Jefferson and led by two Virginia-born veterans of Indian wars in the Ohio Valley, Meriwether Lewis and William...

, started to explore the range, minerals and furs drove the initial economic exploitation of the mountains, although the range itself never became densely populated.

Currently, much of the mountain range is protected by public parks and forest lands, and is a popular tourist destination, especially for hiking
Hiking
Hiking is an outdoor activity which consists of walking in natural environments, often in mountainous or other scenic terrain. People often hike on hiking trails. It is such a popular activity that there are numerous hiking organizations worldwide. The health benefits of different types of hiking...

, camping
Camping
Camping is an outdoor recreational activity. The participants leave urban areas, their home region, or civilization and enjoy nature while spending one or several nights outdoors, usually at a campsite. Camping may involve the use of a tent, caravan, motorhome, cabin, a primitive structure, or no...

, mountaineering
Mountaineering
Mountaineering or mountain climbing is the sport, hobby or profession of hiking, skiing, and climbing mountains. While mountaineering began as attempts to reach the highest point of unclimbed mountains it has branched into specialisations that address different aspects of the mountain and consists...

, fishing
Fishing
Fishing is the activity of trying to catch wild fish. Fish are normally caught in the wild. Techniques for catching fish include hand gathering, spearing, netting, angling and trapping....

, hunting
Hunting
Hunting is the practice of pursuing any living thing, usually wildlife, for food, recreation, or trade. In present-day use, the term refers to lawful hunting, as distinguished from poaching, which is the killing, trapping or capture of the hunted species contrary to applicable law...

, skiing
Skiing
Skiing is a recreational activity using skis as equipment for traveling over snow. Skis are used in conjunction with boots that connect to the ski with use of a binding....

, and snowboarding
Snowboarding
Snowboarding is a sport that involves descending a slope that is covered with snow on a snowboard attached to a rider's feet using a special boot set onto mounted binding. The development of snowboarding was inspired by skateboarding, sledding, surfing and skiing. It was developed in the U.S.A...

.

Geography

The Rocky Mountains are commonly defined as stretching from the Liard River in British Columbia south to the Rio Grande
Rio Grande
The Rio Grande is a river that flows from southwestern Colorado in the United States to the Gulf of Mexico. Along the way it forms part of the Mexico – United States border. Its length varies as its course changes...

 in New Mexico. Other mountain ranges continue beyond those two rivers, including the Selwyn Range
Selwyn Range (Canada)
The Selwyn Range is a mountain range in the Canadian Rockies in British Columbia. A subrange of the Park Ranges of the Continental Ranges, it is located west of Jasper National Park, east of Valemount and south of Mount Robson Provincial Park....

 in Yukon
Yukon
Yukon is the westernmost and smallest of Canada's three federal territories. It was named after the Yukon River. The word Yukon means "Great River" in Gwich’in....

, the Brooks Range
Brooks Range
The Brooks Range is a mountain range in far northern North America. It stretches from west to east across northern Alaska and into Canada's Yukon Territory, a total distance of about 1100 km . The mountains top out at over 2,700 m . The range is believed to be approximately 126 million years old...

 in Alaska
Alaska
Alaska is the largest state in the United States by area. It is situated in the northwest extremity of the North American continent, with Canada to the east, the Arctic Ocean to the north, and the Pacific Ocean to the west and south, with Russia further west across the Bering Strait...

, and the Sierra Madre
Sierra Madre Occidental
The Sierra Madre Occidental is a mountain range in western Mexico.-Setting:The range runs north to south, from just south of the Sonora–Arizona border southeast through eastern Sonora, western Chihuahua, Sinaloa, Durango, Zacatecas, Nayarit, Jalisco, Aguascalientes to Guanajuato, where it joins...

 in Mexico
Mexico
The United Mexican States , commonly known as Mexico , is a federal constitutional republic in North America. It is bordered on the north by the United States; on the south and west by the Pacific Ocean; on the southeast by Guatemala, Belize, and the Caribbean Sea; and on the east by the Gulf of...

, but those are not part of the Rockies, though they are part of the American cordillera
American cordillera
The American Cordillera is a cordillera that consists of an essentially continuous sequence of mountain ranges that form the western "backbone" of North America, Central America, South America and Antarctica. From north to south, this sequence of overlapping and parallel ranges begins with the...

. The United States definition of the Rockies, however, includes the Cabinet
Cabinet Mountains
The Cabinet Mountains are part of the Rocky Mountains, located in northwest Montana and the Idaho panhandle, in the United States. The mountains cover an area of 2,134 square miles...

 and Salish Mountains
Salish Mountains
The Salish Mountains are located in the northwest corner of the U.S. State of Montana....

 of Idaho and Montana, whereas their counterparts north of the Kootenai River, the Columbia Mountains
Columbia Mountains
The Columbia Mountains are a group of mountain ranges located in southeastern British Columbia, and partially in Montana, Idaho and Washington. The mountain range covers 135,952 km² . The range is bounded by the Rocky Mountain Trench on the east, and the Kootenay River on the south; their...

, are considered a separate system in Canada, lying to the west of the huge Rocky Mountain Trench
Rocky Mountain Trench
The Rocky Mountain Trench, or the Trench or The Valley of a Thousand Peaks, is a large valley in the northern part of the Rocky Mountains. It is both visually and cartographically a striking physiographic feature extending approximately from Flathead Lake, Montana, to the Liard River, just south...

, which runs the length of British Columbia from its beginnings in the middle Flathead River
Flathead River
The Flathead River, in the northwestern part of the U.S. state of Montana, originates in the Rocky Mountains near Glacier National Park and flows southwest into Flathead Lake, then after a journey of , empties into the Clark Fork. The river is part of the Columbia River drainage basin, as the Clark...

 valley in western Montana to the south bank of the Liard River
Liard River
The Liard River flows through Yukon, British Columbia and the Northwest Territories, Canada. Rising in the Saint Cyr Range of the Pelly Mountains in southeastern Yukon, it flows southeast through British Columbia, marking the northern end of the Rocky Mountains and then curving northeast back...

. The Rockies vary in width from 70 to 300 miles (110 to 480 kilometers). Also west of the Rocky Mountain Trench, farther north and facing the Muskwa Range across the trench, are the Stikine Ranges
Stikine Ranges
The Stikine Ranges are a mountain range in northwestern British Columbia, Canada. They are the northernmost subdivision of the Cassiar Mountains and among the least explored and most undeveloped parts of the province.-Sub-ranges:*Beady Range...

 and Omineca Mountains
Omineca Mountains
The Omineca Mountains, also known as "the Ominecas", are a group of remote mountain ranges in north-central British Columbia, Canada. They are bounded by the Finlay River on the north, the Rocky Mountain Trench on the east, the Nation River on the south, and the upper reaches of the Omineca River...

 of the Interior Mountains
Interior Mountains
The Interior Mountains, also called the Northern Interior Mountains and Interior Ranges, are the semi-official names for a huge area that comprises much of the northern two thirds of the Canadian province of British Columbia and a large area of southern Yukon...

 system of British Columbia. A small area east of Prince George, British Columbia
Prince George, British Columbia
Prince George, with a population of 71,030 , is the largest city in northern British Columbia, Canada, and is known as "BC's Northern Capital"...

 on the eastern side of the Trench, the McGregor Plateau
McGregor Plateau
The McGregor Plateau is a sub-plateau of the Fraser Plateau, the northernmost major subdivision of the Interior Plateau spanning the inland regions of the Pacific Northwest...

, resembles the Rockies but is considered part of the Interior Plateau
Interior Plateau
The Interior Plateau comprises a large region of central British Columbia, and lies between the Cariboo and Monashee Mountains on the east, and the Hazelton Mountains, Coast Mountains and Cascade Range on the west. The continuation of the plateau into the United States is known there as the...

.
The eastern edge of the Rockies rises dramatically above the Interior Plains
Interior Plains
The Interior Plains is a vast physiographic region that spreads across the Laurentian craton of central North America.-Geography:The Interior Plains are an extensive physiographic division encompassing 8 distinct physiographic provinces, the Interior Low Plateaus, Great Plains, Central Lowland,...

 of central North America, including the Front Range
Front Range
The Front Range is a mountain range of the Southern Rocky Mountains of North America located in the north-central portion of the U.S. State of Colorado and southeastern portion of the U.S. State of Wyoming. It is the first mountain range encountered moving west along the 40th parallel north across...

 of Colorado
Colorado
Colorado is a U.S. state that encompasses much of the Rocky Mountains as well as the northeastern portion of the Colorado Plateau and the western edge of the Great Plains...

, the Wind River Range
Wind River Range
The Wind River Range , is a mountain range of the Rocky Mountains in western Wyoming in the United States. The range runs roughly NW-SE for approximately 100 miles . The Continental Divide follows the crest of the range and includes Gannett Peak, which at 13,804 feet , is the highest peak...

 and Big Horn Mountains
Big Horn Mountains
The Big Horn Mountains are a mountain range in northern Wyoming and southern Montana in the United States, forming a northwest-trending spur from the Rocky Mountains extending approximately 200 miles northward on the Great Plains...

 of Wyoming
Wyoming
Wyoming is a state in the mountain region of the Western United States. The western two thirds of the state is covered mostly with the mountain ranges and rangelands in the foothills of the Eastern Rocky Mountains, while the eastern third of the state is high elevation prairie known as the High...

, the Absaroka
Absaroka Range
The Absaroka Range is a sub-range of the Rocky Mountains in the United States. The range stretches about 150 mi across the Montana-Wyoming border, forming the eastern boundary of Yellowstone National Park and the western side of the Bighorn Basin. The range borders the Beartooth Mountains...

-Beartooth
Beartooth Mountains
The Beartooth Mountains are located in south central Montana and northwest Wyoming, U.S. and are part of the 900,000 acre Absaroka-Beartooth Wilderness, within Custer, Gallatin and Shoshone National Forests. The Beartooths are the location of Granite Peak, which at 12,807 feet is the highest...

 ranges and Rocky Mountain Front
Rocky Mountain Front
The Rocky Mountain Front is an area extending over 100 miles from the central regions of the U.S. state of Montana to southern Alberta, Canada. Here, the Rocky Mountains meet the Great Plains and Canadian Prairie in an abrupt elevation rise of between 4,000 to 5,000 feet...

 of Montana
Montana
Montana is a state in the Western United States. The western third of Montana contains numerous mountain ranges. Smaller, "island ranges" are found in the central third of the state, for a total of 77 named ranges of the Rocky Mountains. This geographical fact is reflected in the state's name,...

, and the Clark Range
Clark Range (Canada)
The Clark Range is a mountain range that forms part of the Continental Divide and also the boundary between the Canadian provinces of Alberta and British Columbia. A small portion of the range extends into the far northwestern section of Glacier National Park, Montana, USA. It is the easternmost of...

 of Alberta
Alberta
Alberta is a province of Canada. It had an estimated population of 3.7 million in 2010 making it the most populous of Canada's three prairie provinces...

. In Canada geographers define three main groups of ranges: the Continental Ranges
Continental Ranges
The Continental Ranges is a name for a major grouping of mountain ranges in the Rocky Mountains located in eastern British Columbia and western Alberta...

, Hart Ranges
Hart Ranges
The Hart Ranges are one of the main geographic subdivisions of the Canadian Rockies and are the main part of the area that is meant by the Northern Rockies, although the much larger Muskwa Ranges to the north are more deserving of that term — but also much more inaccessible and much less...

 and Muskwa Ranges
Muskwa Ranges
The Muskwa Ranges are a group of mountain ranges in northern British Columbia, Canada. They are part of the Northern Rockies section of the Rocky Mountains and are bounded on their west by the Rocky Mountain Trench and on their east by the Rocky Mountain Foothills...

