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Pacific Coast Ranges: Map


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The Pacific Coast Ranges (in Canada) or Pacific Mountain System (United States) are the series of mountain ranges that stretch along the west coast of North America from Alaskamarker south to northern and central Mexicomarker. They are part of the Western Cordillera (sometimes known in Canada as the Pacific Cordillera and also as the Canadian Cordillera), which includes the Rocky, Columbia Mountains, Interior Mountains, the Interior Plateaumarker, Sierra Nevada, Great Basin and other ranges and various plateaus and basins. The Pacific Coast Ranges designation, however, only applies to the Western System of the Western Cordillera, which comprises the Saint Elias Mountainsmarker, Coast Mountainsmarker, Insular Mountains, Olympic Mountainsmarker, Cascade Range, Oregon Coast Range, California Coast Ranges and the Sierra Nevada. The term "Coast Range" is used by the United States Geological Survey to refer only to the ranges south from the Strait of Juan de Fucamarker to the Mexican border west of Puget Sound and the Williamette and Sacramento River valleys, thereby excluding the Sierra Nevada and Cascade Range,i.e. the Pacific Border province. The same term is used informally in Canada to refer to the Coast Mountainsmarker and adjoining inland ranges such as the Hazelton Mountainsmarker, and sometimes also the Saint Elias Mountainsmarker.

The character of the ranges varies considerably, from the record-setting tidewater glaciers in the ranges of Alaska, to the low but rugged and scrub-covered hills of southern Californiamarker, but the entire coast is consistent in dropping steeply into the sea, often resulting in photogenic views. Along the British Columbiamarker and Alaska coast, the mountains intermix with the sea in a complex maze of fjords, with thousands of islands.

There is a handful of small coastal plains at the mouths of rivers that have punched through the mountains, most notably at the Copper River in Alaska, the Fraser River in British Columbia, the Columbia River between Washington and Oregon, and the Sacramento and San Joaquin rivers in California, which create San Francisco Baymarker.

From the vicinity of San Francisco Bay north, it is common in winter for cool unstable air masses from the Gulf of Alaskamarker to make landfall in one of the Coast Ranges, resulting in heavy precipitation, both as rain and snow, especially on their western slopes.

Omitted from the list below, but often included is the Sierra Nevada, a major mountain range of eastern California that is separated by the Central Valleymarker over much of its length from the California Coast Ranges and the Transverse Ranges.

Major ranges

These are the members of the Pacific Coast Ranges, from north to south:

Major icefields

These are not named as ranges, but amount to the same thing. The Pacific Coast Ranges are home to the largest temperate-latitude icefields in the world.

Only the largest icefields are listed above; smaller icefields may be listed on the various range pages. Formally unnamed icefields are not listed

See also


  1. S. Holland, Landforms of British Columbia, BC Govt. 1976.
  2. Physiographic regions of the United States, USGS
  3. S. Holland, Landforms of British Columbia, BC Govt. 1976.

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