These mountains are a major range in the western United States. They stretch more than 3,000 miles from the northern part of British Columbia to New Mexico. The highest peak is Mount Elbert in Colorado at 14,440 feet above sea level. They are part of the United States Pacific Cordilla.
The Rocky Mountains were formed 80 to 55 millions year ago by the Laramide orogency. Since this time, the glaciers and erosion by water have sculpted them into dramatic peaks and valleys. Humans started to inhabit the Rocky Mountains at the end of the last ice age. The range has never been densely populated even though Europeans such as The Lewis and Clark expedition started to explore the range, and furs and minerals drove the economic exploitation of the mountains.
Today, public parks and forestlands protect much of the Rocky Mountains. They are a popular tourist attraction for hiking, skiing, camping, mountaineering, hunting, snowboarding, and fishing.
The Rocky Mountains vary in width from 70-300 miles. The eastern edge of the mountains rises dramatically above the Interior Plains, which include the Front Range of Colorado. The only river to pierce the Northern Rockies is the Peace River. The Continental Divide is located in the Rocky Mountains. The line designates whether the water flows to the Pacific or Atlantic Oceans. At 8,020 feet, the Triple Divide Peak in Glacier National Park is named that because the water that falls on the mountain not only reaches the Atlantic and Pacific Ocean but the Hudson Bay.
The younger ranges uplifted 65-100 million years ago during the Cretaceous period and some of the southern mountains date from uplifts from 3,980-600 million years ago during the Precambrian period. The geology of the mountains is a complex of igneous metamorphic rock. Along the southern Rocky Mountains, you will find younger sedimentary rock.
In the Rocky Mountains, you will find elk, mule, moose, white-tailed deer, black, and grizzly bears, mountain goats, lynxes and much more. The mountains have been home to the Apache, Arapaho, Blackfoot, Cheyenne, Shoshone, Ute, and other Indian tribes. The first Europeans, in 1739, to report on this uncharted mountain range were Pierre and Paul Mallet who were fur traders. They discovered a range of mountains at the headwaters of the Platte River. The Indians called this range the Rockies, and that is how the Rocky Mountains got their name. Thousands of settlers passed through the mountains on the Oregon Trail.