The Rockies or the Rocky mountains are the largest mountain ranges in North America. They are situated in the west of North America and Canada. The ranges are not continuous, but, are segregated. All the peaks rise above 3000 m. Mt. Elbert (4401 m) is the highest peak, while, Mt. Massive (4398 m) and Mt. Harvard (4397 m) are the second and third highest peaks respectively. Mt. Robson (3955 m) is the highest peak in the mountain ranges in Canada.
The mountain ranges cover a large area, from British Columbia to New Mexico. They stretch nearly 3000 miles, comprising American states like New Mexico, Wyoming, Utah, South Dakota, Idaho, Montana, and Colorado, as well as Canadian states like British Columbia and Alberta.
The mountains are classified into Southern Rocky Mountains, Middle and Northern Rockies, the Rocky mountain system in Canada, and the Brook range in Alaska. Canadian mountains are the largest ranges and stretch along nearly 900 miles. Sawatch Range, Sangre de Cristo, San Juan Mountains, Gore Ranges, Wasatch Range, Park Range, and Mosquito Range, etc., are the major mountain ranges.
The process of mountain formation is known as Orogeny. The formation of mountains in the world began in Paleozoic era (300-250 million years ago). The ancient Rockies were formed in this era. Followed by it was the Mesozoic era or the age of dinosaurs (249-200 million years ago). Tectonics and sedimentation took place in North America in the mesozoic era. In both these eras, huge sediments from the oceans were deposited on land due to invasion of the oceans. At the end of mesozoic era, these mountains were formed due to plate tectonic activity. The outermost layer of the Earth's interior is called Lithosphere. It is broken into several plates. These plates are present below the surface of the earth. The collision of any two of these plates results in upliftment of vast land areas, resulting in mountain formation.
Before the formation of these mountains, there was a shallow sea in the area where Colorado is situated today. The youngest ranges were formed some 100-60 million years ago. Sedimentary as well as igneous rocks are found in these mountain ranges.
Erosion has played a greater role in shaping the Rockies since ancient times. Earlier, they were much larger in size. Tremendous amount of erosion took place and the sediments were washed away. These sediments were deposited eastwards and plains were formed.
The Rocky mountains have very slanting sides. Most of the peaks are covered with snow. Inter-mountain basins are remarkable characteristics of the Rockies. They are formed where there is less upliftment. The Wyoming Basin is one such example. It is a flat grassy prairie which divides the mountains into two. Biologically, the two parts of the mountains are completely different. Different kinds of fauna are found in these two parts.
The highest and the broadest mountain ranges lie in Colorado. Various summits rising above 4000 m are found here. The Sawatch is the principle range in Colorado. Rocky mountain National Park, situated in the center of Colorado state, is a major tourist attraction. It incorporates nearly two hundred thousand acres of land. Peaks, glaciers, and lakes are found in the park. There are grasslands at the lowest part of the National Park. Rock climbing, mountaineering, fishing, and camping are major activities undertaken here.
The Rockies are the source of rivers like Mackenzie, Missouri, Fraser, and Colorado. The Great Divide, created by the rivers in the Rockies, separates the rivers flowing into Atlantic or Arctic from the rivers that flow into the Pacific ocean.
As they are rugged terrains, the Rocky mountains are thinly populated. The chief economic assets are natural resources, gold, copper, and places of tourist attraction. Lake Louise and Jasper National Park are the major tourist attractions in the Rockies of Alberta. Gold was discovered in the state of Idaho, Colorado and Montana, in the 19th century. Copper, lead, zinc is found sparsely in these areas. Leadville is a major mining center. Abundant forests are also major natural resources. These are under government control. Spruce, fir, and pine are the species of trees that dominate these forests.
You should definitely visit and enjoy the grandeur of these mountain ranges. It will definitely be a memorable experience!