Rocky mountains

Rocky Mountains

Rocky Mountains or Rockies, great chain of rugged mountain
ranges in western North America, extending from central New Mexico to
northeastern British Columbia, a distance of about 3220 km (about 2000 mi).
The Great Basin and the Rocky Mountain Trench, a valley running from
northwestern Montana to northern British Columbia, border the Rockies on
the east by the Great Plains and on the west. The Rocky Mountains form part
of the Great, or Continental, Divide, which separates rivers draining into
the Atlantic or Arctic oceans from those flowing tooward the Pacific Ocean.
The Arkansas, Colorado, Columbia, Missouri, Rio Grande, Saskatchewan, and
Snake rivers rise in the Rockies. The Rockies may be divided into four
principal sections—Southern, Central, Northern, and Canadian. The Southern
Rockies, which include the system’s broadest and highest regions, extend
from central New Mexico, through Colorado, to the Great Divide, or Wyoming,
Basin, in southern Wyoming. This section, which encompasses Rocky Mountain
National Park, is composed chiefly of two northern-southern belts of
mountain ranges with several basins, or parks, between the belts. The
component parts innclude the Sanger de Crisco and Laramie mountains and the
Front Range, in the east, and the San Juan Mountains and the Swatch and
Park ranges, in the west. The Southern Rockies include the chain’s loftiest
point, Mount Elbert (4399 m/14,433 ft high), in ce

entral Colorado. More than
50 other peaks of the Rockies rising above 4267 m (14,000 ft) are in
Colorado; these include Longs Peak (4345 m/14,255 ft high) and Pikes Peak
(4301 m/14,110 ft high). The Central Rockies are in northeastern Utah,
western Wyoming, eastern Idaho, and southern Montana. They encompass the
Bighorn; Bear tooth, and Unite Mountains and the Absaroka, Wind River, Salt
River, Teton, Snake River, and Wasatch ranges. The Unite Mountains are the
only major portion of the Rockies that extends east west rather than north
south. Among the peaks of the Central Rockies, which include Grand Eton and
Yellowstone national parks, are Gannett Peak (4207 m/13,804 ft high), Grand
Eton (4197 m/13,771 ft high), and Fremont Peak (4185 m/13,730 ft high). The
Northern Rockies are in northern Idaho, western Montana, and northeastern
Washington. They include the Saw toooth, Cabinet, Salmon River, and
Clearwater Mountains and the Bitterroot Range. The loftiest points in the
section, which includes Glacier National Park, are Granite Peak (3901
m/12,799 ft high) and Borax Peak (3859 m/12,662 ft high). The Canadian
Rockies, located in southwestern Alberta and eastern British Columbia, are
composed of a relatively narrow belt of mountain ranges that terminates at
the Lizard River lowland in northeastern British Columbia. The peaks of the
section, which takes in Banff, Jasper, Kootenay, Waterton Lakes, and Yoho
National Parks, include Mount Robson (3954 m/12,972 ft
t high), Mount
Columbia (3747 m/12,294 ft high), and The Twins (3734 m/12,251 ft high).
Slopes generally are very steep, and there are numerous glaciers. The Rocky
Mountains are a geologically complex system with jagged peaks as well as
almost flat-topped elevations. The Rockies were formed mainly by crustal
uplifts in comparatively recent times, during the late Cretaceous and early
Tertiary periods, and later were reshaped by glaciation during the
Pleistocene Epoch. Today the Rockies receive moderate amounts of
precipitation, most of which occurs in the winter. Lower levels are covered
chiefly by grassland, which gives way to extensive forests, principally of
conifers. Above the woodland is a zone of grasses and scattered shrubs.
Most peaks have little vegetation around the summit, and some have a year-
round cap of snow and ice. The Rockies are sparsely populated for the most
part and contain few cities. The principal economic resources of the
mountains are minerals, such as coal, copper, gold, iron ore, lead,
molybdenum, petroleum and natural gas, silver, and zinc. Important mining
centers include Leadville and Climax, Colorado; Atlantic City, Wyoming;
Kellogg, Idaho; Butte, Montana; and Fernie and Kimberley, British Columbia.
Major forest products industries, especially lumbering, are concentrated in
the Northern and Canadian Rockies, and large numbers of sheep and cattle
are raised in the Rockies of Colorado, Wyoming, and Mo
ontana. The chain has
many centers for outdoor recreation and tourism. Bighorn Mountains,
isolated range of the Rocky Mountains, lying east of the Bighorn River and
extending generally north from central Wyoming into southern Montana. The
range averages more than 2134 m (7000 ft) in elevation; the highest summit
is Cloud Peak (4019 m/13,187 ft) in Wyoming. Along the upper levels are
large coniferous forests, which are part of Bighorn National Forest.
