Jacques W. (Jacques Wardlaw) Redway.

Elementary physical geography : an outline of physiography online

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regions that have fairly well-defined boundaries ; and
because of their features of surface and climate, each re-
gion has become a great centre of industries that are pe-
culiar to it.

The boundaries of these regions are both topographic
and climatic, and the regions themselves differ from one
another in either climate or topography, or in both.
Roughly speaking, the groups of States commonly recog-
nized do not differ very greatly from the industrial groiips
that result from diverse conditions of climate and to-

The following are the principal physiographic and in-
dustrial regions : The New England Plateau, including
the eastern part of New York ; the 3Iiddle Atlantic States,
including the Atlantic Coast Plain and the middle and
southern Appalachian Highlands ; the Great Central Flam,
including the regions commonly known as the Northern
States and the Southern States ; the Western Highlands,
including the region west of the 2,000-foot contour, the
Rocky Mountains, the Columbia Plateau, the Colorado




Plateau, the Basin, the Sierra Nevada and Cascade Moun-
tains ; and the Pacijic Coast Region. Make a list of these,
grouping each subdivision under its principal division.

The New England Plateau.— This region embraces
the northern Appalachian folds, with here and there areas
that belong to the Laui-entian highlands. During the
glacial epoch this region was greatly worn. The Appa-
lachian folds in places were almost obliterated, and the


Green, White, Adirondack, and Catskill Mountains are
the principal remnants. Here and there are isolated
" monadnocks," most of w^hich are bosses of volcanic rock
which were able to withstand the erosion and corrosion
that resulted from the work of the ice age. Granitic rocks
prevail, and their rounded surfaces are generally smooth
and polished.

As a result of the glacial epoch the surface of the New
England Plateau is very rugged, the only level regions


beiug the river flood plains and the old lake basins -^vhose
waters have disappeared. Many lakes still remain, how-
ever, and these, a few coast lagoons excepted, have very
strongly the character of glacial lakes and tarns. Name
six of the largest. The slope is someAvhat abrupt and, as
a result, the rivers flow in " reaches " ; that is, stretches of
slack water alternate with rapids and falls.

The coast region is equally peculiar, and, inasmuch as it
has been submerged or " drowned " in comparatively re-


cent geological times, the sea now intrudes upon the gla-
ciated regions, making the whole shore line one of fjords,
like those of Norway. Practically all the good harbors
of the Atlantic coast of the United States are confined to
this region and, as a result, about four-fifths of the foreign
commerce of the country goes in and out of its ports.


The rugged surface maj be classified as uplands and
valley lands. The uplands are characterized by thin and
innutritions soil. The surface is diversified by drumlins,
eskers, and granite hog backs ; and much of it is strewn
with erratic bowlders. The uplands are not capable of
supporting a dense population/ and in the past half cen-
tury there has been no material progress in agricultural
pursuits ; on the contrary, farming lands have depreciated
in value. About all the industrial gains have been associ-
ated with manufacture. How does the surface aifect this
industry ? The farming is confined to the lowland valleys
and restricted to garden and dairy products. This region
is celebrated for the manufactures that require a high
degree of intellectual and mechanical skill,^ and these
have resulted from the conditions that have afforded the
abundant water-power. The manufactures form a large
proportion of the nation's foreign exports. The sewing-
machines, bicycles, clocks, and firearms made in the mills
and factories of this region are shipped to almost every
part of the world ; the cotton cloth is used by about every
race of people.

The Middle Atlantic States. — This region includes
the principal part of the Atlantic Coast Plain, together
with the middle and southern Appalachians. The lower
part of the Coast Plain consists of a belt of swamp lands
bordered by sandy pine-barrens. Beyond these there is a
belt of Piedmont lands — the foot-hills of the Appalachian
Mountains. The rivers flow into estuaries that reach usu-
ally to the foot-hills and are generally navigable to this
line — the " Fall Line." From any good map make a list of
cities along the Fall Line.

