The American West was the last part of the United States to be settled, starting in the mid-1800s. Some people moved out west for the promise of free farm land. Others came in search of gold. Some, such as the Mormon pioneers, came for religious freedom. People came to the arid southwest to ranch cattle or in search of oil. The American West has been settled for a long time, but it still has lots of wide, open spaces.
The American West includes Colorado, Montana, Wyoming, Idaho, Utah, Nevada, Oregon and Washington. The Southwest includes Texas, New Mexico, California and Arizona. You’ll still see horses, cowboys, rolling plains and majestic mountains. You’ll find small towns, fields and farms, as well as booming cities, such as Denver, Salt Lake and Portland.
The Great American West and Southwest Facts
- The Rocky Mountains are the longest and highest mountain range in North America. They stretch from Canada to Mexico.
- The West has some of the best skiing in the United States. Sun Valley, Idaho, and Vail and Aspen, Colorado are three famous ski resorts in the West.
- Oregon and Washington grow most of the apples, pears and cherries eaten in this country.
- Farming is still very important in the West. In parts of Idaho, schools still close for a few weeks in October so kids can help harvest potatoes.
- The Southwest is greatly influenced by Mexican culture. This is the place to go for spicy Mexican food and Mexican art.
The Great American West and Southwest Vocabulary
- Arid: dry
- Ranch: raise
- Harvest: pick or gather crops
Learn All About the Great American West and Southwest
Here’s a great video for kids on the Great American West and Southwest:
This is a virtual tour video through the ghost towns of the American West.
The Great American West and Southwest Q&A
Question: Are winters cold here?
Answer: The Southwest rarely gets snow and winters are mild. Idaho, Utah, Colorado, Wyoming and Montana get lots of snow during the winter. Brrrr!
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