 (the latter two flank the Peace River
Peace River (Canada)
The Peace River is a river in Canada that originates in the Rocky Mountains of northern British Columbia and flows to the northeast through northern Alberta. The Peace River flows into the Slave River, a tributary of the Mackenzie River. The Mackenzie is the 12th longest river in the world,...

, the only river to pierce the Rockies, and are collectively referred to as the Northern Rockies). The Muskwa and Hart Ranges together comprise what is known as the Northern Rockies (the Mackenzie Mountains
Mackenzie Mountains
The Mackenzie Mountains are a mountain range forming part of the Yukon-Northwest Territories boundary between the Liard and Peel rivers. The range is named in honour of Canada's second Prime Minister Alexander Mackenzie. Nahanni National Park Reserve is in the Mackenzie Mountains.The Mackenzie...

 north of the Liard River are sometimes referred to as being part of the Rockies but this is an unofficial designation).
The western edge of the Rockies includes ranges such as the Wasatch
Wasatch Range
The Wasatch Range is a mountain range that stretches approximately from the Utah-Idaho border, south through central Utah in the western United States. It is generally considered the western edge of the greater Rocky Mountains, and the eastern edge of the Great Basin region...

 near Salt Lake City
Salt Lake City, Utah
Salt Lake City is the capital and the most populous city of the U.S. state of Utah. The name of the city is often shortened to Salt Lake or SLC. With a population of 186,440 as of the 2010 Census, the city lies in the Salt Lake City metropolitan area, which has a total population of 1,124,197...

 and the Bitterroots
Bitterroot Range
The Bitterroot Range runs along the border of Montana and Idaho in the northwestern United States. The range spans an area of 62,736 square kilometers  and is named after the bitterroot , a small pink flower that is the state flower of Montana.- History :In 1805, the Corps of Discovery,...

 along the Idaho
Idaho
Idaho is a state in the Rocky Mountain area of the United States. The state's largest city and capital is Boise. Residents are called "Idahoans". Idaho was admitted to the Union on July 3, 1890, as the 43rd state....

-Montana
Montana
Montana is a state in the Western United States. The western third of Montana contains numerous mountain ranges. Smaller, "island ranges" are found in the central third of the state, for a total of 77 named ranges of the Rocky Mountains. This geographical fact is reflected in the state's name,...

 border. The Great Basin
Great Basin
The Great Basin is the largest area of contiguous endorheic watersheds in North America and is noted for its arid conditions and Basin and Range topography that varies from the North American low point at Badwater Basin to the highest point of the contiguous United States, less than away at the...

 and Columbia River Plateau
Columbia River Plateau
The Columbia Plateau is a geologic and geographic region that lies across parts of the U.S. states of Washington, Oregon, and Idaho. It is a wide flood basalt plateau between the Cascade Range and the Rocky Mountains, cut through by the Columbia River...

 separate these sub-ranges from distinct ranges further to the west, most prominent among which are the Sierra Nevada, Cascade Range
Cascade Range
The Cascade Range is a major mountain range of western North America, extending from southern British Columbia through Washington and Oregon to Northern California. It includes both non-volcanic mountains, such as the North Cascades, and the notable volcanoes known as the High Cascades...

 and Coast Mountains
Coast Mountains
The Coast Mountains are a major mountain range, in the Pacific Coast Ranges, of western North America, extending from southwestern Yukon through the Alaska Panhandle and virtually all of the Coast of British Columbia. They are so-named because of their proximity to the sea coast, and are often...

. The Rockies do not extend into the Yukon
Yukon
Yukon is the westernmost and smallest of Canada's three federal territories. It was named after the Yukon River. The word Yukon means "Great River" in Gwich’in....

 or Alaska
Alaska
Alaska is the largest state in the United States by area. It is situated in the northwest extremity of the North American continent, with Canada to the east, the Arctic Ocean to the north, and the Pacific Ocean to the west and south, with Russia further west across the Bering Strait...

, or into central British Columbia, where the Rocky Mountain System (but not the Rocky Mountains) includes the Columbia Mountains
Columbia Mountains
The Columbia Mountains are a group of mountain ranges located in southeastern British Columbia, and partially in Montana, Idaho and Washington. The mountain range covers 135,952 km² . The range is bounded by the Rocky Mountain Trench on the east, and the Kootenay River on the south; their...

, the southward extension of which is considered part of the Rockies in the United States. The Rocky Mountain System
Geography of the United States Rocky Mountain System
image:US west coast physiographic regions map.jpgPhysiographic regions of the U.S. InteriorSee:legendFor purposes of description, the physical geography of the United States is split into several major physiographic divisions, one being the Rocky Mountain System...

 within the United States is a United States physiographic region
United States physiographic region
The list of continental United States Physiographic regions identifies the 8 regions, 25 provinces, and 85 sections. The system dates to Nevin Fenneman's paper Physiographic Subdivision of the United States, published in 1917...

; the Rocky Mountain System is known in Canada as the Eastern System.

The Rocky Mountains are notable for containing the highest peaks in central North America. The range's highest peak is Mount Elbert
Mount Elbert
Mount Elbert is the highest peak in the Rocky Mountains of North America, at , the highest of the fourteeners in Colorado, and the high point of the Sawatch Range. It is located in Lake County, approximately southwest of Leadville...

 located in Colorado
Colorado
Colorado is a U.S. state that encompasses much of the Rocky Mountains as well as the northeastern portion of the Colorado Plateau and the western edge of the Great Plains...

 at 14440 feet (4,401 m) above sea level
Sea level
Mean sea level is a measure of the average height of the ocean's surface ; used as a standard in reckoning land elevation...

. Mount Robson
Mount Robson
Mount Robson is the most prominent mountain in North America's Rocky Mountain range; it is also the highest point in the Canadian Rockies. The mountain is located entirely within Mount Robson Provincial Park of British Columbia, and is part of the Rainbow Range. It is commonly thought to be the...

 in British Columbia
British Columbia
British Columbia is the westernmost of Canada's provinces and is known for its natural beauty, as reflected in its Latin motto, Splendor sine occasu . Its name was chosen by Queen Victoria in 1858...

, at 12972 feet (3,954 m), is the highest peak in the Canadian Rockies
Canadian Rockies
The Canadian Rockies comprise the Canadian segment of the North American Rocky Mountains range. They are the eastern part of the Canadian Cordillera, extending from the Interior Plains of Alberta to the Rocky Mountain Trench of British Columbia. The southern end borders Idaho and Montana of the USA...

.
The Continental Divide
Continental Divide
The Continental Divide of the Americas, or merely the Continental Gulf of Division or Great Divide, is the name given to the principal, and largely mountainous, hydrological divide of the Americas that separates the watersheds that drain into the Pacific Ocean from those river systems that drain...

 is located in the Rocky Mountains and designates the line at which waters flow either to the Atlantic or Pacific Oceans. Triple Divide Peak
Triple Divide Peak (Montana)
-See also:* Continental Divide of the Americas* Mountains and mountain ranges of Glacier National Park...

 (8020 feet (2,444.5 m)) in Glacier National Park (U.S.) is so named because water that falls on the mountain reaches not only the Atlantic and Pacific, but Hudson Bay
Hudson Bay
Hudson Bay , sometimes called Hudson's Bay, is a large body of saltwater in northeastern Canada. It drains a very large area, about , that includes parts of Ontario, Quebec, Saskatchewan, Alberta, most of Manitoba, southeastern Nunavut, as well as parts of North Dakota, South Dakota, Minnesota,...

 as well. Farther north in Alberta, the Athabasca and other rivers feed the basin of the Mackenzie River
Mackenzie River
The Mackenzie River is the largest river system in Canada. It flows through a vast, isolated region of forest and tundra entirely within the country's Northwest Territories, although its many tributaries reach into four other Canadian provinces and territories...

, which has its outlet on the Beaufort Sea
Beaufort Sea
The Beaufort Sea is a marginal sea of the Arctic Ocean, located north of the Northwest Territories, the Yukon, and Alaska, west of Canada's Arctic islands. The sea is named after hydrographer Sir Francis Beaufort...

 of the Arctic Ocean
Arctic Ocean
The Arctic Ocean, located in the Northern Hemisphere and mostly in the Arctic north polar region, is the smallest and shallowest of the world's five major oceanic divisions...

. See Rivers of the Rocky Mountains for a list of rivers.

Human population is not very dense in the Rocky Mountains, with an average of four people per square kilometer (10 per square mile) and few cities with over 50,000 people. However, the human population grew rapidly in the Rocky Mountain states between 1950 and 1990. The 40-year statewide increases in population range from 35% in Montana to about 150% in Utah and Colorado. The populations of several mountain towns and communities have doubled in the last 40 years. Jackson Hole, Wyoming, increased 260%, from 1,244 to 4,472 residents, in 40 years.

Geology

The rocks in the Rocky Mountains were formed before the mountains were raised by tectonic forces. The oldest rock is Precambrian
Precambrian
The Precambrian is the name which describes the large span of time in Earth's history before the current Phanerozoic Eon, and is a Supereon divided into several eons of the geologic time scale...

 metamorphic rock
Metamorphic rock
Metamorphic rock is the transformation of an existing rock type, the protolith, in a process called metamorphism, which means "change in form". The protolith is subjected to heat and pressure causing profound physical and/or chemical change...

 that forms the core of the North American continent. There is also Precambrian sedimentary argillite
Argillite
An argillite is a fine-grained sedimentary rock composed predominantly of indurated clay particles. Argillaceous rocks are basically lithified muds and oozes. They contain variable amounts of silt-sized particles. The argillites grade into shale when the fissile layering typical of shale is...

, dating back to 1.7 billion years ago. During the Paleozoic
Paleozoic
The Paleozoic era is the earliest of three geologic eras of the Phanerozoic eon, spanning from roughly...

, western North America lay underneath a shallow sea, which deposited many kilometers of limestone
Limestone
Limestone is a sedimentary rock composed largely of the minerals calcite and aragonite, which are different crystal forms of calcium carbonate . Many limestones are composed from skeletal fragments of marine organisms such as coral or foraminifera....

 and dolomite
Dolomite
Dolomite is a carbonate mineral composed of calcium magnesium carbonate CaMg2. The term is also used to describe the sedimentary carbonate rock dolostone....

.

In the southern Rocky Mountains, near present-day Colorado
Colorado
Colorado is a U.S. state that encompasses much of the Rocky Mountains as well as the northeastern portion of the Colorado Plateau and the western edge of the Great Plains...

, these ancestral rocks were disturbed by mountain building approximately 300Ma, during the Pennsylvanian
Pennsylvanian
The Pennsylvanian is, in the ICS geologic timescale, the younger of two subperiods of the Carboniferous Period. It lasted from roughly . As with most other geochronologic units, the rock beds that define the Pennsylvanian are well identified, but the exact date of the start and end are uncertain...

. This mountain building produced the Ancestral Rocky Mountains. They consisted largely of Precambrian
Precambrian
The Precambrian is the name which describes the large span of time in Earth's history before the current Phanerozoic Eon, and is a Supereon divided into several eons of the geologic time scale...

 metamorphic rock
Metamorphic rock
Metamorphic rock is the transformation of an existing rock type, the protolith, in a process called metamorphism, which means "change in form". The protolith is subjected to heat and pressure causing profound physical and/or chemical change...

 forced upward through layers of the limestone
Limestone
Limestone is a sedimentary rock composed largely of the minerals calcite and aragonite, which are different crystal forms of calcium carbonate . Many limestones are composed from skeletal fragments of marine organisms such as coral or foraminifera....

 laid down in the shallow sea. The mountains eroded throughout the late Paleozoic and early Mesozoic, leaving extensive deposits of sedimentary rock
Sedimentary rock
Sedimentary rock are types of rock that are formed by the deposition of material at the Earth's surface and within bodies of water. Sedimentation is the collective name for processes that cause mineral and/or organic particles to settle and accumulate or minerals to precipitate from a solution....

