Rocky Mountains

.. rp. Historically, a number of Native American peoples lived in the valley along the Missouri, including the Hidatsa, Crow, Iowa, Arikara, Blackfoot, and Sioux.

The region was popular for buffalo hunting and agriculture, and the tribes used the river for commerce. In 1673 French-Canadian explorer Louis Jolliet and French missionary and explorer Jacques Marquette became the first Europeans to discover the Missouri when they came across the lower river during a journey down the Mississippi.The lower river became an important route for fur traders, who began to venture farther up the river. During the Lewis and Clark Expedition of 1804 to 1806, American explorers Meriwether Lewis and William Clark became the first whites to explore the river basin from its mouth to its headwaters. Steamboat traffic on the Missouri began in 1819 with the voyage of the Independence, and soon steamboats were taking settlers west, as well as hauling freight such as grain, fur, lumber, and coal. Steamboat activity peaked in 1858, but then the construction of railroads lessened traffic on the river. The lower portion of the river now supports commercial barge lines, which carry agricultural products, steel, and oil. In order to enhance navigability and provide flood control, hydroelectric power, and irrigation, the Missouri River Basin Program was created in 1944.

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Under this program and the subsequent Missouri Basin Program, a series of dams, reservoirs, and locks were built on the river. However, in 1993 heavy rains caused record-breaking flooding along the Missouri and other branches of the Mississippi River. Further Reading Saskatchewan (river, Canada), river in central Canada, 550 km (340 mi) long. It is formed in central Saskatchewan by the confluence of the North Saskatchewan and South Saskatchewan rivers and flows east into Manitoba, where it passes through Cedar Lake before emptying into Lake Winnipeg. The North Saskatchewan River (1200 km/760 mi long) rises in the Rocky Mountains of southwestern Alberta and flows east past Edmonton, Alberta, and Prince Albert, Saskatchewan.The South Saskatchewan River (1390 km/865 mi long), formed by the juncture of the Bow and Oldman rivers in southern Alberta, flows northeast past Medicine Hat, Alberta, and Saskatoon, Saskatchewan. The Saskatchewan River system stretches 2600 km (1600 mi) and drains most of the western prairie.

It was an important route in the fur trade of the 18th century but has no navigational value today. The river system is widely used for irrigation, however, and it has several hydroelectric facilities, notably Gardiner Dam on the South Saskatchewan River, near Saskatoon, and Grand Rapids Dam, at the mouth of the Saskatchewan River. Arapahoe Peak, mountain, northern Colorado, in the Front Range of the Rocky Mountains, near Boulder; 4117 m (13,506 ft) high. On the face of the peak is an ice field known as Arapahoe Glacier.Blanca Peak, mountain, south central Colorado, in the Sangre de Cristo Range of the Rocky Mountains, near Great Sand Dunes National Monument. It is 4372 m (14,345 ft) high and is one of the highest mountains in the state. Pikes Peak, one of the most famous peaks in the Rocky Mountains, located in the Front Range, central Colorado, near Colorado Springs.

Although the elevation (4301 m/14,110 ft) of the peak is not the highest in the state, Pikes Peak is noted for a commanding view. Tourists can ascend the mountain by three different means: by horseback, by a cog railway approximately 14 km (9 mi) long, or by automobile over a well-constructed road. Two springs, Manitou and Colorado, are located near the foot of the mountain.On the summit of Pikes Peak is a meteorological station. The peak was discovered in 1806 by the American explorer and army officer Zebulon Montgomery Pike. It was first climbed in 1820. Bufflehead, common name for a small north American diving duck. Its name is derived from “buffalo-head,” an allusion to the large size of its short-billed head, especially in males, created by especially puffy feathers.

The body plumage of males is black and white above and white below, the head glossy black with a large white patch from the eye to the back edge. Females are dark brown, with a smaller white patch on the side of the head. Adults are about 38 cm (about 15 in) long. Buffleheads nest in wooded areas of Canada and the Rocky Mountains, and winter on bays, lakes, rivers, and harbors. Scientific classification: The bufflehead belongs to the tribe Mergini in the family Anatidae.

