The Rocky Mountains and the Mississippi

Rocky Mountains
Mississippi River

- Questions on the texts

Rocky Mountains

The Rocky Mountains, or Rockies, is a name given to a series of mountain ranges running down the west-centre of North America from Alaska to Mexico. Their proper geological name is the Cordilleran Province. The real Rockies are just in Colorado, Wyoming and Montana. Some mountains have gentle slopes with rounded tops, but others are tall with jagged rocky peaks, many over 4000 metres above sea-level. Between the snow-capped peaks lie wide valleys, plateaux, lakes and rivers. In places there are hot springs, such as the geysers in Yellowstone National Park. The range contains some of the most dramatic scenery in North America. The roads and railways that cross them go through spectacular passes among the mountains.

The Cordillera started to form 190 million years ago, and is still slowly rising. As the land rises, rivers cut deep valleys and canyons in places. The mountains separate rivers flowing east, such as the Missouri, from those flowing west, like the Colorado river.

Life in the mountains

The region is home to 5 million people. There are deposits of metals such as iron, silver, gold, lead and zinc, as well as uranium, phosphates and other salts. There is also coal, oil and natural gas. Some rivers have been dammed to produce hydroelectric power. Other places suffer from shortage of water. The winds blowing from the west bring rain to the western slopes, leaving the central and eastern slopes dry.

The alpine meadows are full of wild flowers. Below the meadows, there are forests, and cattle and horses graze on the grassy lower slopes. Many large mammals live in the mountains and forests: grizzly and brown bears, cougars (also called pumas or mountain lions), elk, deer, Rocky Mountain goats and wild mountain sheep. One of the most important sources of income is tourism, including skiing, fishing and walking in the many national parks.

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Mississippi River

The Mississippi River together with its main tributary, the Missouri, is the largest river system in North America. The Mississippi–Missouri flows a total 6019 kilometres (3740 miles) and drains an area of 3,221,000 square kilometres (1244,000 square miles). Every day it discharges 1600 million tonnes of water into the Gulf of Mexico.
The Mississippi rises in Lake Itasca, west of the Great Lakes, and is itself 3779 kilometres (2348 miles) long. As well as the Missouri, which rises in the Rocky Mountains, other large tributaries are the Ohio River which starts in the Appalachian mountains and the Arkansas River. As it flows towards the sea, the Mississippi grows from a clear stream winding its way through lakes and marshes, to a huge muddy river over 21/2 kilometres (11/2 miles) wide, which wanders in huge sweeping curves across its flood-plain. The huge amount of sediment carried by the river has built up a wide delta pushing out into the Gulf of Mexico near New Orleans, and the river splits into hundreds of tiny rivulets as it meanders over the delta.
In the first half of the 19th century the Mississippi was very important to the economy of the South and Middle West of the USA. Steamboats carried cargo and passengers, and showboats brought theatre to the waterfront towns. It was a colourful and glamorous period. But after the American Civil War and the coming of the railways the Mississippi never quite regained its former glory.
It is still an important highway for transporting cargoes of iron, steel, coal, petroleum, chemicals and other raw materials and industrial products. In places, the river has been straightened and its banks have been raised to improve the passage of river traffic and hold back flood water.

(taken from "Oxford Children`s Encyclopedia", OUP 96)

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Here are Christina`s and Stefanie`s questions?

1. Where are the real Rockies?
2. How many people are at home in the mountain region?
3. What can you find in the alpine meadows?
4. What kind of large mammals live in the mountains and forests?

5. What is one of the important sources of income?
6. What is the largest river system in North America?
7. How much water is discharged into the Gulf of Mexico every day?
8. How long is the Mississippi?

christina, sindy + stefanie

Christina and Stefanie

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