The Magnificent Rocky Mountain Region

Contributor: Ryann Maginn. Lesson ID: 12359

Where can you find the "highest" number of mountain peaks in North America? How about the deepest cave? The craziest weather? The coolest plants and animals? Lots of fun? Come aboard and find out!

categories

United States

subject
Geography
learning style
Visual
personality style
Otter, Golden Retriever
Grade Level
Intermediate (3-5)
Lesson Type
Dig Deeper

Lesson Plan - Get It!

Audio:

You may be surprised to find out that the Rocky Mountains contain 100 summits (or mountain peaks).

All of these peaks reach up to 12,290 feet of elevation!

  • Can you think of anything higher than that?

The Rocky Mountains are located in the region called, appropriately, the Rocky Mountain Region. Take a look at the map below to see if your state falls in this region:

Rocky Mountain states

This region is divided into three sections:

  1. Southern Rockies
    1. New Mexico, Colorado, South Wyoming
  2. Middle Rockies
    1. Northeast Utah and West Wyoming
  3. Northern Rockies
    1. North Central Idaho, Northwest Wyoming, and West Montana

The summits, or mountain peaks, are higher in the Southern Rockies compared to those in the Northern Rockies.

  • Why do you think this is true?

This mountainous region creates what’s known as the Continental Divide. The Continental Divide separates rivers that drain into the Atlantic and Arctic oceans from those draining into the Pacific Ocean.

North America Water Divides

Image licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license, Wikimedia Commons

Major landforms

  • Sawatch Mountains
    • Mt. Elbert and Mt. Massive are the highest peaks in these mountains in Colorado.
  • Yellowstone National Park
    • includes mountain ranges, trenches, and valleys
    • The Rocky Mountain Trench and Purcell Trench are distinct trenches in the park.
    • This national park is located in three states: Wyoming, Montana, and Idaho.

Other landforms

  • glaciers and icefields
  • caves
    • The Rocky Mountains contain the deepest cave in North America, called "Tears of the Turtle Cave," located in Montana.
  • hot springs
  • mountain lakes
  • Considering all of the landforms you just learned about, how might these natural creations affect the weather in the Rocky Mountains?
  • How might the weather influence the people living in the mountains?

Climate

  • The Rocky Mountain Region experiences “highland climates.” This means that as altitudes increase, the climate changes.
  • The weather can be unpredictable and change can come suddenly. During the summer, the temperature is typically mild and the winter produces heavy snow. In the spring, there is a lot of precipitation. However, with any season in this region, the weather can take a turn in a matter of seconds. It may be sunny one minute and storming the next. The same is true with snow. It may be calm in the morning, but the afternoon may see hazardous blizzards.

Minerals

  • lead
  • zinc
  • copper
  • silver
  • gold
  • oil (though this has been in decline since the 1980s)

For more information about this region of the country, watch Rocky Mountain National Park, from GoTraveler, and take notes of interesting facts you learn while watching:

 

After watching the video, continue on to the Got It? section for an interactive quiz.

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