Bitterroot Range, mountain range, northwestern United States, a chain of
the Rocky Mountains, extending about 700 km (about 435 mi) along the
Montana-Idaho border. Rugged and forested, with an average elevation of
2740 m (about 9000 ft), it remains one of the most inaccessible areas in
the United States. In 1805 the Lewis and Clark Expedition traveled west
through Lolo Pass (1595 m/5233 ft) in the range. Guadalupe Mountains,
mountain range, southwestern United States, a branch of the Rocky
Mountains, extending from southern New Mexico to western Texas. Guadalupe
Peak (2667 m/8749 ft above sea level), the highest in the chain, is in
Texas. Laramie Mountains, range of the Rocky Mountains, western United
States, extending from southeastern Wyoming into northern Colorado. The
highest point, Laramie Peak, is 3131 m (10,272 ft) above sea level. Coal,
the principal mineral, is found in the foothills. San Juan Mountains,
mountain range, southwestern United States, in southwestern Colorado and
northwestern New Mexico. Part of the Ro
ocky Mountains, it is of volcanic
origin and is rich in minerals. The highest peaks are in Colorado and
include Uncompahgre Peak (4361 m/14,309 ft), Mount Sneffels (4313 m/14,150
ft), and Wetterhorn Peak (4272 m/14,017 ft). Sangre de Cristo Mountains,
mountain range, western United States, the southernmost range of the Rocky
Mountains, in south central Colorado and north central New Mexico. The very
high and narrow range extends southeast and south for about 354 km (220
mi), from Salida, Colorado, to Santa Fe County, New Mexico. Blanca Peak
(4372 m/14,345 ft), in Colorado, is one of the highest mountains of the
Rockies. Sawatch Range, mountain range, central Colorado, a branch of the
Rocky Mountains. The range extends for about 177 km (about 110 mi) and
reaches a height of 4399 m (14,433 ft) at Mount Elbert, the highest point
in the state. Teton (mountain range), range of the Rocky Mountains, in
northwestern Wyoming, and southwestern Idaho, just south of Yellowstone
National Park, west of Jackson Lake and the Snake River. The highest peak
is Grand Teton (4197 m/13,771 ft), located in Grand Teton National Park.
Teton Pass (2569 m/8429 ft) and Phillips Pass (3261 m/10,700 ft) are just
south of the park. Uinta Mountains, mountain range, western United States,
mainly in northeastern Utah and partly in southwestern Wyoming, part of the
Rocky Mountains. The peaks of the Uinta Mountains are mostly flat because
of erosion by glaciers and the waters of the Yampa and Green rivers. The
range is about 240 km (about 150 mi) long and 48 to 64 km (30 to 40 mi)
wide. The highest elevation is Kings Peak, which is 4123 m (13,528 ft) high
and is also the highest point in Utah. Wasatch Range, mountain range,
western United States, in the Rocky Mountain system. The range is about 240
km (about 150 mi) long; part of the Central Rockies, it begins in
southeastern Idaho and runs southward, east of the Great Salt Lake and
through the center of Utah, gradually ending in southwestern Utah. The
average height of the range is about 3050 m (about 10,000 ft), and the
highest peak, Mount Nebo, is 3620 m (11,877 ft) high. Wind River Range,
range of the Rocky Mountains, western Wyoming, forming part of the
Continental Divide. The Green River rises in the southwestern slope of the
range, and many tributaries of the Wind River flow off on the northeastern
side. The range contains Fremont Peak (4185 m/13,730 ft) and Gannett Peak
(4207 m/13,804 ft); the latter is the highest point in Wyoming. Arkansas
(river, United States), river, western U.S., a major tributary of the
Mississippi River, 2350 km (1460 mi) long. Rising in central Colorado, in
the Sawatch Range of the Rocky Mountains, at an altitude of about 4270 m
(about 14,000 ft), the river flows generally east and forms a turbulent
stream passing over rocky beds and through deep canyons such as the Royal
Gorge. As it flows through the plains of Kansas, the river broadens to a
wider, less turgid stream until it enters Oklahoma; at that point it
receives two chief tributaries, the Cimarron and the Canadian rivers.
Except for a large northern bend in Kansas, the Arkansas River follows a
southeastern course, merging with the Mississippi River above Arkansas
City, Arkansas. The water levels of the river are extremely variable, and
several dams have been built for flood control and irrigation and to create
hydroelectric power; one of the most impressive, the John Martin Dam in
southeastern Colorado, was built in 1948. The Arkansas River Navigation
System, completed in the early 1970s, made the river navigable to Tulsa,
Oklahoma. Athabasca, river and lake, in western Canada, that form part of
the Mackenzie River system. The Athabasca River, 1231 km (765 mi) long,
begins in Jasper National Park in southwestern Alberta. Its source is the
Columbia Icefield, high in the Rocky Mountains. The river flows northeast
across Alberta and empties through a shallow delta into Lake Athabasca in
northeastern Alberta. The river was once an important route for fur
traders. Lake Athabasca, which straddles the AlbertaSaskatchewan- border,
is about 320 km (about 200 mi) long and covers about 7936 sq km (about 3064
sq mi). Fort Chipewyan, which was built along the southwestern shore of the
lake in 1788, became one of the region’s most important fur-trading posts.
Today Lake Athabasca is used for commercial fishing. It is drained to the
north by the Slave River. Large deposits of petroleum-bearing sand are
located along the lower Athabasca River, near Fort McMurray. Long known but
untapped because of high extraction costs, the deposits are now mined using
new technology and efficient methods. In 1994 the output amounted to one-
quarter of Canada’s crude oil production. Canadian, also South Canadian,
unnavigable river, southwestern United States, 1460 km (906 mi) long. The
Canadian River is formed in northeastern New Mexico by the union of several
branches from the southern Rocky Mountains. The river flows south through
New Mexico and then turns east, crossing the Texas Panhandle into Oklahoma.