It is classified as Bucephala albeola. Grosbeak, common name for several species of large-billed seed-eating birds of the fringillid, or finch, family and of the emberizid family. Of the fringillid grosbeaks, only two are found in North America: the relatively small billed pine grosbeak, of northern coniferous forests around the world, and the very large billed evening grosbeak. The latter species breeds in coniferous forests in Canada and the northernmost United States, extending in the Rocky Mountains south to Mexico. It winters irregularly in the United States, in some years invading in great numbers, occasionally south to northern Florida.

Until the 1950s it bred only as Far East as Michigan and Ontario, but it then began expanding its range to New York, New England, and the Maritime Provinces. Some attribute this expansion to better winter survival, as many people put out sunflower seeds and other food for these birds. Some cardinaline grosbeaks are entirely tropical. In North America the best-known species are the rose-breasted grosbeak, of the east, and its western counterpart, the black-headed grosbeak. In both the male is strikingly colored: black and white with a bright-pink breast spot in the former, and black and orange-brown in the latter. The females look like giant sparrows.The blue grosbeak is found in the southern United States and Mexico. Males are rich blue with brown wing bars, and females are dark brown.

Scientific classification: Grosbeaks belong to the families Fringillidae and Emberizidae, of the order Passeriformes. They are sometimes all placed in either one of those families. The pine grosbeak is classified as Pinicola enucleator, the evening grosbeak as Coccothraustes vespertina (sometimes Hesperiphona vespertina), the rose-breasted grosbeak as Pheucticus ludovicianus, the black-headed grosbeak as Pheucticus melanocephalus, and the blue grosbeak as Guiraca caerulea. Grouse, common name for 17 species of birds of the pheasant family, found around the world in the northern hemisphere; two of the three species of ptarmigan inhabit both the Americas and Eurasia.Grouse vary in size from males of the capercaillie, 86 cm (34 in) long, of European coniferous forests, to the 32 cm (12.5 in) white-tailed ptarmigan, of western North American Mountains. In most species the sexes differ in color, but none have truly bright plumage.

Bright colors are limited to red or yellow comblike structures over the eyes, expanded during the breeding season, or sacs of naked skin that inflate like balloons during courtship displays. Mating systems are elaborate in most grouse, and in many the males are polygamous, meeting in the spring at certain arenas where they compete for mates. As highly popular game birds, grouse have been intensively studied.Best known and most widely distributed of the American species is the ruffed grouse, which occurs in woodlands from Alaska to Newfoundland, south to the northern Rocky Mountains and the Appalachians. The name comes from a ruff of black (rarely, coppery) feathers at the sides of the neck. These feathers are larger in males than in females, and are spread widely during courtship displays, when the male struts on a moss-covered log.

This species is famous for the springtime “drumming” of the males, a sound produced by the beating of the wings against the air, as the male stands erect. The sound carries a great distance, and resembles a noisy gasoline engine starting up. Two other North American grouse, the blue grouse of western mountains and the more widely distributed spruce grouse are confined to coniferous forests. The male blue grouse has inflatable neck sacs, varying geographically in color from yellow to reddish purple; the spruce grouse lacks such sacs.These two species have been called “fool hens” because of their apparent fearlessness, making them easy to hunt. Two species of prairie chicken, the closely related sharp-tailed grouse, and the sage grouse, dwell in open country. The latter, an inhabitant of sagebrush areas, especially in the Great Basin, is the largest American grouse. Males reach 75 cm (30 in) in length; females are smaller (58 cm/23 in).