The soil of this region is not well adapted either to cot-
ton or wheat, although small quantities of both are grown.
The chief crops are early fruit and garden stuffs, and these


find a ready market in the great cities of the manufactur-
ing region. Cotton and tobacco are important crops in
the soiithern pai't of the Piedmont lands ; and on account
of the water-power, now tardily developed, the manu-
facture of cotton textiles is rapidly becoming the leading

A peculiar feature of the coast is noticeable in the wave-
formed S|)its or barrier beaches of tlii< T.M.imi. How do


these barrier beaches aiiect commerce ? Explain how the
ban-ier beach, with the enclosed lagoon, finally becomes a
jxirt of the Coast Plain. The soil of these beaches pro-
duces a cotton fibre of long staple and great strength, and
this is their chief product. The fibre is used in the web
of bicycle-tires.



The montane part of this section is low and not very
rugged in the northern, but much higher in the southern
part. The Appakichian folds contain the most productive
coal measures in the world, and for this reason thej are
the seat of extensive iron and steel manufactures.

In a few instances the iron ore occurs in the vicinity of
the coal measures, but in most instances cheap transporta-
tion by water enables the manufacturer to ship the ore to


the coal mines at a minimum of expense. In a few lo-
calities, the coal shipped by canal meets the iron ore
brought in steamers and barges from the Lake Superior
iron mines to the shores of Lakes Erie and Michigan, and
great steel-making plants have grown up at Chicago, Cleve-
land, Lorain, Toledo, Ashtabula, and Buffalo.

From the foregoing it is apparent that the entire Appa-
lachian region, both folds and plateaus, is an area of manu-
facture because of certain geographic conditions, and these


are the existence of power. The waterfall is stored-np
power aud so also is the coal. The power within the coal
not only makes the steam that drives so much machinery,
but in the smelting furnace it also separates the iron from
the ore ; and inasmuch as iron and steel form the basis of
most manufactures, the existence of coal implies the de-
velopment of a great centre of manufacture.^

The Great Central Plain. — From Hudson Bay to the
Gulf of Mexico the Great Central Plain is characterized by
a level or a gently rolling siirface, sloping on each side
toward the Mississipjii Eiver — the whole declining gently
from a slight rise, called the Heights of the Land, to the
Bay on the north and the Gulf ou the south. Trace the
Heights of the Land on the map, p. 353. Within what
limit of elevation is the greater part of its surface '? What
is the general elevation Avest of the Missouri River ?

Most of the rivers flow in channels that are from one
hundred to three hundred feet lower than the general level
of the land, and their high banks are the Muffs of this re-
gion. For the greater part of their extent the bluffs are
not less than one or two miles apart, and there is a very
level flood plain between them — the famous " bottom
lands." All through the Great Central Plain the soil is
naturally very fertile ; that of the bottom lands is espe-
cially productive.

The level surface and the general conditions of topog-
raphy make this region one of sameness so far as external
appearance is concerned. Climatic conditions, however,
make two separate aud distinct areas of history and indus-
try ; therefore it is divided into Northern States and
Southern States. The two groups are roughly separated
by a boundary formerly known as " Mason and Dixon's
line," and this boundary in former years was sli;ii|ily de-
fined. Incidentally it was a boundary between " free



States " and " slave States," but the real boundary was one
that separated the cotton-growing region from that in
which food-stuffs and manufactured goods were the staple

In the Northern States wheat, corn, oats, and grass have
always been the chief products. Because of the level
surface and the deep, nutritious soil the grain crops can

// could not be used in a rugged country.

be both planted and harvested at the minimum of ex-
pense. Under no other conditions of topography could
there have been such a wonderful development of plant-
ing and harvesting machinery. As a result, this region
has become one of the principal food-producing regions of
the world. It produces one-fourth of the world's crop of
wheat, a considerable proportion of the dairy products,
and about three-fourths of the corn, most of the latter
being fed to hogs and converted into pork.


The western part of this region — the part beyond the
2000-foot contour — does not receive an amount of rain suf-
ficient to mature grain ; but the bunch grass and the al-
falfa^ crops are the food of great herds of cattle. As a
result, the Northern States of the Great Central Plain
produce the flour and meat not onlj for the United States,
but much of that required by the rest of the world.

