The Rocky Mountains, are a major mountain range in western North America. The Rocky Mountains are huge: in length as well as height. Ranging over 3,000 mi (4828 km) from British Columbia to New Mexico, and reach as high as 14,440 ft (4,401 m) above sea level.
The Rocky Mountains were initially formed from 80 million to 55 million years ago during the Laramide orogeny, in which a number of plates began to slide underneath the North American plate.The angle of subduction was shallow, resulting in a broad belt of mountains running down western North America. Since then, further tectonic activity and erosion by glaciers have sculpted the Rockies into dramatic peaks and valleys. At the end of the last ice age, humans started to inhabit the mountain range.
The Rocky Mountains are commonly defined as stretching from the Liard River in British Columbia south to the Rio Grande in New Mexico. The Rocky Mountains are notable for containing the highest peaks in central North America. The range’s highest peak is Mount Elbert located in Colorado at 14,440 feet (4,401 m) above sea level.
Human population is not very dense in the Rocky Mountains, with an average of four people per square kilometer and few cities with over 50,000 people. However, the human population grew rapidly in the Rocky Mountain states between 1950 and 1990.
History of Rocky Mountains
Since the last great ice age, the Rocky Mountains were home first to indigenous peoples. Paleo-Indians hunted the now-extinct mammoth 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, deer, elk, roots, and berries.
Recent human history of the Rocky Mountains is one of more rapid change. The Spanish explorer Francisco Vázquez de Coronado—with a group of soldiers, missionaries, and African slaves—marched into the Rocky Mountain region from the south in 1540.
Mountain men, primarily French, Spanish, and British, roamed the Rocky Mountains from 1720 to 1800 seeking mineral deposits and furs. After 1802, American fur traders and explorers ushered in the first widespread white presence in the Rockies. In 1832, Benjamin Bonneville led the first wagon train across the Rocky Mountains by using Wyoming’s South Pass.
The Mormons began to settle near the Great Salt Lake in 1847. In 1859, gold was discovered near Cripple Creek, Colorado, and the regional economy of these Mountains was changed forever. In 1905, President Theodore Roosevelt extended the Medicine Bow Forest Reserve to include the area now managed as Rocky Mountain National Park.