Episode 44: The Rocky Mountains

Welcome to Slow American English, the podcast for learners of American English. I’m your host, Karren Tolliver.

This is episode number 44: The Rocky Mountains

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Note: You can visit www.Patreon.com/SlowAmericanEnglish for a FREE downloadable physical map of North America. The map can help you understand the geography of North America while listening to this podcast episode. Please enjoy this bonus material.

The Rocky Mountains

The Rocky Mountains, also called the Rockies, form the largest mountain range in western North America. The Rocky Mountains were formed between 80 and 55 million years ago in the western part of the continent. The Rockies are much higher and younger than the Appalachian Mountains, the other major mountain range in the USA. The Appalachians are located on the eastern part of the continent and are about 480 million years old.

The Rockies stretch from New Mexico in the Southwest all the way into Canada and even to Alaska. They are the reason the Mountain Standard Time zone (UTC -7) is so named. The mountains cover a distance of about 3,000 miles. In some places the width of the mountain range is more than 300 miles. In addition to New Mexico, the mountains cover parts of Arizona, Colorado, Idaho, Montana, Utah and Wyoming. The highest peak is Mount Elbert in Colorado, at 14,440 feet.

The Rockies form the Continental Divide. It is a line that follows the highest peaks of the mountains from north to south. This is important because rain that falls on the east side of the Continental Divide flows east into the Mississippi River, then the Gulf of Mexico and eventually the Atlantic Ocean. Rainfall on the western side of the Continental Divide eventually flows into the Pacific Ocean.

Of course, Native Americans were the first inhabitants of the Rockies. Even some of the Native American tribal names for the mountains contain the word “rocky”. And, if you listened to the Native American podcast episode, you will know that European explorers and American settlers came to the area beginning in the 16th century.

The Rockies contain many valuable metals, especially gold and silver. Discovery of these precious metals caused gold and silver rushes in the 19th century. Many precious and semi-precious metals are still mined from the mountains today. In addition, nonmetallic minerals such as sapphires, limestone, coal and many others are mined as well. Oil and natural gas are in abundance, too. Unfortunately, mining and oil and gas extraction operations are harmful to the environment. Currently, there is much conflict over mining operations, especially the fracking process.

The Rocky Mountains are known worldwide for recreation, too. The beauty of nature and the opportunity for outdoor activities attract thousands of people for camping, fishing, hunting, skiing, snowboarding, boating, mountain biking, hiking, climbing and much more.

In addition, the Rockies are home to many species of animals, including the American bald eagle, which is the national symbol of the USA. Among the many other birds found there are osprey, falcons, owls, cranes and geese. Additional well-known inhabitants are mountain goats, elk, trout, bear, deer, mountain lions, wolves, marmots, beavers, coyotes, chipmunks and much more.

The natural wonders of the Rockies are the reason that many national and state parks and forests have been designated there. Probably the most famous of them is the Rocky Mountain National Park, which is only a 45-minute drive from my town.

The Rocky Mountains are a large part of American pop culture. They have served as the setting for famous books like Louis L’Amour’s western novels and The Shining by Stephen King. Of course, many movies are set in the Rockies, too, such as Cliffhanger with Sylvester Stallone and Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid with Robert Redford and Paul Newman. The Denver baseball team is called the Colorado Rockies. Ansel Adams became famous for his photographs of the Rocky Mountains. Singer John Denver had a hit song in 1973 called “Rocky Mountain High”. It’s now one of the two official Colorado state songs. Many people think it captures the feeling of being in the Rockies perfectly.

That’s the podcast for this time. Slow American English is written and produced by Karren Tolliver. Copyright 2018. All rights reserved.

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Theme music for this podcast is written and performed by SW Campbell and used by permission. Find more music by this artist at www.Soundclick.com/swcampbell.

This has been Slow American English. I’m Karren Tolliver. Thank you for listening.