.

Terranes started to collide with the western edge of North America in the Mississippian (approximately 350 million years ago), causing the Antler orogeny
Antler orogeny
The Antler orogeny is a mountain-building episode that is named for Antler Peak, at Battle Mountain, Nevada. The orogeny extensively deformed Paleozoic rocks of the Great Basin in Nevada and western Utah during Late Devonian and Early Mississippian time...

. For 270 million years, the effects of plate collisions were focused very near the edge of the North American plate boundary, far to the west of the Rocky Mountain region. It was not until 80 Ma that these effects began to reach the Rockies.

The current Rocky Mountains were raised in the Laramide orogeny
Laramide orogeny
The Laramide orogeny was a period of mountain building in western North America, which started in the Late Cretaceous, 70 to 80 million years ago, and ended 35 to 55 million years ago. The exact duration and ages of beginning and end of the orogeny are in dispute, as is the cause. The Laramide...

 from between 80 to 55 Ma. For the Canadian Rockies, the mountain building is analogous to a rug being pushed on a hardwood floor: the rug bunches up and forms wrinkles (mountains). In Canada, the terranes and subduction are the foot pushing the rug, the ancestral rocks are the rug, and the Canadian Shield
Canadian Shield
The Canadian Shield, also called the Laurentian Plateau, or Bouclier Canadien , is a vast geological shield covered by a thin layer of soil that forms the nucleus of the North American or Laurentia craton. It is an area mostly composed of igneous rock which relates to its long volcanic history...

 in the middle of the continent is the hardwood floor.

Further south, the growth of the Rocky Mountains in the United States was probably caused by an unusual subduction, where the Farallon plate
Farallon Plate
The Farallon Plate was an ancient oceanic plate, which began subducting under the west coast of the North American Plate— then located in modern Utah— as Pangaea broke apart during the Jurassic Period...

 dove at a shallow angle below the North American plate
North American Plate
The North American Plate is a tectonic plate covering most of North America, Greenland, Cuba, Bahamas, and parts of Siberia, Japan and Iceland. It extends eastward to the Mid-Atlantic Ridge and westward to the Chersky Range in eastern Siberia. The plate includes both continental and oceanic crust...

. This low angle moved the focus of melting and mountain building much farther inland than the normal 200 to 300 mi (321.9 to 482.8 km). It is postulated that the shallow angle of the subducting plate greatly increased the friction and other interactions with the thick continental mass above it. Tremendous thrusts
Thrust fault
A thrust fault is a type of fault, or break in the Earth's crust across which there has been relative movement, in which rocks of lower stratigraphic position are pushed up and over higher strata. They are often recognized because they place older rocks above younger...

 piled sheets of crust on top of each other, building the extraordinarily broad, high Rocky Mountain range.

The current southern Rockies were forced upwards through the layers of Pennsylvanian
Pennsylvanian
The Pennsylvanian is, in the ICS geologic timescale, the younger of two subperiods of the Carboniferous Period. It lasted from roughly . As with most other geochronologic units, the rock beds that define the Pennsylvanian are well identified, but the exact date of the start and end are uncertain...

 and Permian
Permian
The PermianThe term "Permian" was introduced into geology in 1841 by Sir Sir R. I. Murchison, president of the Geological Society of London, who identified typical strata in extensive Russian explorations undertaken with Edouard de Verneuil; Murchison asserted in 1841 that he named his "Permian...

 sedimentary remnants of the Ancestral Rocky Mountains. Such sedimentary remnants were often tilted at steep angles along the flanks of the modern range; they are now visible in many places throughout the Rockies, and are prominently shown along the Dakota Hogback
Dakota Hogback
The Dakota Hogback is a long hogback ridge at the eastern fringe of the Rocky Mountains that extends north-south from southern Wyoming through Colorado and into northern New Mexico in the United States. The ridge is prominently visible as the first line of foothills along the edge of the Great Plains...

, an early Cretaceous sandstone formation that runs along the eastern flank of the modern Rockies.

Immediately after the Laramide orogeny, the Rockies were like Tibet
Tibet
Tibet is a plateau region in Asia, north-east of the Himalayas. It is the traditional homeland of the Tibetan people as well as some other ethnic groups such as Monpas, Qiang, and Lhobas, and is now also inhabited by considerable numbers of Han and Hui people...

: a high plateau, probably 6000 metres (19,685 ft) above sea level. In the last 60 million years, erosion
Erosion
Erosion is when materials are removed from the surface and changed into something else. It only works by hydraulic actions and transport of solids in the natural environment, and leads to the deposition of these materials elsewhere...

 stripped away the high rocks, revealing the ancestral rocks beneath, and forming the current landscape of the Rockies.
Periods of glaciation occurred from the Pleistocene
Pleistocene
The Pleistocene is the epoch from 2,588,000 to 11,700 years BP that spans the world's recent period of repeated glaciations. The name pleistocene is derived from the Greek and ....

 Epoch (1.8 million - 70,000 years ago) to the Holocene
Holocene
The Holocene is a geological epoch which began at the end of the Pleistocene and continues to the present. The Holocene is part of the Quaternary period. Its name comes from the Greek words and , meaning "entirely recent"...

 Epoch (fewer than 11,000 years ago). The ice age
Ice age
An ice age or, more precisely, glacial age, is a generic geological period of long-term reduction in the temperature of the Earth's surface and atmosphere, resulting in the presence or expansion of continental ice sheets, polar ice sheets and alpine glaciers...

s left their mark on the Rockies, forming extensive glacial
Glacier
A glacier is a large persistent body of ice that forms where the accumulation of snow exceeds its ablation over many years, often centuries. At least 0.1 km² in area and 50 m thick, but often much larger, a glacier slowly deforms and flows due to stresses induced by its weight...

 landforms, such as U-shaped valleys and cirque
Cirque
Cirque may refer to:* Cirque, a geological formation* Makhtesh, an erosional landform found in the Negev desert of Israel and Sinai of Egypt*Cirque , an album by Biosphere* Cirque Corporation, a company that makes touchpads...

s. Recent glacial episodes included the Bull Lake Glaciation
Bull Lake glaciation
The Bull Lake glaciation is the name of a glacial period in North America that is part of the Quaternary Ice Age. The Bull Lake glaciation began about 200,000 years ago and ended about 130,000 years ago, and was concurrent with the Illinoian Stage of the Quaternary Ice Age...

 that began about 150,000 years ago and the Pinedale Glaciation that probably remained at full glaciation until 15,000-20,000 years ago.

All of the geological processes, above, have left a complex set of rocks exposed at the surface. For example, volcanic rock from the Tertiary
Tertiary
The Tertiary is a deprecated term for a geologic period 65 million to 2.6 million years ago. The Tertiary covered the time span between the superseded Secondary period and the Quaternary...

 (65 million - 2.6 million years ago) occurs in the San Juan Mountains
San Juan Mountains
The San Juan Mountains are a high and rugged mountain range in the Rocky Mountains in southwestern Colorado. The area is highly mineralized and figured in the gold and silver mining industry of early Colorado. Major towns, all old mining camps, include Creede, Lake City, Silverton, Ouray, and...

 and in other areas. Millennia of severe erosion in the Wyoming Basin
Wyoming Basin
The Wyoming Basin physiographic province is a geographic area through which the Continental Divide of the Americas traverses. The province includes the Washakie and Great Divide Basins, and is demarcated by the following:*southwest: Uinta Mountains...

 transformed intermountain basins into a relatively flat terrain. The Tetons and other north-central ranges contain folded and faulted rocks of Paleozoic
Paleozoic
The Paleozoic era is the earliest of three geologic eras of the Phanerozoic eon, spanning from roughly...

 and Mesozoic
Mesozoic
The Mesozoic era is an interval of geological time from about 250 million years ago to about 65 million years ago. It is often referred to as the age of reptiles because reptiles, namely dinosaurs, were the dominant terrestrial and marine vertebrates of the time...

 age draped above cores of Proterozoic
Proterozoic
The Proterozoic is a geological eon representing a period before the first abundant complex life on Earth. The name Proterozoic comes from the Greek "earlier life"...

 and Archean
Archean
The Archean , also spelled Archeozoic or Archæozoic) is a geologic eon before the Paleoproterozoic Era of the Proterozoic Eon, before 2.5 Ga ago. Instead of being based on stratigraphy, this date is defined chronometrically...

 igneous and metamorphic rocks ranging in age from 1.2 billion (e.g., Tetons) to more than 3.3 billion years (Beartooth Mountains
Beartooth Mountains
The Beartooth Mountains are located in south central Montana and northwest Wyoming, U.S. and are part of the 900,000 acre Absaroka-Beartooth Wilderness, within Custer, Gallatin and Shoshone National Forests. The Beartooths are the location of Granite Peak, which at 12,807 feet is the highest...

).

Ecology and climate

There are a wide range of environmental factors in the Rocky Mountains. The Rockies range in latitude between the Liard River
Liard River
The Liard River flows through Yukon, British Columbia and the Northwest Territories, Canada. Rising in the Saint Cyr Range of the Pelly Mountains in southeastern Yukon, it flows southeast through British Columbia, marking the northern end of the Rocky Mountains and then curving northeast back...

 in British Columbia (at 59° N) and the Rio Grande
Rio Grande
The Rio Grande is a river that flows from southwestern Colorado in the United States to the Gulf of Mexico. Along the way it forms part of the Mexico – United States border. Its length varies as its course changes...

 in New Mexico (at 35° N). Prairie occurs at or below 1800 feet (548.6 m), while the highest peak in the range is Mount Elbert
Mount Elbert
Mount Elbert is the highest peak in the Rocky Mountains of North America, at , the highest of the fourteeners in Colorado, and the high point of the Sawatch Range. It is located in Lake County, approximately southwest of Leadville...

 at 14440 feet (4,401.3 m). Precipitation ranges from 10 inches (254 mm) per year in the southern valleys to 60 inches (1,524 mm) per year locally in the northern peaks. Average January temperatures can range from 20 °F (-6.7 °C) in Prince George, British Columbia
Prince George, British Columbia
Prince George, with a population of 71,030 , is the largest city in northern British Columbia, Canada, and is known as "BC's Northern Capital"...

 to 43 °F (6.1 °C) in Trinidad, Colorado
Trinidad, Colorado
The historic City of Trinidad is a Home Rule Municipality that is the county seat and the most populous city of Las Animas County, Colorado, United States...

. Therefore, there is not a single monolithic ecosystem for the entire Rocky Mountain Range.

Instead, ecologists divide the Rocky Mountain into a number of biotic zones. Each zone is defined by whether it can support trees, and the presence of one or more indicator species
Indicator species
An indicator species is any biological species that defines a trait or characteristic of the environment. For example, a species may delineate an ecoregion or indicate an environmental condition such as a disease outbreak, pollution, species competition or climate change...

. Two zones that do not support trees are the Plains and the Alpine tundra
Alpine tundra
Alpine tundra is a natural region that does not contain trees because it is at high altitude. Alpine tundra is distinguished from arctic tundra, because alpine soils are generally better drained than arctic soils...

. The Great Plains
Great Plains
The Great Plains are a broad expanse of flat land, much of it covered in prairie, steppe and grassland, which lies west of the Mississippi River and east of the Rocky Mountains in the United States and Canada. This area covers parts of the U.S...

 lie to the east of the Rockies, and is characterized by prairie grasses (below roughly 1800 feet (548.6 m)). Alpine tundra occurs in regions above the treeline for the Rocky Mountains, which varies from 12000 feet (3,657.6 m) in New Mexico to 2500 feet (762 m) at the northern end of the Rocky Mountains (near the Yukon).