The Southern States produce about four-fifths of the
world's supply of cotton. Grain can be grown in these
States but, acre for acre, the crop does not pay nearly so
well as cotton; and cotton cannot be grown north of the
Hue that separates the two groups. The industries and
social conditions — and, therefore, the history — of the two
sections have differed greatly. How did these conditions
encourage slavery in the one group and discourage it in
the other ?

There has always been a considerable amount of man-
ufacture in both sections, but the manufactured articles
have been closely related to the grain and the meat prod-
uct in the one section, and to cotton-growing in the other.
These manufactures, moreover, have been greatly en-
couraged by the extensive coal measures mainly in the
northern section. Most of the cotton is shipped abroad,
to be made into textiles elsewhere.

The Western Highlands. — The Western Highlands
embrace all that region between the eastern foot of the
Rock}', and the Avestern foot of the Sierra Nevada and
Cascade Ranges. This region is characterized by rugged-
ness. The lofty ranges that form the rims of the high-
land are less than two miles in altitude in few places only.
Fremont and South Passes are the chief channels of in-
tercommunication on the eastern side. On the west the
Central Pacific Piailway crosses the range at an altitude
of nearly 10,000 feet. In the north the canons of Columbia



River and its tributaries afford grades not too difficult for
railway communication ; on the south the canons of the
Rio Grande, together with San Gorgonio, and Tehachapi
Passes — the latter at the southern jimction of the Sierra
Nevada and Coast Ranges — are the chief routes of com-

The ranges of the Rocky Mountains are lofty folds rest-
ing each on a core of granitic rocks. The Sierra Nevada


The ranges and canons are a barrier to intercommunication.

and Cascade Ranges are huge blocks of tilted rock with a
gentle slope on the west and an abrupt escarpment on the
east. The parallel ridges of Nevada and Oregon, com-
monly called the " Basin Ranges," are excellent examples
of block mountains, the upturned edge of the block con-


stituting the range. Here and there are the isolated
knolls that form the laccolites of which the Henry Moun-
tains are examples.

The western slopes of the Sierra Nevada and Cascade
Ranges receive a generous rainfall ; consult the wind
chart, p. 221, and explain why. AVithin the rim ranges
the rainfall is deficient. In the northern part it is suf-
ficient for a rather scanty pasturage, but the southern part,
the higher plateaus excepted, is a desert.

The Columbia Plateau, or " Plains of the Columbia," is
mainly the surface of the great flood of lava that seems to
have flowed from several fissures on the Sierra Nevada
Mountains,^ The general surface of the plateau, the block
ranges excepted, is fairly level, but the region has been
much dissected by the rivers, whose canons are from five
hundred to more than three thousand feet deep.

The Colorado Plateaus, sometimes called the " Alcove
Lands," consist of a series of table-lands varying from half
a mile to a mile and a half in altitude. The lower plateaus
are desert regions of tropical temperature, with here and
there a few tribes of squalid Indians. The middle plateaus
have suflicient rain for a very scanty covering of grass ; the
higher mesas have a fair growth of grass and timber.

Canons with angular outlines and almost vertical walls
are the chief characteristic of this region. The canons of
the Colorado, which have made the region famous, in
places are more than a mile deep. Probably nowhere else
on the face of the earth are the features of erosion and cor-
rosion presented on such a stupendous scale. Every mas-
ter stream and every tributary is practically an underground
stream, so deep are their chann(;ls below the general level
of the plateaus.

The Basin Region receives its name from the fact that
none of its drainage reaches the sea. On the slopes of the


block ranges the rivers are vigorous streams, but their
waters liually disappear by evaporation and percohition in
the sea of fine rock waste at their bases.^ The lakes are
without outlet to the sea, and most of them are the shrunk-
en remnants of two great lakes that once covered a large
part of this region.