Following a meandering course, it finally joins the Arkansas River. The
river’s only major tributary is the North Canadian River, 1260 km (784 mi)
long, which runs almost parallel to the Canadian River in Oklahoma. The
tributary joins the Canadian River at Eufaula in eastern Oklahoma to form
the Eufaula Reservoir. In northeastern New Mexico, a semiarid region, the
Canadian River provides an important water source at the Conchas Dam, a
flood-control and irrigation project. Colorado (river, North America),
river, in southwestern United States and northwestern Mexico, 2330 km (1450
mi) long, the longest river west of the Rocky Mountains. The Colorado rises
just west of the Continental Divide, in northern Colorado, and, for the
first 1600 km (about 1000 mi) of its course, passes through a series of
deep gorges and canyons that were created by the eroding force of its
current. The river flows in a generally southwestern direction across
Colorado into southeastern Utah, where it joins its chief tributary, the
Green River. After crossing the northern portion of Arizona, the Colorado
flows west for 446 km (277 mi) through the majestic Grand Canyon. It then
flows in a generally southerly direction and forms the boundary between
Arizona and the states of Nevada and California. Near Yuma, Arizona, the
river crosses the international border into Mexico and flows for about 145
km (90 mi) to its mouth on the Gulf of California, an inlet of the Pacific
Ocean. Besides the Green River, the most important tributaries of the
Colorado include the Dolores and Gunnison rivers, in Colorado; the San Juan
River, in Utah; and the Little Colorado and Gila rivers, in Arizona. With
its tributaries, the Colorado drains portions of seven states, a total
area, in Colorado, Wyoming, Nevada, Utah, Arizona, New Mexico, and
California, of about 626,800 sq km (about 242,000 sq mi) and 5180 sq km
(2000 sq mi) more in Mexico. To control the tremendous flow of the
Colorado, particularly under flood conditions, an extensive series of dams,
many of them constructed by the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation, has been built
along the river and its tributaries. Notable is the Hoover Dam, which
impounds the river at the Black Canyon to form Lake Mead, one of the
largest artificial lakes in the world. The Glen Canyon Dam, in north-
central Arizona just south of the Utah border, is the third highest dam in
the U.S. In addition to regulating the flow of water, dams on the Colorado
harness hydroelectric power and provide storage reservoirs for irrigation
projects. As such, they have been instrumental in reclaiming the semiarid
and arid regions through which the river flows. The Imperial Valley of
southern California is an excellent example of land reclaimed by the waters
of the Colorado. A number of reservoirs have been incorporated into
national recreation areas. The Glen Canyon National Recreation Area in Utah
encompasses Lake Powell, formed by the Glen Canyon Dam. Lakes Mead and
Mohave (the latter formed by Davis Dam) are part of Lake Mead National
Recreation Area in Arizona. The Colorado was first explored by the Spanish
navigator Hernando de Alarcón, who ascended the river for more than 160 km
(100 mi) in 1540-1541. The Colorado and its chief tributary, the Green,
were thoroughly explored for the first time in 1869 by the American
geologist John Wesley Powell. On this survey Powell and his party made the
first recorded passage of the Grand Canyon. The construction of the Glen
Canyon Dam in 1963 dramatically reduced the natural flow of sand and
nutrients down the Colorado River and into the Grand Canyon. In March 1996
the federal government released more than 380 billion liters (100 billion
gallons) of water from Glen Canyon Dam. This artificial flood added more
than three feet to some beaches downstream and cleared fish spawning
grounds of debris and sediment. Further Reading Columbia (river, North
America), Major River of western North America, rising in Columbia Lake,
just west of the main range of the Rocky Mountains, in southeastern British
Columbia. The river was formerly known as the Oregon River. The Columbia
River is about 2000 km (1240 mi) long. It initially flows northwest,
through a long, narrow valley called the Rocky Mountain Trench, and then
turns sharply south, skirting the Selkirk Mountains and passing through
Upper Arrow Lake and Lower Arrow Lake. It next receives the Kootenay
(spelled Kootenai in the United States) and Pend Oreille rivers before
entering the state of Washington, where it first flows south and then
traverses a great arc, known as the Big Bend. After receiving the Snake
River, the Columbia turns west and forms much of the boundary between the
states of Washington and Oregon before emptying into the Pacific Ocean
through a broad estuary. The river flows through several spectacular
canyons and deep valleys. About one-third of its course is in Canada. The
Columbia and its tributaries together drain a vast basin of about 673,400
sq km (about 260,000 sq mi). Large oceangoing ships can navigate the lower
Columbia River as far as Vancouver, Washington; and, with the aid of locks,
smaller marine vessels can reach The Dalles, Oregon, about 300 km (about
186 mi) upstream. Barges and other shallow-draft boats can navigate a
further 220 km (137 mi). The Columbia River has immense hydroelectric
potential, and since the 1930s several large power projects have been built
on it. The largest of these, the Grand Coulee Dam, in central Washington,
is the key unit of the Columbia Basin Project, a federal undertaking also
designed to irrigate up to 485,623 hectares (1.2 million acres) of semiarid
land. Other important power projects on the Columbia include Bonneville,
The Dalles, John Day, McNary, Priest Rapids, Rocky Reach, and Chief Joseph
dams, in the United States, and Mica Dam, in Canada. Most of these dams are
also used for flood control and for irrigation. The American explorer
Robert Gray explored the mouth of the Columbia River in 1792. He named the
river for his ship. The Lewis and Clark Expedition explored the lower
Columbia from 1805 to 1806, and David Thompson, a Canadian surveyor and
explorer, followed the river from its source to its mouth in 1811. The
Columbia once had great numbers of salmon and supported a large canning
industry; the fish stock was severely depleted in the 1900s as a result of
dam construction and pollution. In an effort to protect the salmon from
extinction, the Northwest Power Planning Council in 1994 approved a plan to
rebuild salmon stock by increasing the water flow through the dams and by
developing habitat protection standards. Further Reading Continental Divide
(also called the Great Divide), ridge of mountains in North America,
separating the streams that flow west (into the Pacific Ocean) from those
that flow east (into the Atlantic Ocean and its marginal seas). Most of the
divide follows the crest of the Rocky Mountains. It extends from Alaska in
the United States into the Yukon Territory and British Columbia in Canada
and forms part of the border between British Columbia and Alberta, also in
Canada. It then passes through Montana, Wyoming, Colorado, and New Mexico
in the United States and continues south into Mexico and Central America
along the crest of the Sierra Madre Occidental. The term continental divide
may be applied to the principal watershed boundary of any continent.