During the communal courtship displays, males strut about with their spiky tail feathers fanned out, and a pair of yellow sacs on their chests inflated.Scientific classification: Grouse belong to the family Phasianidae of the order Galliformes. The capercaillie is classified as Tetrao urogallus, the white-tailed ptarmigan as Lagopus leucurus, and the ruffed grouse as Bonasa umbellus. The blue grouse is classified as Dendragapus obscurus and the spruce grouse as Dendragapus canadensis. Prairie chickens are classified in the genus Tympanuchus. The sharp-tailed grouse is classified as Tympanuchus phasianellus and the sage grouse as Centrocercus urophasianus.Further Reading Solitaire (bird), common name applied to various species of American thrush. In the United States, one species, Townsend’s solitaire, is found chiefly in the Rocky Mountains.

The bird is largely brownish gray in color, with a white-eye ring and a buff wing patch. All solitaires are superb singers. Solitaire was also the name of an extinct, flightless bird resembling the dodo. It inhabited Rodrigues, an island in the Indian Ocean, until the last half of the 18th century.Scientific classification: Solitaires belong to the family Turdidae of the order Passeriformes. Townsend’s solitaire is classified as Myadestes townsendi. The solitaire that is now extinct belongs to the family Raphidae, order Columbiformes, and is classified as Pezophaps solitaria. Columbine (flower), common name for certain perennial herbs with lacy, lobed leaves and delicate flowers.

Remarkably, both sepals and petals are colored, and the petals extend to form a spur. The 40 known species are widely distributed in the North Temperate Zone and show a prismatic range of color. North American and Eurasian species, as well as a number of hybrids, are grown in gardens.

Among the common species are the wild columbine, with scarlet to pink flowers, native from Nova Scotia to Texas, and the Colorado, or Rocky Mountain, columbine, with blue flowers.Scientific classification: Columbines belong to the family Ranunculaceae. Wild columbine is classified as Aquilegia canadensis. Colorado, or Rocky Mountain, columbine is classified as Aquilegia caerulea. Indian Paintbrush, common name for any of a genus of annual, biennial, and perennial herbs (see Figwort). The genus, which contains about 200 species, is native to the cooler portions of North and Central America and Asia, and to the Andes. Because Indian paintbrushes, also called painted cups, are parasitic on the roots of other plants, they have not been naturalized and have rarely been cultivated away from their native habitat.

The plants have long, hairy, unbranched stems with alternate leaves. The uppermost leaves, or bracts, are brilliantly colored and much showier than the inconspicuous interspersed flowers.The flowers, which are borne in spikes, have a two-lobed calyx, a two-lobed corolla, four stamens, and a solitary pistil. The corolla, which is usually yellow, is encased within the calyx, and is usually indiscernible. The fruit is a two-celled capsule.

The common painted cup is the state flower of Wyoming. The calyx of this plant is greenish white, but the bracts are intense vermilion. The scarlet paintbrush is a common wild plant of the eastern United States.The common Indian paintbrush is a hardy herb found in Canada and in the mountainous regions of the northern United States from New England to the Rocky Mountains. Its calyx is greenish white tinted with purplish red. Scientific classification: Indian paintbrushes make up the genus Castilleja, of the family Scrophulariaceae.

The common painted cup is classified as Castilleja linariaefolia, the scarlet paintbrush as Castilleja coccinea, and the common Indian paintbrush as Castilleja septentrionalis. Sagebrush, common name applied to any of several related aromatic, bitter shrubs, native to the plains and mountains of western North America, but especially to the Great Basin, the extensive desert region west of the Rocky Mountains in the United States. Sagebrush is some of the few woody members of their family (see Composite Flowers).The most common species in the United States is the common sagebrush, a many-branched plant that grows from 0.3 to 6 m (1 to 20 ft) in height.

It has silvery, toothed leaves and terminal clusters of small, yellow flowers. A similar species, the low sagebrush, attains a maximum height of 30 cm (1 ft) and is abundant in the plains of Colorado and Wyoming. Because sagebrush often grows in regions where there are few other woody plants, it is sometimes used for fuel. In some areas the foliage is used as winter forage. Overgrazing of native grasses has caused a proportionate increase in sagebrush.