One of these, now called Lake la Hontan, included Hum-
boldt, Pyramid, Winnemucca, and several other lakes ad-
jacent. Several of them, including Walker and Owens
Lakes, have never wholly disappeared and their waters are
saturated brines, evaporation continuing until the water can
hold no more saline matter in solution. Great Salt, Utah,
Sevier, and Parowan Lakes are the remnants of former
Lake Bonneville (p. 173). Of the various remnants half a
dozen have wholly disappeared, and Sevier and Parowan
Lakes are practically dry. Utah Lake is fresh ; Avhy ?
Great Salt Lake at present is shrinking on account of the
diversion of its feeders for purposes of irrigation.^

Two small areas of the Basin Eegion are below sea-level.
One of these, Salton Lake and its basin, are undoubt-
edly the former head of the Gulf of California ; the other,
Death Valley, may have been. The " sink " or dry bed of
Salton Lake, also known as Coahuilla Valley, or the Sink
of San Felipe, was most likely separated from the present
Gulf by the sediments brought down by the Colorado
Kiver. The sediments formed a bar or sea-wall across the
Gulf and cut it in twain. The upper portion in places has
become partly filled with wind-blown rock waste, but its
lowest part is about three hundred feet below sea-level.
Death Valley, at Kings Springs, is nearly two hundred and
fifty feet below mean tide.

Several of the sinks of this region are fed, not by rivers
that normally flow into them, but by the overflows of the
Colorado Kiver. When more than bank-full, the latter


overflows into the lower land to the westward. Former
Salton Lake was an overflow of this character.^ New and
Hardj's Eivers, frequently chartered on maps of this re-
gion, are not streams flowing into the Colorado, but out of
it. In this locality the river practically flows around the
side of a slope ; and at times, when its channel is choked
with sediment, the water breaks its confining bank and
temporarily flows out into the desert.


•' > X^'.

// is the cinder-conc of an extinct volcano.

The climate of the Basin is one of intense beat, and the
southern part is tropical. In many places it is a region
of dunes swept b}^ simoons, and occasionally deluged
by cloudbursts. To the latter are mainly due the sinks
and washes of the region. Yuccas, cacti, mezquit (a spe-
cies of acacia), and gamma, a coarse grass resembling the
spinifex of Australia, are the prevailing vegetation of the
southern part ; sage-brush, a kind of wormwood, is char-
acteristic of the northern region. Wherever irrigation is


possible the soil of the river flood plains is highly pro-
ductive. In the southern part several species of lizard,
among them the " horned toad," abound. A large species,
popularly known as the " Gila monster," inhabits the Gila
River and is peculiar to this river valley. Herds of deer
are found near the head of the Gulf of Colorado ; and a
few camels, the descendants of imported animals,'** are run-
ning wild along the lower part of the river.

In general, the conditions of both climate and topogra-
phy Avill not permit the Western Highlands to become a
thickly peopled region. The rainfall is insufficient for
the production of food-stuffs, and the latter must depend
upon irrigation wherever they are grown. The rugged
surface is intensified by the deep and precipitous stream
canons, and these are such obstacles that commerce is
carried on only at an enormous expense. In one or two
instances a canon half a mile in width forces traflic to make
a detour of several hundred miles around. The mining
of copper, lead, and the precious metals is the most im-
portant industry.

The Pacific Coast Region. — This region includes
the western foot-hills of the Sierra Nevada and Cascade
Ranges, the Coast Ranges, and the great intermontane
valley between them. The principal feature of this re-
gion is the distribution of rain. During the winter months
the moist Avesterly winds are sufficiently chilled to shed an
abundance of rain over almost the entire region. Scarce-
ly a drop falls from May to October. The rainfall, there-
fore, is seasonal.

The foot-hill region is more or less rugged, but the
greater part of its area forms excellent ranges for cattle
in the north, sheep in the south, and fruit in every part.
The Coast Ranges lie abruptly against the shores of the
Pacific Ocean and in only a few places is there even


a narrow coast plain. The few harbors, however, are
deep, commodious, and most conveniently situated. In a
few places, however, vessels lie alongside a high clift' and
receive their cargoes by means of chutes with long out-
riggers. The lower ranges of these mountains form ex-
cellent pasturage ; the river valleys produce the best
wheat that is grown.

The great intermoutane valley is probably a marine
plain. It varies from twenty to about one hundred miles
in width, but in sev-
eral places it is in-
terrupted by cross
spurs that connect
the great ranges.
In the north, where
it opens to the sea,
it is known as tlie
Sound Valley.
What strait and
sound form the out-
let? Farther south ■- /; '
the Golden Gate
opens from the sea
into one of the prin-
cipal harbors of the world ; what is its name ? This part of
the intermoutane region is best known as the Sacramento-
San Joaquin Valley.