Fraser, river in southern British Columbia, Canada. The Fraser rises in the
Rocky Mountains, in Mount Robson Provincial Park near the Alberta border,
and flows 1370 km (850 mi) before emptying, through a delta, into the
Strait of Georgia, near Vancouver. The Fraser initially flows northwest
through a section of a deep, narrow valley called the Rocky Mountain
Trench. It then turns south near the city of Prince George, where it
receives its major western tributary, the Nechako River. In its central
section, the volume of the river increases, and below Quesnel its banks
gradually take on a canyonlike aspect. Important tributaries in this
section include the West Road and Chilcotin rivers, from the west, and the
Thompson River, from the east. From Lytton to Yale the river flows through
a canyon of great scenic beauty. At the canyon’s southern end the Fraser
passes between the Cascade Range to the east and the Coast Mountains to the
west. A little below Yale, at Hope, the river turns sharply west, and the
fertile lower Fraser Valley begins. The Fraser empties into the Strait of
Georgia through three main channels. The river is used by commercial
vessels for a short distance upstream. From May to July the Fraser Valley
is subject to flooding; a series of dikes helps protect the delta. The
Fraser drains an area of about 238,000 sq km (about 91,890 sq mi). Much of
the river basin is heavily wooded, and forest-products industries dominate
the economy of the settlements along the river. The lower Fraser Valley,
including the delta, has highly productive farms. Various species of salmon
spawn in the Fraser, and salmon fisheries are located near the river’s
mouth. The river has great hydroelectric potential, but it remains
undeveloped for fear of detrimental effects on the migratory habits of the
salmon. The Fraser is highly polluted, especially at its mouth. The first
European to visit the river was Sir Alexander Mackenzie in 1793. It is
named for the fur trader Simon Fraser, who explored much of it in 1808. In
1858 gold was found in alluvial gravels north of Yale, and a major gold
rush ensued. Louise, Lake, glacial lake in southwestern Alberta, Canada.
Lake Louise is located at an elevation of 1731 m (5680 ft) in Banff
National Park, near the town of Lake Louise. The lake is about 2.4 km
(about 1.5 mi) long and 1.2 km (0.75 mi) wide. Sheltered by the Rocky
Mountains, Lake Louise is known for the tranquil beauty of its turquoise-
blue surface, which mirrors nearby scenic forests and snowcapped peaks. The
lake is fed from the north by the spectacular Victoria Glacier and is
drained by the Bow River in the southeast. Lake Louise was named in 1884
for the Canadian governor-general’s wife, who was also the fourth daughter
of Queen Victoria. Missouri (river) (Illinois Emissourita,”dwellers of the
big muddy”), river in central United States. The Missouri is formed by the
confluence of the Jefferson, Gallatin, and Madison rivers at Three Forks in
southwestern Montana. The longest river in the United States, the Missouri
is one of the primary tributaries of the Mississippi River. It flows 3726
km (2315 mi) and drains an area of about 1,370,000 sq km (about 529,000 sq
mi). The Missouri initially flows north, skirting the main range of the
Rocky Mountains. Then it passes through a 366-m (1200-ft) gorge called the
Gates of the Mountains, turns northeast and reaches Fort Benton, Montana,
the head of navigation. From Fort Benton the river flows east and is joined
by the Milk River at Frazer, Montana, and by the Yellowstone River at
Buford, North Dakota. From this point the Missouri flows generally
southeast through North Dakota and South Dakota to Sioux City, Iowa, where
it turns south and becomes the boundary between Nebraska and Kansas on the
west and Iowa and Missouri on the east. The Platte River is received near
Omaha, Nebraska, and the Kansas River at Kansas City, Missouri. On
receiving the Kansas, the Missouri turns east and flows across the state of
Missouri. About 27 km (about 17 mi) north of St. Louis, the muddy Missouri
enters the channel of the Mississippi. Other important cities on the river
are Bismarck, North Dakota; Council Bluffs, Iowa; Saint Joseph, Missouri;
and Atchison, Leavenworth, and Kansas City, Kansas. The upper Missouri
traverses mountainous terrain covered with dense coniferous forests. These
forests support large animals, including bears, elk, and moose. Fish found
in the cold upper river include the Montana grayling and the rainbow trout.