The USGS defines ten forested zones in the Rocky Mountains. Zones in more southern, warmer, or drier areas are defined by the presence of pinyon pine
Pinyon pine
The pinyon pine group grows in the southwestern United States and in Mexico. The trees yield edible pinyon nuts, which were a staple of the Native Americans, and are still widely eaten...

s/juniper
Juniper
Junipers are coniferous plants in the genus Juniperus of the cypress family Cupressaceae. Depending on taxonomic viewpoint, there are between 50-67 species of juniper, widely distributed throughout the northern hemisphere, from the Arctic, south to tropical Africa in the Old World, and to the...

s, ponderosa pine
Ponderosa Pine
Pinus ponderosa, commonly known as the Ponderosa Pine, Bull Pine, Blackjack Pine, or Western Yellow Pine, is a widespread and variable pine native to western North America. It was first described by David Douglas in 1826, from eastern Washington near present-day Spokane...

s, or oak
Oak
An oak is a tree or shrub in the genus Quercus , of which about 600 species exist. "Oak" may also appear in the names of species in related genera, notably Lithocarpus...

s mixed with pine
Pine
Pines are trees in the genus Pinus ,in the family Pinaceae. They make up the monotypic subfamily Pinoideae. There are about 115 species of pine, although different authorities accept between 105 and 125 species.-Etymology:...

s. In more northern, colder, or wetter areas, zones are defined by Douglas-fir
Douglas-fir
Douglas-fir is one of the English common names for evergreen coniferous trees of the genus Pseudotsuga in the family Pinaceae. Other common names include Douglas tree, and Oregon pine. There are five species, two in western North America, one in Mexico, and two in eastern Asia...

s, Cascadian
Cascade Range
The Cascade Range is a major mountain range of western North America, extending from southern British Columbia through Washington and Oregon to Northern California. It includes both non-volcanic mountains, such as the North Cascades, and the notable volcanoes known as the High Cascades...

 species (such as western hemlock
Western Hemlock
Tsuga heterophylla. the Western Hemlock, is a species of hemlock native to the west coast of North America, with its northwestern limit on the Kenai Peninsula, Alaska, and its southeastern limit in northern Sonoma County, California.-Habitat:...

), lodgepole pine
Lodgepole Pine
Lodgepole Pine, Pinus contorta, also known as Shore Pine, is a common tree in western North America. Like all pines, it is evergreen.-Subspecies:...

s/quaking aspens, or fir
Fir
Firs are a genus of 48–55 species of evergreen conifers in the family Pinaceae. They are found through much of North and Central America, Europe, Asia, and North Africa, occurring in mountains over most of the range...

s mixed with spruce
Spruce
A spruce is a tree of the genus Picea , a genus of about 35 species of coniferous evergreen trees in the Family Pinaceae, found in the northern temperate and boreal regions of the earth. Spruces are large trees, from tall when mature, and can be distinguished by their whorled branches and conical...

. Near treeline, zones can consist of white pines (such as whitebark pine
Whitebark Pine
Pinus albicaulis, known commonly as Whitebark Pine, Pitch Pine, Scrub Pine, and Creeping Pine occurs in the mountains of the Western United States and Canada, specifically the subalpine areas of the Sierra Nevada, the Cascade Range, the Pacific Coast Ranges, and the northern Rocky Mountains –...

 or bristlecone pine
Bristlecone pine
The bristlecone pines are a small group of pine trees that are thought to reach an age far greater than that of any other single living organism known, up to nearly 5,000 years....

); or a mixture of white pine, fir, and spruce that appear as shrub-like krummholz
Krummholz
Krummholz or Krumholtz formation — also called Knieholz — is a particular feature of subarctic and subalpine tree line landscapes. Continual exposure to fierce, freezing winds causes vegetation to become stunted and deformed...

. Finally, rivers and canyons can create a unique forest zone in more arid parts of the mountain range.
The Rocky Mountains are important habitat for a great deal of well-known wildife, such as elk
Elk
The Elk is the large deer, also called Cervus canadensis or wapiti, of North America and eastern Asia.Elk may also refer to:Other antlered mammals:...

, moose
Moose
The moose or Eurasian elk is the largest extant species in the deer family. Moose are distinguished by the palmate antlers of the males; other members of the family have antlers with a dendritic configuration...

, mule
Mule Deer
The mule deer is a deer indigenous to western North America. The Mule Deer gets its name from its large mule-like ears. There are believed to be several subspecies, including the black-tailed deer...

 and white-tailed deer
White-tailed Deer
The white-tailed deer , also known as the Virginia deer or simply as the whitetail, is a medium-sized deer native to the United States , Canada, Mexico, Central America, and South America as far south as Peru...

, pronghorns, mountain goat
Mountain goat
The Mountain Goat , also known as the Rocky Mountain Goat, is a large-hoofed mammal found only in North America. Despite its vernacular name, it is not a member of Capra, the genus of true goats...

s, bighorn sheep
Bighorn Sheep
The bighorn sheep is a species of sheep in North America named for its large horns. These horns can weigh up to , while the sheep themselves weigh up to . Recent genetic testing indicates that there are three distinct subspecies of Ovis canadensis, one of which is endangered: Ovis canadensis sierrae...

, black bears
American black bear
The American black bear is a medium-sized bear native to North America. It is the continent's smallest and most common bear species. Black bears are omnivores, with their diets varying greatly depending on season and location. They typically live in largely forested areas, but do leave forests in...

, grizzly bear
Grizzly Bear
The grizzly bear , also known as the silvertip bear, the grizzly, or the North American brown bear, is a subspecies of brown bear that generally lives in the uplands of western North America...

s, coyote
Coyote
The coyote , also known as the American jackal or the prairie wolf, is a species of canine found throughout North and Central America, ranging from Panama in the south, north through Mexico, the United States and Canada...

s, lynx
Lynx
A lynx is any of the four Lynx genus species of medium-sized wildcats. The name "lynx" originated in Middle English via Latin from Greek word "λύγξ", derived from the Indo-European root "*leuk-", meaning "light, brightness", in reference to the luminescence of its reflective eyes...

es, and wolverine
Wolverine
The wolverine, pronounced , Gulo gulo , also referred to as glutton, carcajou, skunk bear, or quickhatch, is the largest land-dwelling species of the family Mustelidae . It is a stocky and muscular carnivore, more closely resembling a small bear than other mustelids...

s. For example, North America's largest herds of moose is in the Alberta-British Columbia foothills forests
Alberta-British Columbia foothills forests
The Alberta-British Columbia foothills forests are a temperate coniferous forests ecoregion of Canada.-Setting:This ecoregion covers two separate areas: the rolling foothills of the Rocky Mountains in Alberta, and further west a smaller area of the hills and valleys of central British Columbia...

.

The status of most species in the Rocky Mountains is unknown, due to incomplete information. European-American settlement of the mountains has adversely impacted native species. Examples of some species that have declined include western toad
Western toad
The Western toad more commonly known as is a large toad species, between 5.6 and 13 cm long, of western North America. It has a white or cream dorsal stripe, and is dusky gray or greenish dorsally with skin glands concentrated within the dark blotches...

s, greenback cutthroat trout
Greenback cutthroat trout
The greenback cutthroat trout is the easternmost subspecies of cutthroat trout. This subspecies, once widespread, today occupies less than 1% of its historical range and is currently listed as threatened under the Endangered Species Act. It was adopted in 1994 as the state fish of...

s, white sturgeon
White sturgeon
The white sturgeon , also known as the Pacific sturgeon, Oregon sturgeon, Columbia sturgeon, Sacramento sturgeon, and California white sturgeon, is a sturgeon which lives along the west coast of North America from the Aleutian Islands to Central...

s, white-tailed ptarmigan
White-tailed Ptarmigan
The White-tailed Ptarmigan, Lagopus leucura, is the smallest bird in the grouse family. It is found in the mountains of the western United States, Canada and Alaska.-Description:...

s, trumpeter swan
Trumpeter Swan
The Trumpeter Swan, Cygnus buccinator, is the largest native North American bird, if measured in terms of weight and length, and is the largest living waterfowl species on earth. It is the North American counterpart of the European Whooper Swan.-Description:Males typically measure from and weigh...

s, and bighorn sheep
Bighorn Sheep
The bighorn sheep is a species of sheep in North America named for its large horns. These horns can weigh up to , while the sheep themselves weigh up to . Recent genetic testing indicates that there are three distinct subspecies of Ovis canadensis, one of which is endangered: Ovis canadensis sierrae...

. In the United States portion of the mountain range, apex predator
Apex predator
Apex predators are predators that have no predators of their own, residing at the top of their food chain. Zoologists define predation as the killing and consumption of another organism...

s such as grizzly bear
Grizzly Bear
The grizzly bear , also known as the silvertip bear, the grizzly, or the North American brown bear, is a subspecies of brown bear that generally lives in the uplands of western North America...

s and gray wolves had been extirpated from their original ranges, but have partially recovered due to conservation measures and reintroduction. Other recovering species include the bald eagle
Bald Eagle
The Bald Eagle is a bird of prey found in North America. It is the national bird and symbol of the United States of America. This sea eagle has two known sub-species and forms a species pair with the White-tailed Eagle...

 and the peregrine falcon
Peregrine Falcon
The Peregrine Falcon , also known as the Peregrine, and historically as the Duck Hawk in North America, is a widespread bird of prey in the family Falconidae. A large, crow-sized falcon, it has a blue-gray back, barred white underparts, and a black head and "moustache"...

.

First Nations

Since the last great ice age, the Rocky Mountains were home first to the indigenous peoples
Indigenous peoples of the Americas
The indigenous peoples of the Americas are the pre-Columbian inhabitants of North and South America, their descendants and other ethnic groups who are identified with those peoples. Indigenous peoples are known in Canada as Aboriginal peoples, and in the United States as Native Americans...

, including the Apache
Apache
Apache is the collective term for several culturally related groups of Native Americans in the United States originally from the Southwest United States. These indigenous peoples of North America speak a Southern Athabaskan language, which is related linguistically to the languages of Athabaskan...

, Arapaho
Arapaho
The Arapaho are a tribe of Native Americans historically living on the eastern plains of Colorado and Wyoming. They were close allies of the Cheyenne tribe and loosely aligned with the Sioux. Arapaho is an Algonquian language closely related to Gros Ventre, whose people are seen as an early...

, Bannock
Bannock (tribe)
The Bannock tribe of the Northern Paiute are an indigenous people of the Great Basin. Their traditional lands include southeastern Oregon, southeastern Idaho, western Wyoming, and southwestern Montana...

, Blackfoot
Blackfoot
The Blackfoot Confederacy or Niitsítapi is the collective name of three First Nations in Alberta and one Native American tribe in Montana....

, Cheyenne
Cheyenne
Cheyenne are a Native American people of the Great Plains, who are of the Algonquian language family. The Cheyenne Nation is composed of two united tribes, the Só'taeo'o and the Tsétsêhéstâhese .The Cheyenne are thought to have branched off other tribes of Algonquian stock inhabiting lands...

, Crow Nation
Crow Nation
The Crow, also called the Absaroka or Apsáalooke, are a Siouan people of Native Americans who historically lived in the Yellowstone River valley, which extends from present-day Wyoming, through Montana and into North Dakota. They now live on a reservation south of Billings, Montana and in several...

, Flathead
Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes of the Flathead Nation
The Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes of the Flathead Reservation are the Bitterroot Salish, Kootenai and Pend d'Oreilles Tribes. The Flatheads lived between the Cascade Mountains and Rocky Mountains. The Salish initially lived entirely east of the Continental Divide but established their...