The northern and southern parts of the intermontano
valley form a mammoth wheat field; " the middle portion
consists of rolling lands that form excellent cattle and
sheep ranges, and furnish the possibilities of unlimited
water-power not yet utilized. South of Tehachapi Pass a
fertile lowland lies next the Pacific which yields an abun-
dance of semi-tropical fruits and a very fine merino wool.


The conditions of both climate and topography make this
a region that is capable of supporting an enormous popu-

The Territory of Alaska forms the northern part of the
Pacific Coast region. Its climate and rugged surface ren-
der it unfit for all agricultural pursuits. The coast slope
is moderately warm, but the rainy season is about ten
months in duration ; the interior is a region of arctic
temperature. So far as is known there is not a level tract
of cultivable land large enough to make a fair-sized farm.
The chief wealth of the territory is contained in the gold
mines of the Klondike and Cape Nome Districts and in
the fisheries of the littoral waters.

The Adjustment of Industrial Pursuits to Environ-
ment. — In the growth and development of a nation two
processes usually are going on — the acquisition of territory
and the adjustment of the pursuits of a people to the condi-
tions of their geographic surroundings. The latter is usu-
ally attended with more or less friction, and the friction
is a very large factor in their history.

In the geographic distribution of the industries of the
United States, one may follow the processes of adjustment.
The New England Plateau, with its abundant water-power —
helped also by steam-power — furnishes the country with
light manufactures and textiles and exports the balance.
The people of the harbor region carry on the foreign com-
merce and largely control the great railway systems that
transport the manufacturer's products and the food-stuffs.

The people of the Appalachian region manage the distri-
bution of the coal and supply the country with steel rails,
bridge material, building girders, and power-producing ma-
chinery. From the prairies of the Great Central Plain
come the breadstuffs and meat, and from the Atlantic
Coast Plain the fruit and vegetables required for the labor-

' City of

NEW York;

and Ticinitj",


Harl)or Approaches.'^

1 2 3 4 5 6



LigLt Houses: *

Light Vesiiela; t

Lighted Buojfi: •
Other Buojs: •

!D5E;NS PELfjfj -

'¥' A*

Mem, ' • •?

livy ""/^lA^ /"V'A';"!^-'' A T L AN






* ufiar vittCL


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Sandy Hook



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I Kasi Long Br»Dch
LoDg Hraocli


ers in the crowded mauufacturiug centres. From the south
comes the cotton and from the west the wool that is to
clothe eighty millions of people. From the AVestern High-
lands are obtained the gold and silver, the medium of com-
mercial exchange, and much of the copper the medium by
which electric-power is transmitted. Each section sup-
plies not only the rest of the United States, but a large
foreign trade as well.

In (general, the area which produces the foodstuffs and
timber means great population. The gold and silver mean
a vast commerce. The coal and the iron ore are forecasters
of tremendous power.

Natural Resources — No other nation possesses a
greater wealth of resources than the United States. Some
of these will still last for years, but others are nearly ex-
hausted. The bison and the fur-seal are practically extinct,
the former being in part replaced by cattle that certainly
are of greater value.

The most valuable forest trees of the country are the
pines. Of these, a belt of white pine extends along the
northern border ; and a belt of yellow pine along the At-
lantic and Gulf coasts. Both of these regions are nearly
exhausted of their supply of merchantable timber.'^ The
dense forests of Douglas iir, or " Oregon pine," and red-
wood of the Pacific Coast will be productive for a much
gi-eater length of time. The amount of growing timber is
probably greater than at any previous time in the history of
the country, but most of it is not adaptable for building pur-
poses. It is estimated that from five to ten million young
pines are destroyed each year for use as Christmas trees.

The coal-fields cover an area of about 130,000 square
miles.'^ Of the amount yielded from these mines, all the

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Online LibraryJacques W. (Jacques Wardlaw) RedwayElementary physical geography : an outline of physiography → online text (page 24 of 25)