The middle and lower river valleys are lined with grasslands and forests of
poplar, hickory, and other trees, providing a habitat for rabbits, foxes,
beavers, and other animals. Fish in the warmer lower river include bass,
several species of catfish, and carp. Historically, a number of Native
American peoples lived in the valley along the Missouri, including the
Hidatsa, Crow, Iowa, Arikara, Blackfoot, and Sioux. The region was popular
for buffalo hunting and agriculture, and the tribes used the river for
commerce. In 1673 French-Canadian explorer Louis Jolliet and French
missionary and explorer Jacques Marquette became the first Europeans to
discover the Missouri when they came across the lower river during a
journey down the Mississippi. The lower river became an important route for
fur traders, who began to venture farther up the river. During the Lewis
and Clark Expedition of 1804 to 1806, American explorers Meriwether Lewis
and William Clark became the first whites to explore the river basin from
its mouth to its headwaters. Steamboat traffic on the Missouri began in
1819 with the voyage of the Independence, and soon steamboats were taking
settlers west, as well as hauling freight such as grain, fur, lumber, and
coal. Steamboat activity peaked in 1858, but then the construction of
railroads lessened traffic on the river. The lower portion of the river now
supports commercial barge lines, which carry agricultural products, steel,
and oil. In order to enhance navigability and provide flood control,
hydroelectric power, and irrigation, the Missouri River Basin Program was
created in 1944. Under this program and the subsequent Missouri Basin
Program, a series of dams, reservoirs, and locks were built on the river.
However, in 1993 heavy rains caused record-breaking flooding along the
Missouri and other branches of the Mississippi River. Further Reading
Saskatchewan (river, Canada), river in central Canada, 550 km (340 mi)
long. It is formed in central Saskatchewan by the confluence of the North
Saskatchewan and South Saskatchewan rivers and flows east into Manitoba,
where it passes through Cedar Lake before emptying into Lake Winnipeg. The
North Saskatchewan River (1200 km/760 mi long) rises in the Rocky Mountains
of southwestern Alberta and flows east past Edmonton, Alberta, and Prince
Albert, Saskatchewan. The South Saskatchewan River (1390 km/865 mi long),
formed by the juncture of the Bow and Oldman rivers in southern Alberta,
flows northeast past Medicine Hat, Alberta, and Saskatoon, Saskatchewan.
The Saskatchewan River system stretches 2600 km (1600 mi) and drains most
of the western prairie. It was an important route in the fur trade of the
18th century but has no navigational value today. The river system is
widely used for irrigation, however, and it has several hydroelectric
facilities, notably Gardiner Dam on the South Saskatchewan River, near
Saskatoon, and Grand Rapids Dam, at the mouth of the Saskatchewan River.
Arapahoe Peak, mountain, northern Colorado, in the Front Range of the Rocky
Mountains, near Boulder; 4117 m (13,506 ft) high. On the face of the peak
is an ice field known as Arapahoe Glacier. Blanca Peak, mountain, south
central Colorado, in the Sangre de Cristo Range of the Rocky Mountains,
near Great Sand Dunes National Monument. It is 4372 m (14,345 ft) high and
is one of the highest mountains in the state. Pikes Peak, one of the most
famous peaks in the Rocky Mountains, located in the Front Range, central
Colorado, near Colorado Springs. Although the elevation (4301 m/14,110 ft)
of the peak is not the highest in the state, Pikes Peak is noted for a
commanding view. Tourists can ascend the mountain by three different means:
by horseback, by a cog railway approximately 14 km (9 mi) long, or by
automobile over a well-constructed road. Two springs, Manitou and Colorado,
are located near the foot of the mountain. On the summit of Pikes Peak is a
meteorological station. The peak was discovered in 1806 by the American
explorer and army officer Zebulon Montgomery Pike. It was first climbed in
1820. Bufflehead, common name for a small north American diving duck. Its
name is derived from “buffalo-head,” an allusion to the large size of its
short-billed head, especially in males, created by especially puffy
feathers. The body plumage of males is black and white above and white
below, the head glossy black with a large white patch from the eye to the
back edge. Females are dark brown, with a smaller white patch on the side
of the head. Adults are about 38 cm (about 15 in) long. Buffleheads nest in
wooded areas of Canada and the Rocky Mountains, and winter on bays, lakes,
rivers, and harbors. Scientific classification: The bufflehead belongs to
the tribe Mergini in the family Anatidae. It is classified as Bucephala
albeola. Grosbeak, common name for several species of large-billed seed-
eating birds of the fringillid, or finch, family and of the emberizid
family. Of the fringillid grosbeaks, only two are found in North America:
the relatively small billed pine grosbeak, of northern coniferous forests
around the world, and the very large billed evening grosbeak. The latter
species breeds in coniferous forests in Canada and the northernmost United
States, extending in the Rocky Mountains south to Mexico. It winters
irregularly in the United States, in some years invading in great numbers,
occasionally south to northern Florida. Until the 1950s it bred only as Far
East as Michigan and Ontario, but it then began expanding its range to New
York, New England, and the Maritime Provinces. Some attribute this
expansion to better winter survival, as many people put out sunflower seeds
and other food for these birds. Some cardinaline grosbeaks are entirely
tropical. In North America the best-known species are the rose-breasted
grosbeak, of the east, and its western counterpart, the black-headed
grosbeak. In both the male is strikingly colored: black and white with a
bright-pink breast spot in the former, and black and orange-brown in the
latter. The females look like giant sparrows. The blue grosbeak is found in
the southern United States and Mexico. Males are rich blue with brown wing
bars, and females are dark brown. Scientific classification: Grosbeaks
belong to the families Fringillidae and Emberizidae, of the order
Passeriformes. They are sometimes all placed in either one of those
families. The pine grosbeak is classified as Pinicola enucleator, the
evening grosbeak as Coccothraustes vespertina (sometimes Hesperiphona
vespertina), the rose-breasted grosbeak as Pheucticus ludovicianus, the
black-headed grosbeak as Pheucticus melanocephalus, and the blue grosbeak
as Guiraca caerulea. Grouse, common name for 17 species of birds of the
pheasant family, found around the world in the northern hemisphere; two of
the three species of ptarmigan inhabit both the Americas and Eurasia.