, Shoshone
Shoshone
The Shoshone or Shoshoni are a Native American tribe in the United States with three large divisions: the Northern, the Western and the Eastern....

, Sioux, Ute
Ute Tribe
The Ute are an American Indian people now living primarily in Utah and Colorado. There are three Ute tribal reservations: Uintah-Ouray in northeastern Utah ; Southern Ute in Colorado ; and Ute Mountain which primarily lies in Colorado, but extends to Utah and New Mexico . The name of the state of...

, Kutenai
Ktunaxa Kinbasket Tribal Council
The Ktunaxa Kinbasket Tribal Council, formerly the Kootenay Indian Area Council and also known as the Ktunaxa Nation Council, is a First Nations tribal council government composed of bands in the East Kootenay area of the Canadian province of British Columbia and adjoining parts of the U.S...

 (Ktunaxa in Canada), Sekani
Sekani
Sekani is the name of an Athabaskan First Nations people in the Northern Interior of British Columbia. Their territory includes the Finlay and Parsnip River drainages of the Rocky Mountain Trench. The neighbors of the Sekani are the Babine to the west, Dakelh to the south, Dunneza to the east, and...

, Dunne-za, and others. Paleo-Indians hunted the now-extinct mammoth
Mammoth
A mammoth is any species of the extinct genus Mammuthus. These proboscideans are members of Elephantidae, the family of elephants and mammoths, and close relatives of modern elephants. They were often equipped with long curved tusks and, in northern species, a covering of long hair...

 and ancient bison (an animal 20% larger than modern bison) in the foothills and valleys of the mountains. Like the modern tribes that followed them, Paleo-Indians probably migrated to the plains in fall and winter for bison and to the mountains in spring and summer for fish
Fish
Fish are a paraphyletic group of organisms that consist of all gill-bearing aquatic vertebrate animals that lack limbs with digits. Included in this definition are the living hagfish, lampreys, and cartilaginous and bony fish, as well as various extinct related groups...

, deer
Deer
Deer are the ruminant mammals forming the family Cervidae. Species in the Cervidae family include white-tailed deer, elk, moose, red deer, reindeer, fallow deer, roe deer and chital. Male deer of all species and female reindeer grow and shed new antlers each year...

, elk
Elk
The Elk is the large deer, also called Cervus canadensis or wapiti, of North America and eastern Asia.Elk may also refer to:Other antlered mammals:...

, root
Root
In vascular plants, the root is the organ of a plant that typically lies below the surface of the soil. This is not always the case, however, since a root can also be aerial or aerating . Furthermore, a stem normally occurring below ground is not exceptional either...

s, and berries
Berry
The botanical definition of a berry is a fleshy fruit produced from a single ovary. Grapes are an example. The berry is the most common type of fleshy fruit in which the entire ovary wall ripens into an edible pericarp. They may have one or more carpels with a thin covering and fleshy interiors....

. In Colorado, along the crest of the Continental Divide, rock walls that Native Americans built for driving game date back 5,400–5,800 years. A growing body of scientific evidence indicates that indigenous people had significant effects on mammal populations by hunting and on vegetation patterns through deliberate burning.

European exploration

Recent human history of the Rocky Mountains is one of more rapid change. The Spanish explorer Francisco Vásquez de Coronado
Francisco Vásquez de Coronado
Francisco Vásquez de Coronado y Luján was a Spanish conquistador, who visited New Mexico and other parts of what are now the southwestern United States between 1540 and 1542...

—with a group of soldiers, missionaries, and African slaves—marched into the Rocky Mountain region from the south in 1540. The introduction of the horse, metal tools, rifles, new diseases, and different cultures profoundly changed the Native American cultures. Native American populations were extirpated from most of their historical ranges by disease, warfare, habitat loss (eradication of the bison), and continued assaults on their culture.

In 1739, French
France
The French Republic , The French Republic , The French Republic , (commonly known as France , is a unitary semi-presidential republic in Western Europe with several overseas territories and islands located on other continents and in the Indian, Pacific, and Atlantic oceans. Metropolitan France...

 fur trade
Fur trade
The fur trade is a worldwide industry dealing in the acquisition and sale of animal fur. Since the establishment of world market for in the early modern period furs of boreal, polar and cold temperate mammalian animals have been the most valued...

rs Pierre and Paul Mallet, while journeying through the Great Plains
Great Plains
The Great Plains are a broad expanse of flat land, much of it covered in prairie, steppe and grassland, which lies west of the Mississippi River and east of the Rocky Mountains in the United States and Canada. This area covers parts of the U.S...

, discovered a range of mountains at the headwaters of the Platte River
Platte River
The Platte River is a major river in the state of Nebraska and is about long. Measured to its farthest source via its tributary the North Platte River, it flows for over . The Platte River is a tributary of the Missouri River, which in turn is a tributary of the Mississippi River which flows to...

, which local American Indian
Native Americans in the United States
Native Americans in the United States are the indigenous peoples in North America within the boundaries of the present-day continental United States, parts of Alaska, and the island state of Hawaii. They are composed of numerous, distinct tribes, states, and ethnic groups, many of which survive as...

 tribes called the "Rockies", becoming the first Europeans to report on this uncharted mountain range.
Sir Alexander MacKenzie (1764–March 11, 1820) became the first European to cross the Rocky Mountains in 1793. He found the upper reaches of the Fraser River and reached the Pacific coast of what is now Canada on July 20 of that year, completing the first recorded transcontinental crossing of North America north of Mexico. He arrived at Bella Coola, British Columbia
Bella Coola, British Columbia
Bella Coola is a community of approximately 600 at the western extremity of the Bella Coola Valley. Bella Coola usually refers to the entire valley, encompassing the settlements of Bella Coola proper , Lower Bella Coola, Hagensborg, Saloompt, Nusatsum, Firvale and Stuie...

, where he first reached saltwater at South Bentinck Arm, an inlet of the Pacific Ocean.

The Lewis and Clark Expedition
Lewis and Clark Expedition
The Lewis and Clark Expedition, or ″Corps of Discovery Expedition" was the first transcontinental expedition to the Pacific Coast by the United States. Commissioned by President Thomas Jefferson and led by two Virginia-born veterans of Indian wars in the Ohio Valley, Meriwether Lewis and William...

 (1804–1806) was the first scientific reconnaissance of the Rocky Mountains. Specimens were collected for contemporary botanists, zoologists, and geologists. The expedition was said to have paved the way to (and through) the Rocky Mountains for European-Americans from the East, although Lewis and Clark met at least 11 European-American mountain men during their travels.

Mountain men, primarily French, Spanish, and British, roamed the Rocky Mountains from 1720 to 1800 seeking mineral deposits and furs. The fur-trading North West Company
North West Company
The North West Company was a fur trading business headquartered in Montreal from 1779 to 1821. It competed with increasing success against the Hudson's Bay Company in what was to become Western Canada...

 established Rocky Mountain House as a trading post in what is now the Rocky Mountain Foothills
Rocky Mountain Foothills
The Rocky Mountain Foothills are an upland area flanking the eastern side of the Rocky Mountains, extending south from the Liard River into Alberta. Bordering the Interior Plains system, they are part of the Rocky Mountain System or Eastern System of the Western Cordillera of North America....

 of present-day Alberta in 1799, and their business rivals the Hudson's Bay Company
Hudson's Bay Company
The Hudson's Bay Company , abbreviated HBC, or "The Bay" is the oldest commercial corporation in North America and one of the oldest in the world. A fur trading business for much of its existence, today Hudson's Bay Company owns and operates retail stores throughout Canada...

 established Acton House nearby. These posts served as bases for most European activity in the Canadian Rockies in the early 19th century. Among the most notable are the expeditions of David Thompson (explorer)
David Thompson (explorer)
David Thompson was an English-Canadian fur trader, surveyor, and map-maker, known to some native peoples as "Koo-Koo-Sint" or "the Stargazer"...

, who followed the Columbia River to the Pacific Ocean. On his 1811 expedition, he camped at the junction of the Columbia River and the Snake River and erected a pole and notice claiming the area for Great Britain and stating the intention of the North West Company
North West Company
The North West Company was a fur trading business headquartered in Montreal from 1779 to 1821. It competed with increasing success against the Hudson's Bay Company in what was to become Western Canada...

 to build a fort at the site.

By the Anglo-American Convention of 1818, which established the 49th parallel north
49th parallel north
The 49th parallel north is a circle of latitude that is 49 degrees north of the Earth's equatorial plane. It crosses Europe, Asia, the Pacific Ocean, North America, and the Atlantic Ocean....

 as the international boundary west from Lake of the Woods
Lake of the Woods
Lake of the Woods is a lake occupying parts of the Canadian provinces of Ontario and Manitoba and the U.S. state of Minnesota. It separates a small land area of Minnesota from the rest of the United States. The Northwest Angle and the town of Angle Township can only be reached from the rest of...

 to the "Stony Mountains"; the UK and the USA agreed to what has since been described as "joint occupancy" of lands further west to the Pacific Ocean
Pacific Ocean
The Pacific Ocean is the largest of the Earth's oceanic divisions. It extends from the Arctic in the north to the Southern Ocean in the south, bounded by Asia and Australia in the west, and the Americas in the east.At 165.2 million square kilometres in area, this largest division of the World...

. Resolution of the territorial and treaty issues, the Oregon dispute, was deferred until a later time.

In 1819, Spain
Spain
Spain , officially the Kingdom of Spain languages]] under the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages. In each of these, Spain's official name is as follows:;;;;;;), is a country and member state of the European Union located in southwestern Europe on the Iberian Peninsula...

 ceded their rights north of the 42nd Parallel to the United States, though these rights did not include possession and also included obligations to Britain and Russia concerning their claims in the same region.

Settlement

After 1802, American fur traders and explorers ushered in the first widespread Caucasian
Caucasian race
The term Caucasian race has been used to denote the general physical type of some or all of the populations of Europe, North Africa, the Horn of Africa, Western Asia , Central Asia and South Asia...

 presence in the Rockies south of the 49th parallel. The more famous of these include Americans William Henry Ashley
William Henry Ashley
William Henry Ashley was a pioneering fur trader, entrepreneur, and politician. Though a native of Virginia, Ashley had already moved to St. Genevieve in what was then called Louisiana, when it was purchased by the United States from France in 1803...

, Jim Bridger
Jim Bridger
James Felix "Jim" Bridger was among the foremost mountain men, trappers, scouts and guides who explored and trapped the Western United States during the decades of 1820-1850, as well as mediating between native tribes and encroaching whites...

, Kit Carson
Kit Carson
Christopher Houston "Kit" Carson was an American frontiersman and Indian fighter. Carson left home in rural present-day Missouri at age 16 and became a Mountain man and trapper in the West. Carson explored the west to California, and north through the Rocky Mountains. He lived among and married...

, John Colter
John Colter
John Colter was a member of the Lewis and Clark Expedition . Though party to one of the more famous expeditions in history, Colter is best remembered for explorations he made during the winter of 1807–1808, when Colter became the first known person of European descent to enter the region now known...

, Thomas Fitzpatrick
Thomas Fitzpatrick (trapper)
Thomas Fitzpatrick, known as "Broken Hand", was a trapper and a trailblazer who became the head of the Rocky Mountain Fur Company. With Jedediah Smith, he led a trapper band that discovered South Pass, Wyoming....

, Andrew Henry
Andrew Henry (fur trader)
Major Andrew Henry was an American fur trader who, with William H. Ashley started the Rocky Mountain Fur Company in 1822...

, and Jedediah Smith
Jedediah Smith
Jedediah Strong Smith was a hunter, trapper, fur trader, trailblazer, author, cartographer, cattleman, and explorer of the Rocky Mountains, the American West Coast and the Southwest during the 19th century...