Scientific classification: Sagebrush is classified in the genus Artemisia of the family Compositae. The common sagebrush is classified as Artemisia tridentata.The low sagebrush is classified as Artemisia arbuscula. Bighorn Sheep, largest and best-known wild sheep of the North American continent, also called Rocky Mountain sheep. They are found from southern British Columbia to northwestern Mexico. A full-grown bighorn may average 101 cm (40 in) at the shoulder and range in weight from 79 to 158 kg (175 to 350 lb). The great curved horns, which may take more than one turn, attain a length of up to 127 cm (up to 50 in).The ewes have smaller horns, seldom exceeding 38 cm (15 in).

The coat is not woolly but long, full, and coarse, like that of a goat. The animals have a short mating season, during which the rams clash head-on in a battle for the ewes; for the rest of the year the sheep usually divide into separate male and female herds. The bighorns leap from ledge to ledge at great speed and grip slippery surfaces with the shock-absorbing elastic pads of the feet. The animals have exceptionally acute senses of sight, smell, and hearing.Two other varieties found in northwest North America are the white sheep, or Dall sheep, and the deep gray or grayish-brown Stone’s sheep. The bighorn is related to the Asian argali, the mouflon, and the domestic sheep. Scientific classification: The bighorn sheep belongs to the family Bovidae, in the order Artiodactyla.

It is classified as Ovis canadensis. Ground Squirrel, common name for certain burrowing, terrestrial, western American rodents characterized by large cheek pouches opening inside their mouths.Ground squirrels are often erroneously called gophers. Like the true gophers, they are agricultural menaces, destroying grass and grain. Their alternate name, spermophile (Greek for “seed lover”), is derived from their usual diet. The ground squirrel resembles both the prairie dog and the chipmunk.

Most ground squirrels are brownish or yellowish-gray, with light spots on the upper parts.Some species have longitudinal stripes along their backs. In the northern part of their range they hibernate during the winter; the duration of hibernation varies with the environment, and in some species hibernation may extend from September to May. Ground squirrels are found in open country, often in arid regions. The Great Plains ground squirrel, found west of the Rocky Mountains, is typical of most of the spermophiles. The rough-haired ground squirrel is 28 cm (11 in) long and has an 8-cm (3-in) bushy tail. Its back is brown and its lower parts yellowish-gray; it has a white chin and a white ring around each eye.

The head is stubby, with round, wide ears. The legs are short. These animals seek their food close to their burrows.

They mate after they emerge from hibernation in the spring; the female bears 5 to 13 offspring at a time. The 13-striped spermophile, found near the Mississippi River, has 7 grayish-yellow stripes running down its back, interspersed with 6 stripes composed of spots. Its lower parts are fawn colored.This animal subsists on mice, insects, and grain. Scientific classification: Ground squirrels belong to the family Sciuridae.

The Great Plains ground squirrel is classified as Spermophilus elegans, the 13-striped ground squirrel as Spermophilus tridecemlineatus. Further Reading Mule Deer, common name for a large deer of the western and central United States, so called because of its extremely large ears, which measure almost 25 cm (almost 10 in) in length. This animal attains a height of 107 cm (42 in) at the shoulder.The name black-tailed deer is sometimes applied to a subspecies of the mule deer inhabiting the Rocky Mountains. The tail of this deer along the basal two-thirds is white above and dark below; the terminal third is black. Scientific classification: The mule deer belongs to the family Cervidae. It is classified as Odocoileus hemionus. Rocky Mountain Goat, also mountain goat, common name of a species of antelope that inhabits the high mountains from the northwestern United States to Alaska.

Mountain goats live in regions of heavy snowfall and tend to inhabit localities with many crags and cliffs. They are excellent climbers, and their hooves, which have soft pads rimmed with sharp edges, enable them to climb and run on snow, ice, or bare rock.The Rocky Mountain goat is 90 to 120 cm (36 to 47 in) tall at the shoulders.

The body is sturdy and the legs are short and stout. Both sexes have black horns, which contrast with the yellowish-white, shaggy hair covering the entire body, and a beardlike tuft of hair underneath the chin. Rocky Mountain goats are herbivorous ruminants, feeding on any exposed vegetation they find. They are not gregarious, except during the mating season between November and early January.