Grouse vary in size from males of the capercaillie, 86 cm (34 in) long, of
European coniferous forests, to the 32 cm (12.5 in) white-tailed ptarmigan,
of western North American Mountains. In most species the sexes differ in
color, but none have truly bright plumage. Bright colors are limited to red
or yellow comblike structures over the eyes, expanded during the breeding
season, or sacs of naked skin that inflate like balloons during courtship
displays. Mating systems are elaborate in most grouse, and in many the
males are polygamous, meeting in the spring at certain arenas where they
compete for mates. As highly popular game birds, grouse have been
intensively studied. Best known and most widely distributed of the American
species is the ruffed grouse, which occurs in woodlands from Alaska to
Newfoundland, south to the northern Rocky Mountains and the Appalachians.
The name comes from a ruff of black (rarely, coppery) feathers at the sides
of the neck. These feathers are larger in males than in females, and are
spread widely during courtship displays, when the male struts on a moss-
covered log. This species is famous for the springtime “drumming” of the
males, a sound produced by the beating of the wings against the air, as the
male stands erect. The sound carries a great distance, and resembles a
noisy gasoline engine starting up. Two other North American grouse, the
blue grouse of western mountains and the more widely distributed spruce
grouse are confined to coniferous forests. The male blue grouse has
inflatable neck sacs, varying geographically in color from yellow to
reddish purple; the spruce grouse lacks such sacs. These two species have
been called “fool hens” because of their apparent fearlessness, making them
easy to hunt. Two species of prairie chicken, the closely related sharp-
tailed grouse, and the sage grouse, dwell in open country. The latter, an
inhabitant of sagebrush areas, especially in the Great Basin, is the
largest American grouse. Males reach 75 cm (30 in) in length; females are
smaller (58 cm/23 in). During the communal courtship displays, males strut
about with their spiky tail feathers fanned out, and a pair of yellow sacs
on their chests inflated. Scientific classification: Grouse belong to the
family Phasianidae of the order Galliformes. The capercaillie is classified
as Tetrao urogallus, the white-tailed ptarmigan as Lagopus leucurus, and
the ruffed grouse as Bonasa umbellus. The blue grouse is classified as
Dendragapus obscurus and the spruce grouse as Dendragapus canadensis.
Prairie chickens are classified in the genus Tympanuchus. The sharp-tailed
grouse is classified as Tympanuchus phasianellus and the sage grouse as
Centrocercus urophasianus. Further Reading Solitaire (bird), common name
applied to various species of American thrush. In the United States, one
species, Townsend’s solitaire, is found chiefly in the Rocky Mountains. The
bird is largely brownish gray in color, with a white-eye ring and a buff
wing patch. All solitaires are superb singers. Solitaire was also the name
of an extinct, flightless bird resembling the dodo. It inhabited Rodrigues,
an island in the Indian Ocean, until the last half of the 18th century.
Scientific classification: Solitaires belong to the family Turdidae of the
order Passeriformes. Townsend’s solitaire is classified as Myadestes
townsendi. The solitaire that is now extinct belongs to the family
Raphidae, order Columbiformes, and is classified as Pezophaps solitaria.
Columbine (flower), common name for certain perennial herbs with lacy,
lobed leaves and delicate flowers. Remarkably, both sepals and petals are
colored, and the petals extend to form a spur. The 40 known species are
widely distributed in the North Temperate Zone and show a prismatic range
of color. North American and Eurasian species, as well as a number of
hybrids, are grown in gardens. Among the common species are the wild
columbine, with scarlet to pink flowers, native from Nova Scotia to Texas,
and the Colorado, or Rocky Mountain, columbine, with blue flowers.
Scientific classification: Columbines belong to the family Ranunculaceae.