. On July 24, 1832, Benjamin Bonneville
Benjamin Bonneville
Benjamin Louis Eulalie de Bonneville was a French-born officer in the United States Army, fur trapper, and explorer in the American West...

 led the first wagon train
Wagon train
A wagon train is a group of wagons traveling together. In the American West, individuals traveling across the plains in covered wagons banded together for mutual assistance, as is reflected in numerous films and television programs about the region, such as Audie Murphy's Tumbleweed and Ward Bond...

 across the Rocky Mountains by using Wyoming
Wyoming
Wyoming is a state in the mountain region of the Western United States. The western two thirds of the state is covered mostly with the mountain ranges and rangelands in the foothills of the Eastern Rocky Mountains, while the eastern third of the state is high elevation prairie known as the High...

's South Pass
South Pass
South Pass is two mountain passes on the Continental Divide in the Rocky Mountains in southwestern Wyoming. The passes are located in a broad low region, 35 miles broad, between the Wind River Range to the north and the Oregon Buttes and Great Divide Basin to the south, in southwestern Fremont...

. Similarly, in the wake of Mackenzie's 1793 expedition, fur trading posts were established west of the Northern Rockies in a region of the northern Interior Plateau
Interior Plateau
The Interior Plateau comprises a large region of central British Columbia, and lies between the Cariboo and Monashee Mountains on the east, and the Hazelton Mountains, Coast Mountains and Cascade Range on the west. The continuation of the plateau into the United States is known there as the...

 of British Columbia which came to be known as New Caledonia
New Caledonia (Canada)
New Caledonia was the name given to a district of the Hudson's Bay Company that comprised the territory largely coterminous with the present-day province of British Columbia, Canada. Though not a British colony, New Caledonia was part of the British claim to North America. Its administrative...

, beginning with Fort McLeod (today's community of McLeod Lake) and Fort Fraser, but ultimately focused on Stuart Lake Post (today's Fort St. James).

Negotiations with Great Britain
Great Britain
Great Britain or Britain is an island situated to the northwest of Continental Europe. It is the ninth largest island in the world, and the largest European island, as well as the largest of the British Isles...

 over the next few decades failed to settle upon a compromise boundary and the Oregon Dispute became important in geopolitical diplomacy between the British Empire and the new American Republic. Disputed joint-occupancy by Britain and the U.S.A., lasted until June 15, 1846, when Britain ceded their claims to this land with the Oregon Treaty
Oregon Treaty
The Oregon Treaty is a treaty between the United Kingdom and the United States that was signed on June 15, 1846, in Washington, D.C. The treaty brought an end to the Oregon boundary dispute by settling competing American and British claims to the Oregon Country, which had been jointly occupied by...

.

In 1841 James Sinclair
James Sinclair (fur trapper)
James Sinclair was a trader and explorer with the Hudson's Bay Company. He was the son of Hudson's Bay Company factor William Sinclair, from Eastaquoy in Harray, and his Cree wife, Nahovway. He was a brother of William Sinclair. James was born in Rupert's Land and educated in Scotland at Edinburgh...

, Chief Factor of the Hudson's Bay Company, guided some 200 settlers from the Red River Colony
Red River Colony
The Red River Colony was a colonization project set up by Thomas Douglas, 5th Earl of Selkirk in 1811 on of land granted to him by the Hudson's Bay Company under what is referred to as the Selkirk Concession. The colony along the Red River of the North was never very successful...

 west to bolster settlement around Fort Vancouver
Fort Vancouver
Fort Vancouver was a 19th century fur trading outpost along the Columbia River that served as the headquarters of the Hudson's Bay Company in the company's Columbia District...

 in an attempt to retain the Columbia District
Columbia District
The Columbia District was a fur trading district in the Pacific Northwest region of British North America in the 19th century. It was explored by the North West Company between 1793 and 1811, and established as an operating fur district around 1810...

 for Britain. The party crossed the Rockies into the Columbia Valley
Columbia Valley
The Columbia Valley is the name used for a region in the Rocky Mountain Trench near the headwaters of the Columbia River between the town of Golden and the Canal Flats. The main hub of the valley is the town of Invermere. Other towns include Radium Hot Springs, Windermere and Fairmont Hot Springs...

, a region of the Rocky Mountain Trench
Rocky Mountain Trench
The Rocky Mountain Trench, or the Trench or The Valley of a Thousand Peaks, is a large valley in the northern part of the Rocky Mountains. It is both visually and cartographically a striking physiographic feature extending approximately from Flathead Lake, Montana, to the Liard River, just south...

 near present-day Radium Hot Springs, British Columbia
British Columbia
British Columbia is the westernmost of Canada's provinces and is known for its natural beauty, as reflected in its Latin motto, Splendor sine occasu . Its name was chosen by Queen Victoria in 1858...

, then traveled south. Despite such efforts, in 1846, Britain ceded all claim to Columbia District
Columbia District
The Columbia District was a fur trading district in the Pacific Northwest region of British North America in the 19th century. It was explored by the North West Company between 1793 and 1811, and established as an operating fur district around 1810...

 lands south of the 49th parallel to the United States; as resolution to the Oregon boundary dispute by the Oregon Treaty
Oregon Treaty
The Oregon Treaty is a treaty between the United Kingdom and the United States that was signed on June 15, 1846, in Washington, D.C. The treaty brought an end to the Oregon boundary dispute by settling competing American and British claims to the Oregon Country, which had been jointly occupied by...

.
Thousands passed through the Rocky Mountains on the Oregon Trail
Oregon Trail
The Oregon Trail is a historic east-west wagon route that connected the Missouri River to valleys in Oregon and locations in between.After 1840 steam-powered riverboats and steamboats traversing up and down the Ohio, Mississippi and Missouri rivers sped settlement and development in the flat...

 beginning in 1842. The Mormon
Mormon
The term Mormon most commonly denotes an adherent, practitioner, follower, or constituent of Mormonism, which is the largest branch of the Latter Day Saint movement in restorationist Christianity...

s began to settle near the Great Salt Lake
Great Salt Lake
The Great Salt Lake, located in the northern part of the U.S. state of Utah, is the largest salt water lake in the western hemisphere, the fourth-largest terminal lake in the world. In an average year the lake covers an area of around , but the lake's size fluctuates substantially due to its...

 in 1847. From 1859 to 1864, gold
Gold
Gold is a chemical element with the symbol Au and an atomic number of 79. Gold is a dense, soft, shiny, malleable and ductile metal. Pure gold has a bright yellow color and luster traditionally considered attractive, which it maintains without oxidizing in air or water. Chemically, gold is a...

 was discovered in Colorado
Colorado
Colorado is a U.S. state that encompasses much of the Rocky Mountains as well as the northeastern portion of the Colorado Plateau and the western edge of the Great Plains...

, Idaho
Idaho
Idaho is a state in the Rocky Mountain area of the United States. The state's largest city and capital is Boise. Residents are called "Idahoans". Idaho was admitted to the Union on July 3, 1890, as the 43rd state....

, Montana
Montana
Montana is a state in the Western United States. The western third of Montana contains numerous mountain ranges. Smaller, "island ranges" are found in the central third of the state, for a total of 77 named ranges of the Rocky Mountains. This geographical fact is reflected in the state's name,...

, and British Columbia
British Columbia
British Columbia is the westernmost of Canada's provinces and is known for its natural beauty, as reflected in its Latin motto, Splendor sine occasu . Its name was chosen by Queen Victoria in 1858...

, sparking several gold rush
Gold rush
A gold rush is a period of feverish migration of workers to an area that has had a dramatic discovery of gold. Major gold rushes took place in the 19th century in Australia, Brazil, Canada, South Africa, and the United States, while smaller gold rushes took place elsewhere.In the 19th and early...

es bringing thousands of prospectors and miners to explore every mountain and canyon and to create the Rocky Mountains' first major industry. The Idaho gold rush alone produced more gold than the California and Alaska gold rushes combined and was important in the financing of the Union Army
Union Army
The Union Army was the land force that fought for the Union during the American Civil War. It was also known as the Federal Army, the U.S. Army, the Northern Army and the National Army...

 during the American Civil War
American Civil War
The American Civil War was a civil war fought in the United States of America. In response to the election of Abraham Lincoln as President of the United States, 11 southern slave states declared their secession from the United States and formed the Confederate States of America ; the other 25...

. The transcontinental railroad
Transcontinental railroad
A transcontinental railroad is a contiguous network of railroad trackage that crosses a continental land mass with terminals at different oceans or continental borders. Such networks can be via the tracks of either a single railroad, or over those owned or controlled by multiple railway companies...

 was completed in 1869, and Yellowstone National Park
Yellowstone National Park
Yellowstone National Park, established by the U.S. Congress and signed into law by President Ulysses S. Grant on March 1, 1872, is a national park located primarily in the U.S. state of Wyoming, although it also extends into Montana and Idaho...

 was established as the world's first national park in 1872. A transcontinental railroad in Canada was originally promised in 1871, but was not completed until 1885 due to political reasons, but was eventually built via the Kicking Horse Pass
Kicking Horse Pass
Kicking Horse Pass is a high mountain pass across the Continental Divide of the Americas of the Canadian Rockies on the Alberta/British Columbia border, and lying within Yoho and Banff National Parks...

 and Rogers Pass
Rogers Pass
Rogers Pass is a high mountain pass through the Selkirk Mountains of British Columbia used by the Canadian Pacific Railway and the Trans-Canada Highway. The pass is a shortcut across the "Big Bend" of the Columbia River from Revelstoke on the west to Donald, near Golden, on the east...

 after consideration of a number of other routes. Thanks to the vision of the railway's promoters, vast areas of the Canadian Rockies were set aside as Jasper, Glacier (BC), Banff and Yoho National Parks, laying the foundation for a tourism industry which thrives to this day. Glacier National Park (MT) was established with a similar relationship to tourism promotions by the Northern Pacific Railroad. While settlers filled the valleys and mining towns, conservation and preservation ethics began to take hold. U.S. President Harrison
Benjamin Harrison
Benjamin Harrison was the 23rd President of the United States . Harrison, a grandson of President William Henry Harrison, was born in North Bend, Ohio, and moved to Indianapolis, Indiana at age 21, eventually becoming a prominent politician there...

 established several forest reserves in the Rocky Mountains in 1891–1892. In 1905, U.S. President Theodore Roosevelt
Theodore Roosevelt
Theodore "Teddy" Roosevelt was the 26th President of the United States . He is noted for his exuberant personality, range of interests and achievements, and his leadership of the Progressive Movement, as well as his "cowboy" persona and robust masculinity...

 extended the Medicine Bow Forest Reserve to include the area now managed as Rocky Mountain National Park
Rocky Mountain National Park
Rocky Mountain National Park is a national park located in the north-central region of the U.S. state of Colorado.It features majestic mountain views, a variety of wildlife, varied climates and environments—from wooded forests to mountain tundra—and easy access to back-country trails...

. Economic development began to center on mining
Mining
Mining is the extraction of valuable minerals or other geological materials from the earth, from an ore body, vein or seam. The term also includes the removal of soil. Materials recovered by mining include base metals, precious metals, iron, uranium, coal, diamonds, limestone, oil shale, rock...

, forestry
Forestry
Forestry is the interdisciplinary profession embracing the science, art, and craft of creating, managing, using, and conserving forests and associated resources in a sustainable manner to meet desired goals, needs, and values for human benefit. Forestry is practiced in plantations and natural stands...

, agriculture
Agriculture
Agriculture is the cultivation of animals, plants, fungi and other life forms for food, fiber, and other products used to sustain life. Agriculture was the key implement in the rise of sedentary human civilization, whereby farming of domesticated species created food surpluses that nurtured the...

