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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.