Wild columbine is classified as Aquilegia canadensis. Colorado, or Rocky
Mountain, columbine is classified as Aquilegia caerulea. Indian Paintbrush,
common name for any of a genus of annual, biennial, and perennial herbs
(see Figwort). The genus, which contains about 200 species, is native to
the cooler portions of North and Central America and Asia, and to the
Andes. Because Indian paintbrushes, also called painted cups, are parasitic
on the roots of other plants, they have not been naturalized and have
rarely been cultivated away from their native habitat. The plants have
long, hairy, unbranched stems with alternate leaves. The uppermost leaves,
or bracts, are brilliantly colored and much showier than the inconspicuous
interspersed flowers. The flowers, which are borne in spikes, have a two-
lobed calyx, a two-lobed corolla, four stamens, and a solitary pistil. The
corolla, which is usually yellow, is encased within the calyx, and is
usually indiscernible. The fruit is a two-celled capsule. The common
painted cup is the state flower of Wyoming. The calyx of this plant is
greenish white, but the bracts are intense vermilion. The scarlet
paintbrush is a common wild plant of the eastern United States. The common
Indian paintbrush is a hardy herb found in Canada and in the mountainous
regions of the northern United States from New England to the Rocky
Mountains. Its calyx is greenish white tinted with purplish red. Scientific
classification: Indian paintbrushes make up the genus Castilleja, of the
family Scrophulariaceae. The common painted cup is classified as Castilleja
linariaefolia, the scarlet paintbrush as Castilleja coccinea, and the
common Indian paintbrush as Castilleja septentrionalis. Sagebrush, common
name applied to any of several related aromatic, bitter shrubs, native to
the plains and mountains of western North America, but especially to the
Great Basin, the extensive desert region west of the Rocky Mountains in the
United States. Sagebrush is some of the few woody members of their family
(see Composite Flowers). The most common species in the United States is
the common sagebrush, a many-branched plant that grows from 0.3 to 6 m (1
to 20 ft) in height. It has silvery, toothed leaves and terminal clusters
of small, yellow flowers. A similar species, the low sagebrush, attains a
maximum height of 30 cm (1 ft) and is abundant in the plains of Colorado
and Wyoming. Because sagebrush often grows in regions where there are few
other woody plants, it is sometimes used for fuel. In some areas the
foliage is used as winter forage. Overgrazing of native grasses has caused
a proportionate increase in sagebrush. Scientific classification: Sagebrush
is classified in the genus Artemisia of the family Compositae. The common
sagebrush is classified as Artemisia tridentata. The low sagebrush is
classified as Artemisia arbuscula. Bighorn Sheep, largest and best-known
wild sheep of the North American continent, also called Rocky Mountain
sheep. They are found from southern British Columbia to northwestern
Mexico. A full-grown bighorn may average 101 cm (40 in) at the shoulder and
range in weight from 79 to 158 kg (175 to 350 lb). The great curved horns,
which may take more than one turn, attain a length of up to 127 cm (up to
50 in). The ewes have smaller horns, seldom exceeding 38 cm (15 in). The
coat is not woolly but long, full, and coarse, like that of a goat. The
animals have a short mating season, during which the rams clash head-on in
a battle for the ewes; for the rest of the year the sheep usually divide
into separate male and female herds. The bighorns leap from ledge to ledge
at great speed and grip slippery surfaces with the shock-absorbing elastic
pads of the feet. The animals have exceptionally acute senses of sight,
smell, and hearing. Two other varieties found in northwest North America
are the white sheep, or Dall sheep, and the deep gray or grayish-brown
Stone’s sheep. The bighorn is related to the Asian argali, the mouflon, and
the domestic sheep. Scientific classification: The bighorn sheep belongs to
the family Bovidae, in the order Artiodactyla. It is classified as Ovis
canadensis. Ground Squirrel, common name for certain burrowing,
terrestrial, western American rodents characterized by large cheek pouches
opening inside their mouths. Ground squirrels are often erroneously called
gophers. Like the true gophers, they are agricultural menaces, destroying
grass and grain. Their alternate name, spermophile (Greek for “seed
lover”), is derived from their usual diet. The ground squirrel resembles
both the prairie dog and the chipmunk. Most ground squirrels are brownish
or yellowish-gray, with light spots on the upper parts. Some species have
longitudinal stripes along their backs. In the northern part of their range
they hibernate during the winter; the duration of hibernation varies with
the environment, and in some species hibernation may extend from September
to May. Ground squirrels are found in open country, often in arid regions.
The Great Plains ground squirrel, found west of the Rocky Mountains, is
typical of most of the spermophiles. The rough-haired ground squirrel is 28
cm (11 in) long and has an 8-cm (3-in) bushy tail. Its back is brown and
its lower parts yellowish-gray; it has a white chin and a white ring around
each eye. The head is stubby, with round, wide ears. The legs are short.
These animals seek their food close to their burrows. They mate after they
emerge from hibernation in the spring; the female bears 5 to 13 offspring
at a time. The 13-striped spermophile, found near the Mississippi River,
has 7 grayish-yellow stripes running down its back, interspersed with 6
stripes composed of spots. Its lower parts are fawn colored. This animal
subsists on mice, insects, and grain. Scientific classification: Ground
squirrels belong to the family Sciuridae. The Great Plains ground squirrel
is classified as Spermophilus elegans, the 13-striped ground squirrel as
Spermophilus tridecemlineatus. Further Reading Mule Deer, common name for a
large deer of the western and central United States, so called because of
its extremely large ears, which measure almost 25 cm (almost 10 in) in
length. This animal attains a height of 107 cm (42 in) at the shoulder. The
name black-tailed deer is sometimes applied to a subspecies of the mule
deer inhabiting the Rocky Mountains. The tail of this deer along the basal
two-thirds is white above and dark below; the terminal third is black.