, and recreation
Recreation
Recreation is an activity of leisure, leisure being discretionary time. The "need to do something for recreation" is an essential element of human biology and psychology. Recreational activities are often done for enjoyment, amusement, or pleasure and are considered to be "fun"...

, as well as on the service industries that support them. Tents and camps became ranches and farms, forts and train stations became towns, and some towns became cities.

Industry and development

Economic resources of the Rocky Mountains are varied and abundant. Mineral
Mineral
A mineral is a naturally occurring solid chemical substance formed through biogeochemical processes, having characteristic chemical composition, highly ordered atomic structure, and specific physical properties. By comparison, a rock is an aggregate of minerals and/or mineraloids and does not...

s found in the Rocky Mountains include significant deposits of copper
Copper
Copper is a chemical element with the symbol Cu and atomic number 29. It is a ductile metal with very high thermal and electrical conductivity. Pure copper is soft and malleable; an exposed surface has a reddish-orange tarnish...

, gold
Gold
Gold is a chemical element with the symbol Au and an atomic number of 79. Gold is a dense, soft, shiny, malleable and ductile metal. Pure gold has a bright yellow color and luster traditionally considered attractive, which it maintains without oxidizing in air or water. Chemically, gold is a...

, lead
Lead
Lead is a main-group element in the carbon group with the symbol Pb and atomic number 82. Lead is a soft, malleable poor metal. It is also counted as one of the heavy metals. Metallic lead has a bluish-white color after being freshly cut, but it soon tarnishes to a dull grayish color when exposed...

, molybdenum
Molybdenum
Molybdenum , is a Group 6 chemical element with the symbol Mo and atomic number 42. The name is from Neo-Latin Molybdaenum, from Ancient Greek , meaning lead, itself proposed as a loanword from Anatolian Luvian and Lydian languages, since its ores were confused with lead ores...

, silver
Silver
Silver is a metallic chemical element with the chemical symbol Ag and atomic number 47. A soft, white, lustrous transition metal, it has the highest electrical conductivity of any element and the highest thermal conductivity of any metal...

, tungsten
Tungsten
Tungsten , also known as wolfram , is a chemical element with the chemical symbol W and atomic number 74.A hard, rare metal under standard conditions when uncombined, tungsten is found naturally on Earth only in chemical compounds. It was identified as a new element in 1781, and first isolated as...

, and zinc
Zinc
Zinc , or spelter , is a metallic chemical element; it has the symbol Zn and atomic number 30. It is the first element in group 12 of the periodic table. Zinc is, in some respects, chemically similar to magnesium, because its ion is of similar size and its only common oxidation state is +2...

. The Wyoming Basin and several smaller areas contain significant reserves of coal
Coal
Coal is a combustible black or brownish-black sedimentary rock usually occurring in rock strata in layers or veins called coal beds or coal seams. The harder forms, such as anthracite coal, can be regarded as metamorphic rock because of later exposure to elevated temperature and pressure...

, natural gas
Natural gas
Natural gas is a naturally occurring gas mixture consisting primarily of methane, typically with 0–20% higher hydrocarbons . It is found associated with other hydrocarbon fuel, in coal beds, as methane clathrates, and is an important fuel source and a major feedstock for fertilizers.Most natural...

, oil shale
Oil shale
Oil shale, an organic-rich fine-grained sedimentary rock, contains significant amounts of kerogen from which liquid hydrocarbons called shale oil can be produced...

, and petroleum
Petroleum
Petroleum or crude oil is a naturally occurring, flammable liquid consisting of a complex mixture of hydrocarbons of various molecular weights and other liquid organic compounds, that are found in geologic formations beneath the Earth's surface. Petroleum is recovered mostly through oil drilling...

. For example, the Climax
Climax, Colorado
Climax was an unincorporated mining village and a former U.S. Post Office located in Lake County, Colorado. Climax was known for its large molybdenum ore deposit. The former Climax Post Office had the ZIP Code 80429. Climax is located along the Continental Divide at an elevation of about 11,360 feet...

 mine, located near Leadville, Colorado
Leadville, Colorado
Leadville is a Statutory City that is the county seat of, and the only municipality in, Lake County, Colorado, United States. Situated at an elevation of , Leadville is the highest incorporated city and the second highest incorporated municipality in the United States...

, was the largest producer of Molybdenum
Molybdenum
Molybdenum , is a Group 6 chemical element with the symbol Mo and atomic number 42. The name is from Neo-Latin Molybdaenum, from Ancient Greek , meaning lead, itself proposed as a loanword from Anatolian Luvian and Lydian languages, since its ores were confused with lead ores...

 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
Coeur d'Alene, Idaho
Coeur d'Alene is the largest city and county seat of Kootenai County, Idaho, United States. It is the principal city of the Coeur d'Alene Metropolitan Statistical Area. Coeur d'Alene has the second largest metropolitan area in the state of Idaho. As of the 2010 census the population of Coeur...

 mine of northern Idaho produces silver, lead, and zinc. Canada's largest coal
Coal
Coal is a combustible black or brownish-black sedimentary rock usually occurring in rock strata in layers or veins called coal beds or coal seams. The harder forms, such as anthracite coal, can be regarded as metamorphic rock because of later exposure to elevated temperature and pressure...

 mines are near Fernie, British Columbia
Fernie, British Columbia
Fernie is a city in the Elk Valley area of the East Kootenay region of southeastern British Columbia, Canada, located on BC Highway 3 on the eastern approaches to the Crowsnest Pass through the Rocky Mountains...

 and Sparwood, British Columbia
Sparwood, British Columbia
-Newspapers:* Fernie Free Press - Weekly Paper* Elk Valley Herald - Weekly Paper* Kootenay News Advertiser - Weekly Paper* The Valley - Weekly Paper* Fernie Fix - Monthly Glossy Magazine* Black Rock News - Semimonthly-Radio stations:...

; additional coal mines exist near Hinton, Alberta
Hinton, Alberta
Hinton is a town in west-central Alberta, Canada.It is located in Yellowhead County, northeast of Jasper and about west of Alberta's capital city, Edmonton, at the intersection of Yellowhead and Bighorn Highway, in the Athabasca River valley.-History:...

, and in the Northern Rockies
Northern Rocky Mountains
The Northern Rocky Mountains, usually referred to as the Northern Rockies, are a subdivision of the Canadian Rockies comprising the northern half of the Canadian segment of the Rocky Mountains...

 surrounding Tumbler Ridge, British Columbia
Tumbler Ridge, British Columbia
The District Municipality of Tumbler Ridge is a small town in the foothills of the Canadian Rockies in northeastern British Columbia, Canada, and a member municipality of the Peace River Regional District. The municipality of , with its population of 2,454 people, incorporates a townsite and a...

.

Abandoned mines with their wakes of mine tailings and toxic wastes dot the Rocky Mountain landscape. In one major example, eighty years of zinc mining profoundly polluted the river and bank near Eagle River
Eagle River (Colorado)
The Eagle River is a tributary of the Colorado River, approximately long, in west central Colorado in the United States.It rises in southeastern Eagle County, at the continental divide, and flows northwest past Gilman, Minturn, Avon...

 in north-central Colorado. High concentrations of the metal carried by spring runoff harmed algae
Algae
Algae are a large and diverse group of simple, typically autotrophic organisms, ranging from unicellular to multicellular forms, such as the giant kelps that grow to 65 meters in length. They are photosynthetic like plants, and "simple" because their tissues are not organized into the many...

, moss
Moss
Mosses are small, soft plants that are typically 1–10 cm tall, though some species are much larger. They commonly grow close together in clumps or mats in damp or shady locations. They do not have flowers or seeds, and their simple leaves cover the thin wiry stems...

, and trout
Trout
Trout is the name for a number of species of freshwater and saltwater fish belonging to the Salmoninae subfamily of the family Salmonidae. Salmon belong to the same family as trout. Most salmon species spend almost all their lives in salt water...

 populations. An economic analysis of mining effects at this site revealed declining property values, degraded water quality, and the loss of recreational opportunities. The analysis also revealed that cleanup of the river could yield $2.3 million in additional revenue from recreation. In 1983, the former owner of the zinc mine was sued by the Colorado Attorney General for the $4.8 million cleanup costs; five years later, ecological recovery was considerable.

The Rocky Mountains contain several sedimentary basin
Sedimentary basin
The term sedimentary basin is used to refer to any geographical feature exhibiting subsidence and consequent infilling by sedimentation. As the sediments are buried, they are subjected to increasing pressure and begin the process of lithification...

s that are rich in coalbed methane
Coalbed methane
Coalbed methane or Coal Bed Methane, coalbed gas or coal mine methane is a form of natural gas extracted from coal beds. In recent decades it has become an important source of energy in United States, Canada, and other countries...

. Coalbed methane is natural gas
Natural gas
Natural gas is a naturally occurring gas mixture consisting primarily of methane, typically with 0–20% higher hydrocarbons . It is found associated with other hydrocarbon fuel, in coal beds, as methane clathrates, and is an important fuel source and a major feedstock for fertilizers.Most natural...

 that arises from coal
Coal
Coal is a combustible black or brownish-black sedimentary rock usually occurring in rock strata in layers or veins called coal beds or coal seams. The harder forms, such as anthracite coal, can be regarded as metamorphic rock because of later exposure to elevated temperature and pressure...

, either through bacterial action, or through exposure to high temperature. Coalbed methane supplies 7 percent of the natural gas used in the United States. The largest coalbed methane sources in the Rocky Mountains are in the San Juan Basin
San Juan Basin
The San Juan Basin is a geologic structural basin in the Four Corners region of the Southwestern United States; its main portion covers around , encompassing much of northwestern New Mexico, southwest Colorado, and parts of Arizona and Utah....

 in New Mexico and Colorado and the Powder River Basin
Powder River Basin
The Powder River Basin is a geologic region in southeast Montana and northeast Wyoming, about east to west and north to south, known for its coal deposits. The region supplies about 40 percent of coal in the United States. It is both a topographic drainage and geologic structural basin...

 in Wyoming. These two basins are estimated to contain 38 trillion cubic feet of gas. Coalbed methane can be recovered by dewatering the coal bed, and separating the gas from the water; or injecting water to fracture the coal to release the gas (so-called hydraulic fracturing
Hydraulic fracturing
Considerable controversy surrounds the current implementation of hydraulic fracturing technology in the United States. Hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, is the process of utilizing pressurized water, or some other liquid, to fracture rock layers and release petroleum, natural gas, or other...

).

Agriculture and forestry are major industries. Agriculture includes dryland and irrigated farming and livestock
Livestock
Livestock refers to one or more domesticated animals raised in an agricultural setting to produce commodities such as food, fiber and labor. The term "livestock" as used in this article does not include poultry or farmed fish; however the inclusion of these, especially poultry, within the meaning...

 grazing. Livestock are frequently moved between high-elevation summer pasture
Pasture
Pasture is land used for grazing. Pasture lands in the narrow sense are enclosed tracts of farmland, grazed by domesticated livestock, such as horses, cattle, sheep or swine. The vegetation of tended pasture, forage, consists mainly of grasses, with an interspersion of legumes and other forbs...

s and low-elevation winter pastures, a practice known as transhumance
Transhumance
Transhumance is the seasonal movement of people with their livestock between fixed summer and winter pastures. In montane regions it implies movement between higher pastures in summer and to lower valleys in winter. Herders have a permanent home, typically in valleys. Only the herds travel, with...

.

Tourism

See also: List of U.S. Rocky Mountain ski resorts, List of Alberta ski resorts, List of B.C. ski resorts

Every year the scenic areas and recreational opportunities of the Rocky Mountains draw millions of tourists. The main language of the Rocky Mountains is English
English language
English is a West Germanic language that arose in the Anglo-Saxon kingdoms of England and spread into what was to become south-east Scotland under the influence of the Anglian medieval kingdom of Northumbria...

