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The Rocky Mountains (or Rockies) are a major mountain range in western North America. The North American Rocky Mountains stretch more than 4,800 kilometres (2,980 mi) from the northernmost part of British Columbia, in western Canada, to New Mexico, in the southwestern United States. The range's highest peak is Mount Elbert located in Colorado at 14,440 feet (4,401 m) above sea level. Though part of North America's Pacific Cordillera, the Rockies are distinct from the Pacific Coast Ranges (as named in Canada) or the Pacific Mountain System (as it is known in the United States), which are located directly adjacent to the Pacific coast.
The Rockies were formed about 70 million years ago in the Cretaceous, by the Laramide orogeny. Since then, erosion by water and glaciers have sculpted the mountain range into dramatic valleys and peaks. At the end of the last ice age, humans started to inhabit the mountain range. After Europeans, such as Sir Alexander MacKenzie and the Lewis and Clark expedition, started to explore the range, minerals and furs drove the initial economic exploitation of the mountains, although the range never became densely populated.