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Physical Geography of the United States and Canada Landforms • Seven Geographic Regions are found in the United States and Canada. • The Appalachian Highlands region stretches from the southeastern part of the United States to Canada’s Newfoundland. • The Appalachian Mountains are about 500 million years old and have been worn down by the process of erosion by water and wind. • The Interior Plains stretch through much of the central part of the United States and Canada. • Most of the land is flat with rich soil. It is a prairie with gently rolling grassland and a few trees. • The Rocky Mountains stretch along most of the western part of North America. • The Rockies are young mountains (about 130 million years old) and many of them are over 10,000 feet high. • The summits form an imaginary line known as the Continental Divide. • The Continental Divide is sometimes called the “backbone of North America.” • Rivers west of the Continental Divide flow toward the Pacific Ocean, and rivers on the east flow toward the Atlantic Ocean or the Gulf of Mexico. • Plateaus and Canyons are found in this region. A plateau is an area of flat land that rises above the land around it. A canyon is a deep valley with steep sides. The most famous canyon in this area is the Grand Canyon which was carved by the Colorado River. • The Pacific Mountains region is located between the Pacific Ocean and the Rocky Mountains. • This region consists of both rolling land and high mountains. • This mountain range extends into the ocean to form islands such as Vancouver Island. • Mt. St. Helens, an active volcano, is found in this range. • The Coastal Plains are found only in the United States along the Atlantic and Gulf Coasts. • Many people live along the Coastal Plains. • The Canadian Shield and Arctic Islands are found only in Canada. • The Canadian Shield is a cold region that covers half of Canada. • Low hills, lakes, and forests define the landscape. • The Arctic Islands are tundra, and is the coldest region. It is also marked with glaciers, a large body of ice that moves slowly over the land. • A tundra is a treeless plain where the soil is permanently frozen in a layer called permafrost. Climate and Resources • A temperate climate rarely has extreme temperature or rainfall; however, the temperature does vary within the region. • The climate is warmer at the lower latitudes and cooler at the higher latitudes. • Climate also changes as the elevation of the land changes. The higher the land, the colder the temperature. • The northernmost area of Canada is cold all year. • Hawaii and south Florida are warm and wet throughout the year. • The U.S. and Canada have a wealth of natural resources. • The U.S. grows more food than any other nation. This is because half of the land in the U.S. is arable, or good for farming. • Only 5% of Canada’s land is arable. Most of the land is cold and rocky. • Forests cover about 1/3 of the land in the U.S. and Canada, making lumbering an important economic activity for both countries. • A long timberline, elevation above which trees cannot grow due to cold, divides the northern part of the Canadian Shield from the southern part. • Many important rivers and lakes are found in the U.S. and Canada. • The Great Lakes, the largest freshwater lakes in the world, are shared by both countries. • The St. Lawrence Seaway forms the navigation route from the Atlantic Ocean to the Great Lakes. • Many rivers can be used to sail far inland. • Some of these rivers are used to produce hydroelectric power, electricity that is generated by the force of rapidly moving water. • Both countries have large reserves of valuable minerals, such as nickel, copper, oil, and coal.