Scientific classification: The mule deer belongs to the family Cervidae. It
is classified as Odocoileus hemionus. Rocky Mountain Goat, also mountain
goat, common name of a species of antelope that inhabits the high mountains
from the northwestern United States to Alaska. Mountain goats live in
regions of heavy snowfall and tend to inhabit localities with many crags
and cliffs. They are excellent climbers, and their hooves, which have soft
pads rimmed with sharp edges, enable them to climb and run on snow, ice, or
bare rock. The Rocky Mountain goat is 90 to 120 cm (36 to 47 in) tall at
the shoulders. The body is sturdy and the legs are short and stout. Both
sexes have black horns, which contrast with the yellowish-white, shaggy
hair covering the entire body, and a beardlike tuft of hair underneath the
chin. Rocky Mountain goats are herbivorous ruminants, feeding on any
exposed vegetation they find. They are not gregarious, except during the
mating season between November and early January. The young are born
generally between May and June. Scientific classification: The Rocky
Mountain goat belongs to the family Bovidae. It is classified as Oreamnos
americanus. Wolf, carnivore related to the jackal and domestic dog.
Powerful teeth, bushy tails, and round pupils characterize all wolves.
Certain characteristics of the skull distinguish them from domestic dogs,
some breeds of which they otherwise resemble. There are two species of
wolves: the gray, or timber, wolf, once widely distributed but now found
only in Canada, Alaska, and northern Europe and Russia, except for a few
isolated packs in other regions; and the red wolf, found only in Texas and
the southeastern United States. An adult gray wolf measures up to 2 m (6.5
ft) in length, including the tail (less than half the body length), and
weighs up to 80 kg (175 lb). The fur of the gray wolf is red-yellow or
yellow-gray with black patches on its back and sides, and white on its
chest and abdomen. There are also black or brown gray wolves, and those in
the far north may be pure white. The red wolf is smaller in size and
usually darker in color. Wolves are equally at home on prairies, in forest
lands, and on all but the highest mountains. In the winter they travel in
packs searching for food. Small animals and birds are the common prey of
wolves, but a pack sometimes attacks reindeer, caribou, sheep, and other
large mammals, usually selecting weak, old, or very young animals for
easier capture. When no live prey can be found, wolves feed on carrion
(decaying flesh of dead animals). They also eat berries. The den, or lair,
of a wolf may be a cave, a hollow tree trunk, a thicket, or a hole in the
ground dug by the wolf. In the spring, females have litters of one to
eleven pups. Adult wolves sometimes feed young pups by regurgitating partly
digested food for them. The pups normally stay with the parents until the
following winter but may remain much longer. Parents and young constitute a
basic pack, which establishes and defends a territory marked by urine and
feces. Larger packs may also assemble, particularly in the winter. The pack
leader is called the alpha male and his mate is the alpha female. As social
animals, wolves exhibit behavioral patterns that clearly communicate
dominance over or submission to one another. The communal howling of a pack
may serve to assemble its members, communicate with other packs, advertise
its territorial claims, or it may be simply a way of expressing pleasure.
Visual and scent signals are also important in communication. Although gray
wolves are still abundant across northern Europe and Asia, only remnant
populations exist elsewhere in Europe. Their numbers in North America also
have been greatly diminished. They are fairly abundant only in Alaska and
Canada; smaller numbers exist in the Pacific Northwest and upper Midwest,
primarily in Minnesota. Under the Endangered Species Act, the United States
Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) as threatened in Minnesota and as an
endangered species elsewhere in the United States except Alaska list the
gray wolf. The red wolf, also listed as endangered species, was the first
species for which the USFWS developed a recovery plan. The decreasing
numbers of wolves are the result of encroachments on their territory by
humans, who have long regarded wolves as competitors for prey and as
dangerous to livestock, pets, and people. However, few if any healthy
wolves have attacked humans, whom they instead try to avoid. Wolves are
valuable predators in the food web, and their decimation has led to the
overpopulation of certain other animal species in various areas. Active
efforts to reintroduce wolves to national parks in the United States are
now underway, although such efforts are controversial. Because coyotes have
hybridized with some red wolves, an attempt to reintroduce red wolves to
parts of North Carolina has involved identifying red wolves that are not
part coyote. The success of this project is not yet clear. In 1995 and 1996
the USFWS reintroduced Canadian gray wolves into Yellowstone National Park
and the Sawtooth Mountain region in central Idaho, despite protests from
nearby ranchers and some biologists. The reintroduced wolves are producing
more offspring than expected. When ten breeding pairs reside in these
regions for three years, the gray wolf will be taken off the list of
endangered species in the northern Rocky Mountains. Wolf biologists
estimate that this goal may be met by the year 2002 without transplanting
additional wolves from Canada. By 1997 these reintroduction efforts were
succeeding beyond expectations of wolf biologists. Scientific
classification: The wolf belongs to the family Canidae. The gray, or
timber, wolf is classified as Canis lupus. The red wolf is classified as
Canis rufus.

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