What Is North America?

North America is a continent bordered by the Arctic Ocean in the north, the Atlantic Ocean in the east, South America and the Caribbean Sea in the south, and the Pacific Ocean in the west. It is home to many of the world’s most important natural resources, including mineral wealth, vast forests, immense quantities of fresh water and some of the most fertile soils.

The region’s diverse ecosystems and rich history have influenced the development of numerous cultures, ranging from the earliest Native American civilizations to modern-day North Americans, who live in vibrant cities and towns as well as rural villages. Today, the continent’s economy is largely dependent on the extraction, development and trade of natural resources such as petroleum, timber and coal.

Most of North America’s major geographic features are found in the United States, Canada and Mexico. The largest country in the continent is Canada, which borders the United States in the north and extends down to the southern tip of Mexico. The United States stretches across the continent’s lower midsection and into Mexico. The west coast of the United States meets up with Mexico, and both countries are bound together by the Pacific Ocean.

The northern half of the continent is dominated by a chain of mountains. The Appalachian Mountains stretch from northern Maine to southern Virginia, while the Rockies run west from British Columbia into Oregon and California. The Rocky Mountains are the highest and most rugged of these mountain ranges, with peaks towering above 12,000 feet (3,600 meters).

There are also a number of plains regions in North America. The Mississippi River is the longest river in the continent, but there are also many other major rivers that flow east with their endpoints in the Atlantic Ocean, such as the Hudson River and the Saint John River. In addition, Greenland is physically part of the continent, but it is culturally a separate entity from, and geographically closer to Europe than to North America.

Some of the most important prehistoric human settlements in North America were built by people of European ancestry. These settlers developed complex farming and hunting systems, and built cities such as New York City and Montreal. Today, the United States is a culturally diverse region, and there are more people living in the country of North America with African or Asian ancestry than with European ancestry.

North America’s early indigenous peoples were both scientifically and agriculturally advanced. Some, such as the Olmec and Aztecs, were capable of building great urban centers with complex engineering structures. The Mayans, meanwhile, were able to develop a numeral system that allowed them to count and record time with precision.

Throughout the centuries following European exploration, the United States became the dominant force in North America as its inhabitants moved westward to fulfill the “manifest destiny.” This movement is an integral part of the story of this unique continent, which continues to evolve in our globalized world.

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