. But there are also linguistic pockets of Spanish
Spanish language
Spanish , also known as Castilian , is a Romance language in the Ibero-Romance group that evolved from several languages and dialects in central-northern Iberia around the 9th century and gradually spread with the expansion of the Kingdom of Castile into central and southern Iberia during the...

 and Native American
Native Americans in the United States
Native Americans in the United States are the indigenous peoples in North America within the boundaries of the present-day continental United States, parts of Alaska, and the island state of Hawaii. They are composed of numerous, distinct tribes, states, and ethnic groups, many of which survive as...

 languages. French
French language
French is a Romance language spoken as a first language in France, the Romandy region in Switzerland, Wallonia and Brussels in Belgium, Monaco, the regions of Quebec and Acadia in Canada, and by various communities elsewhere. Second-language speakers of French are distributed throughout many parts...

 is an official language in Canada's national parks.

People from all over the world visit the sites to hike, camp, or engage in mountain sports. In the summer season, examples of tourist attractions are:

In the United States:
  • Pikes Peak
    Pikes Peak
    Pikes Peak is a mountain in the Front Range of the Rocky Mountains, west of Colorado Springs, Colorado, in El Paso County in the United States of America....

  • Royal Gorge
    Royal Gorge
    The Royal Gorge is a canyon on the Arkansas River near Cañon City, Colorado. With a width of at its base and a few hundred feet at its top, and a depth of in places, the 10-mile-long canyon is a narrow, steep gorge through the granite of Fremont Peak...

  • Rocky Mountain National Park
    Rocky Mountain National Park
    Rocky Mountain National Park is a national park located in the north-central region of the U.S. state of Colorado.It features majestic mountain views, a variety of wildlife, varied climates and environments—from wooded forests to mountain tundra—and easy access to back-country trails...

  • Yellowstone National Park
    Yellowstone National Park
    Yellowstone National Park, established by the U.S. Congress and signed into law by President Ulysses S. Grant on March 1, 1872, is a national park located primarily in the U.S. state of Wyoming, although it also extends into Montana and Idaho...

  • Grand Teton National Park
    Grand Teton National Park
    Grand Teton National Park is a United States National Park located in northwestern Wyoming, U.S. The Park consists of approximately and includes the major peaks of the long Teton Range as well as most of the northern sections of the valley known as Jackson Hole. Only south of Yellowstone...

  • Glacier National Park
  • Sawtooth National Recreation Area
    Sawtooth National Recreation Area
    The Sawtooth National Recreation Area is a National Recreation Area located in central Idaho, within the Boise, Challis, and Sawtooth National Forests. The recreation area is managed by the U.S. Forest Service and includes the Sawtooth Wilderness...


In Canada, the mountain range contains these national parks:
  • Banff National Park
    Banff National Park
    Banff National Park is Canada's oldest national park, established in 1885 in the Rocky Mountains. The park, located 110–180 kilometres west of Calgary in the province of Alberta, encompasses of mountainous terrain, with numerous glaciers and ice fields, dense coniferous forest, and alpine...

  • Jasper National Park
    Jasper National Park
    Jasper National Park is the largest national park in the Canadian Rockies, spanning 10,878 km² . It is located in the province of Alberta, north of Banff National Park and west of the City of Edmonton. The park includes the glaciers of the Columbia Icefield, hot springs, lakes, waterfalls and...

  • Kootenay National Park
    Kootenay National Park
    Kootenay National Park is located in southeastern British Columbia Canada covering in the Canadian Rockies and forms part of a World Heritage Site. The park ranges in elevation from at the south-west park entrance to at Deltaform Mountain...

  • Waterton Lakes National Park
    Waterton Lakes National Park
    Waterton Lakes National Park is a national park located in the southwest corner of Alberta, Canada, and borders Glacier National Park in Montana, USA. Waterton was Canada's fourth national park, formed in 1895 and named after Waterton Lake, in turn after the Victorian naturalist and conservationist...

  • Yoho National Park
    Yoho National Park
    Yoho National Park is located in the Canadian Rocky Mountains along the western slope of the Continental Divide in southeastern British Columbia. Yoho NP is bordered by Kootenay National Park on the southern side and Banff National Park on the eastern side...



Glacier National Park in Montana and Waterton Lakes National Park in Alberta border each other and collectively are known as Waterton-Glacier International Peace Park
Waterton-Glacier International Peace Park
The Waterton-Glacier International Peace Park is the name of the union of the Waterton Lakes National Park in Canada and the Glacier National Park in the United States...

. (See also International Peace Park.)

In the winter, skiing
Skiing
Skiing is a recreational activity using skis as equipment for traveling over snow. Skis are used in conjunction with boots that connect to the ski with use of a binding....

 is the main attraction. A list of the major ski resorts can be found at List of U.S. Rocky Mountain ski resorts.

The adjacent Columbia Mountains
Columbia Mountains
The Columbia Mountains are a group of mountain ranges located in southeastern British Columbia, and partially in Montana, Idaho and Washington. The mountain range covers 135,952 km² . The range is bounded by the Rocky Mountain Trench on the east, and the Kootenay River on the south; their...

 in British Columbia contain major resorts such as, Fernie
Fernie Alpine Resort
Fernie Alpine Resort is a ski resort, located on Lizard Range, near the town of Fernie, British Columbia in Canada. It is known particularly for its high annual snowfall, reportedly the highest of any resort in the Canadian Rockies, and for its powder skiing...

, Panorama and Kicking Horse
Kicking Horse Resort
Kicking Horse Mountain Resort is a ski resort located 14 km outside of Golden, British Columbia. It features what is currently the fourth highest vertical drop North America, at . It is only shorter than Jackson Hole. In total the resort includes over of skiable lift-served terrain...

, as well as Mount Revelstoke National Park
Mount Revelstoke National Park
Mount Revelstoke National Park is located adjacent to the city of Revelstoke, British Columbia, Canada. The park is relatively small for a national park, covering 260 square kilometres. It is located in the Selkirk Mountains and was founded in 1914...

 and Glacier National Park.

There are numerous provincial parks in the British Columbia Rockies, the largest and most notable being Mount Assiniboine Provincial Park
Mount Assiniboine Provincial Park
Mount Assiniboine Provincial Park is a provincial park in British Columbia, Canada, located around Mount Assiniboine.-History:The park was established 1922...

, Mount Robson Provincial Park
Mount Robson Provincial Park
Mount Robson Provincial Park is a large provincial park in the Canadian Rockies with an area of 2,249 km². The park is located entirely within British Columbia, bordering Jasper National Park in Alberta. The B.C. legislature created the park in 1913, the same year as the first ascent of Mount...

, Northern Rocky Mountains Provincial Park
Northern Rocky Mountains Provincial Park
Northern Rocky Mountains Provincial Park is a provincial park in British Columbia, Canada. It is located in the north-eastern part of the province, 90 km north-west from Fort Nelson and it is bordered to the north by the Alaska Highway...

, Kwadacha Wilderness Provincial Park
Kwadacha Wilderness Provincial Park
Kwadacha Wilderness Provincial Park is a provincial park in British Columbia, Canada. It is part of the larger Muskwa-Kechika Management Area, which include to the north of the Kwadacha the Northern Rocky Mountains Provincial Park and Stone Mountain Provincial Park....

, Stone Mountain Provincial Park
Stone Mountain Provincial Park
The Stone Mountain Provincial Park is an area of 256.91 square kilometres of mountain wilderness in the Canadian province of British Columbia. The park is part of the larger Muskwa-Kechika Management Area which includes the Northern Rocky Mountains Provincial Park, immediately south, and Kwadacha...

 and Muncho Lake Provincial Park
Muncho Lake Provincial Park
Muncho Lake Provincial Park is a provincial park in British Columbia, Canada, located on the Alaska Highway as it transits the northernmost Canadian Rockies west of Fort Nelson. The park is part of the larger Muskwa-Kechika Management Area....

.

See also

  • Geography of the United States Rocky Mountain System
    Geography of the United States Rocky Mountain System
    image:US west coast physiographic regions map.jpgPhysiographic regions of the U.S. InteriorSee:legendFor purposes of description, the physical geography of the United States is split into several major physiographic divisions, one being the Rocky Mountain System...

  • Canadian Rockies
    Canadian Rockies
    The Canadian Rockies comprise the Canadian segment of the North American Rocky Mountains range. They are the eastern part of the Canadian Cordillera, extending from the Interior Plains of Alberta to the Rocky Mountain Trench of British Columbia. The southern end borders Idaho and Montana of the USA...

    • Ranges of the Canadian Rockies
      Ranges of the Canadian Rockies
      The Canadian Rockies are a segment of the North American Rocky Mountains found in the Canadian provinces of Alberta and British Columbia.-List of Ranges:There is no universally accepted hierarchical division of the Canadian Rockies into subranges....

  • Southern Rocky Mountains
    Southern Rocky Mountains
    The Southern Rocky Mountains are a major subregion of the Rocky Mountains of North America located in the southern portion of the U.S. state of Wyoming, the central and western portions of Colorado, the northern portion of New Mexico, and extreme eastern portions of Utah...

    • Colorado mountain passes
      Colorado mountain passes
      The following tables list some important mountain passes in the Rocky Mountains of the U.S. State of Colorado.-High elevation Colorado highways not on a pass:-Colorado mountain passes traversed by paved highways:...

    • Mountain peaks of Colorado
      Mountain peaks of Colorado
      This article comprises three sortable tables of the major mountain peaks of the U.S. State of Colorado.Topographic elevation is the vertical distance above the reference geoid, a precise mathematical model of the Earth's sea level as an equipotential gravitational surface...

    • Mountain ranges of Colorado
      Mountain ranges of Colorado
      The following table lists the major mountain ranges of the U.S. State of Colorado.-Mountain Ranges:-See also:*4000 meter peaks of Colorado*Colorado mountain passes*Geography of Colorado*Lists of mountains*Mountain peaks of Colorado...

  • Geology of the Rocky Mountains
    Geology of the Rocky Mountains
    The geology of the Rocky Mountains is that of a discontinuous series of mountain ranges with distinct geological origins. Collectively these make up the Rocky Mountains, a mountain system that stretches from Canada through central New Mexico and which is part of the great mountain system known as...

  • Mountain man
    Mountain man
    Mountain men were trappers and explorers who roamed the North American Rocky Mountains from about 1810 through the 1880s where they were instrumental in opening up the various Emigrant Trails allowing Americans in the east to settle the new territories of the far west by organized wagon trains...

  • Mountain peaks of the Rocky Mountains
    Mountain peaks of the Rocky Mountains
    This article comprises three sortable tables of major mountain peaks of the Rocky Mountains of North America.Topographic elevation is the vertical distance above the reference geoid, a precise mathematical model of the Earth's sea level as an equipotential gravitational surface...

  • Rocky Mountains subalpine zone
  • Geography of North America
    Geography of North America
    North America is the third largest continent, or a portion of the second largest if North and South America are combined into the Americas and Africa, Europe and Asia are considered to be part of one supercontinent called Afro-Eurasia...

  • Geology of North America
  • Lists of mountains
  • Little Rocky Mountains
    Little Rocky Mountains
    The Little Rocky Mountains, also known as the Little Rockies, are a group of buttes, roughly 765 km2 in area, located towards the southern end of the Fort Belknap Agency in Blaine County and Phillips County in north-central Montana...

  • The Rocky Mountain Rangers
    The Rocky Mountain Rangers
    The Rocky Mountain Rangers is a Primary Reserve infantry regiment of the Canadian Forces. The regimental headquarters are located at JR Vicars Armoury in Kamloops, British Columbia...

    (Canadian militia unit)

External links

The source of this article is wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.  The text of this article is licensed under the GFDL.
 
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