Mountains for Kids
For Kids: Legend says ... About 2,500 years ago, there was an ancient Greek who loved to climb mountains. Some people insisted he was looking for the homes of the gods. But really, he just like to climb mountains. Fortunately for him, Greece has a great many mountains to climb! One day, Xenophanes (we'll call him Xeno for short, for X marks the spot) was out climbing a mountain when he stumbled across a very odd rock. It appeared to be made of seashells. But it was most definitely a rock! The only way Zeno could figure out how a rock made of seashells could be found at the top of a mountain was if once upon a time that rock had been at the bottom of a sea. All his neighbors in ancient Greece laughed at his rock and his conclusion, but Xeno was quite right!
Some mountains on Planet Earth were once covered by water. Some mountains still are. Some are formed by volcanoes. Often, mountain ranges are formed by folding. That's when a long ridge is slowly (very slowly) pushed up from the earth, with peaks and valleys. The Alps, the Rockies, the Andes, and the Himalayas are examples of mountain ranges made by folding. The highest mountain on earth is in Hawaii, although most of it is underwater, which makes climbing it rather tricky. Mount Everest, in Asia, is the highest mountain peak on land.
Not everything referred to as a mountain is actually a mountain. In the United States, in order to qualify as a mountain, a land mass must reach at least 1,000 feet from bottom to top. If the mass only measures 500 to 999 feet, it is only a hill. If it is less than 500 feet, it is called a knoll. The Ozarks, which cover parts of Missouri, Arkansas, Kansas, and Oklahoma, are sometimes called the Ozark Mountains, but the Ozarks are a plateau. The Rocky Mountains, however, are real mountains. The tallest mountains in the United States are found on the western side of the country in California, Colorado, Washington State, Wyoming, and Alaska. (And underwater in Hawaii.)
- The Rockies begin in Canada and go almost as far south as Mexico. Most of the Rockies have gentle slopes and are not very tall, although they are still mountains. But some of the Rocky Mountain peaks are very high. The Grand Teton in Wyoming reaches over 13,000 feet. Mount Elbert in Colorado is even higher.
- Mount Rainier, part of the Cascade Range, is the tallest mountain in Washington State at 14,409 feet high.
- Mount Whitney, in the Sierra Nevada Range of Southern California, is the tallest mountain in the lower 48 states.
- In Alaska, many mountains peaks look like glaciers.