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Historical Facts about the Rocky Mountains

By Robert Smith

Here are a few facts about the Rocky Mountains in the US and Canada. The range is one of a continuous sequence of mountain ranges that form the western backbone of North, Central and South America. As a whole, these ranges are referred to as the American Cordillera.

The highest Rocky Mountain peak in North America is located at Mount Elbert in Colorado. Were it not for Mount Whitney in California, it would be the highest peak in the continental US. Mount Elbert's highest point is 14,440 feet above sea level. Mount Whitney is 65 feet taller.

Rocky Mountains near Cottonwood Pass Colorado

Some of the facts about Rocky Mountains that people find most interesting have to do with the stretch of the range, which is some 3000 miles from the northernmost point in British Columbia to the southernmost point in New Mexico. As a point of contrast, the Appalachian Mountains in the eastern US and Canada from north to south measures only 1500 miles. The heights in the Appalachian range are far less impressive, as well, with its highest point at 6684 feet.

Although both ranges have existed for millions of years, the Rockies are said to be younger, appearing during the time of the dinosaurs, around 145 million years ago. Exposed rocks in the Appalachian range are as much as 300 million years old.

Other facts about Rocky Mountains are sometimes disputed, such as which European group was the first to explore them. The disagreements arise because Spanish, French and English explorers arrived in the area at different times. Each group of explorers claimed the region for their countries, even though Native American tribes were already living in the area.

How long ago did Native Americans begin to hunt and fish in the Rocky Mountain area of North America? No one knows. But, there are rock walls built along the crest of the Continental Divide, presumably for capturing game, that are at least 5800 years old.

Facts about Rocky Mountains from Spain tell us that Coronado and a group of soldiers marched into the southernmost point of the range in 1540. The French fur traders Pierre and Paul Mallet are said to have discovered the range in 1739 when traveling up the headwaters of the Platte River. It is said that Native Americans in the area called the mountains the "Rockies".

Scottish Canadian explorer Alexander MacKenzie was the first European to cross the Canadian Rockies and reach the Pacific Ocean in 1793. Lewis and Clark, with the most famous expedition among US school children, made their way through the mountains with the help of Sacajawea, a Native American woman, between the years of 1804 and 1806. That expedition is famous for several reasons, not the least of which is that they were the first to carefully document much of the flora and fauna.

There are many more facts about Rocky Mountains, and they are often the subjects of news headlines. What you have read here are just some of the historical points of interest.


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