The young are born generally between May and June. Scientific classification: The Rocky Mountain goat belongs to the family Bovidae.It is classified as Oreamnos americanus. Wolf, carnivore related to the jackal and domestic dog. Powerful teeth, bushy tails, and round pupils characterize all wolves. Certain characteristics of the skull distinguish them from domestic dogs, some breeds of which they otherwise resemble.

There are two species of wolves: the gray, or timber, wolf, once widely distributed but now found only in Canada, Alaska, and northern Europe and Russia, except for a few isolated packs in other regions; and the red wolf, found only in Texas and the southeastern United States. An adult gray wolf measures up to 2 m (6.5 ft) in length, including the tail (less than half the body length), and weighs up to 80 kg (175 lb).

The fur of the gray wolf is red-yellow or yellow-gray with black patches on its back and sides, and white on its chest and abdomen.There are also black or brown gray wolves, and those in the far north may be pure white. The red wolf is smaller in size and usually darker in color. Wolves are equally at home on prairies, in forest lands, and on all but the highest mountains. In the winter they travel in packs searching for food.

Small animals and birds are the common prey of wolves, but a pack sometimes attacks reindeer, caribou, sheep, and other large mammals, usually selecting weak, old, or very young animals for easier capture. When no live prey can be found, wolves feed on carrion (decaying flesh of dead animals).They also eat berries. The den, or lair, of a wolf may be a cave, a hollow tree trunk, a thicket, or a hole in the ground dug by the wolf. In the spring, females have litters of one to eleven pups. Adult wolves sometimes feed young pups by regurgitating partly digested food for them.

The pups normally stay with the parents until the following winter but may remain much longer. Parents and young constitute a basic pack, which establishes and defends a territory marked by urine and feces.Larger packs may also assemble, particularly in the winter. The pack leader is called the alpha male and his mate is the alpha female. As social animals, wolves exhibit behavioral patterns that clearly communicate dominance over or submission to one another. The communal howling of a pack may serve to assemble its members, communicate with other packs, advertise its territorial claims, or it may be simply a way of expressing pleasure.

Visual and scent signals are also important in communication. Although gray wolves are still abundant across northern Europe and Asia, only remnant populations exist elsewhere in Europe.Their numbers in North America also have been greatly diminished. They are fairly abundant only in Alaska and Canada; smaller numbers exist in the Pacific Northwest and upper Midwest, primarily in Minnesota. Under the Endangered Species Act, the United States Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) as threatened in Minnesota and as an endangered species elsewhere in the United States except Alaska list the gray wolf. The red wolf, also listed as endangered species, was the first species for which the USFWS developed a recovery plan. The decreasing numbers of wolves are the result of encroachments on their territory by humans, who have long regarded wolves as competitors for prey and as dangerous to livestock, pets, and people.

However, few if any healthy wolves have attacked humans, whom they instead try to avoid. Wolves are valuable predators in the food web, and their decimation has led to the overpopulation of certain other animal species in various areas. Active efforts to reintroduce wolves to national parks in the United States are now underway, although such efforts are controversial. Because coyotes have hybridized with some red wolves, an attempt to reintroduce red wolves to parts of North Carolina has involved identifying red wolves that are not part coyote. The success of this project is not yet clear. In 1995 and 1996 the USFWS reintroduced Canadian gray wolves into Yellowstone National Park and the Sawtooth Mountain region in central Idaho, despite protests from nearby ranchers and some biologists.

The reintroduced wolves are producing more offspring than expected.When ten breeding pairs reside in these regions for three years, the gray wolf will be taken off the list of endangered species in the northern Rocky Mountains. Wolf biologists estimate that this goal may be met by the year 2002 without transplanting additional wolves from Canada. By 1997 these reintroduction efforts were succeeding beyond expectations of wolf biologists. Scientific classification: The wolf belongs to the family Canidae.

The gray, or timber, wolf is classified as Canis lupus.The red wolf is classified as Canis rufus.