The Andes Mountains are the longest mountain chain with the highest peaks in the world. The mountain range is also referred to as Andean mountains. The name Andes is believed to have originated from the Quechua word ‘anti‘ which means “High crest“. Some researchers differ with suggestions that the name’s origin is from the Anti Suyu, a region in the range that was once occupied by the Incas tribe.
The Andes are one of the world’s global physiological feature that has a major impact on influencing climate, biodiversity, the seismic energy, human culture, human history, and climate. The article shall discuss the range, location and other facts that are associated with the Andes Mountains.
Range of Andes Mountains
The range is estimated to stretch 4,300 to 4,500 miles (7,000-7242 km) long from Chile to Venezuela. The widest part of the range is between the latitudes 18° South and 20° North, and measures approximately 120 to 430 miles (approx. 650 km) between Peru and Bolivia. Horizontally the mountain rise to an estimated average height of 13,000 feet (4,000 m). The highest peak of the Andes Mountain is in Argentina’s Mount Aconcagua where it rises to a height of 6,962 m.
Location of Andes Mountains
The Andes mountain transverses through seven countries in South America that is Argentina, Colombia, Peru, Chile, Venezuela, Ecuador, and Bolivia. They can further be subdivided into three broad categories from north to south, they are
1. Southern Andes. Located south of the Llullaillaco these Andes consist of Chilean, Patagonia and the Fuegian cordilleras. They range from Argentina to Chile.
2. Central Andes. Consist of the Peruvian cordilleras. It is located in countries of Peru and Bolivia.
3. Northern Andes. The Andes in the North encompasses the Colombian, Caribbean and the Ecuadorian cordilleras. They are found in regions such as Venezuela, Ecuador, and Colombia.
20 Breathtaking Facts About Andes Mountains
Fact 1. It was formed as a result of plate-tectonic forces
The formation of the Andes was as a result of the global plate-tectonic forces. The movement occurred roughly around 65 million ago during the Cenozoic Era. The convergence of the South American Plate and the Plate of Nazca during this era constituted a series of orogenic activities that gave rise to the Andes.
The rise of the mountains is believed to have started around 25 million years ago due to the difference of more than 40,000 feet difference between the lowest point of the range in Peru and Chile’s Atacama Desert and the highest peak mountain in Argentina.
Fact 2. It has a varying climate
The climate varies with proximity to the sea, the latitude, and the altitude. The northern side of the Andes is rainy and warm, the central part is dry whereas the southern part is cool and rainy.
At between 4500 to 4800 meters a snow line can be seen in the tropical regions such as Colombia, Venezuela and Ecuador regions of the Andes. In Peru and Chile regions about 30 South the Snow line rises to 4800m. At regions such as the Tierra del Fuego, the glaciers descend to almost sea level.
Fact 3. It has many active volcanoes like the Ring of Fire
The volcanic activities experienced along the Andes Mountain are due to the ongoing plate-tectonic processes that formed them. The parts that are associated with the Ring of Fire, i.e. the circum-Pacific volcanic chain, have active volcanoes that trigger earthquakes that occur frequently in the area.
Therefore, many peaks in the Andean Mountain ranges are active volcanoes while others are dormant. Andes Ojos del Soldado Mountain is the world’s highest volcano but inactive. It is located on the border of Chile and Argentina its height is 6,893 m. The world’s highest active volcano is located in Ecuador called the Cotopaxi Mountain. The Cotopaxi has a height of 5,897 m.
Fact 4. It has the farthest Point from Earth’s Center
The peak of Chimborazo is the earth’s farthest point. The peak is located in Ecuadorean Andes where it rises to a height of 6,268 m above sea level. The distance from the center of the earth to the peak is 6,384 km which is 2 km higher than the Himalayas. This means that the Chimborazo is the only point on earth closest to outer space and the moon
Fact 5. It’s a source of major water systems including the Amazon and Orinoco rivers
The Amazon and the Orinoco river systems are the two major rivers in South America. They originate from the Andes Mountain. Also, the world’s highest body of water that can be used for commercial navigation is the Lake Titicaca that is found between the regions of Peru and Bolivia. The lake is located at 3,812m above sea level.
Fact 6. The world’s largest Salt Flat is found in the region
Salar de Uyuni is the largest salt flat in the world that extends for 10,582 km sq and is found in the Andes Mountain region. It is located at an altitude of 3,650 meters in Bolivian Andes.
Fact 7. The region has several plateaus
The Andes Mountains has several plateaus that host major cities. The cities are Quito, La Paz, Medellin, Bogota, Sucre, Arequipa, and Merida.
Fact 8. It has a population of about 85 million people
The population in the Andes is estimated to be 84,500,000 people with 44% located in the Andean countries. Therefore, it is estimated that a third of people living in South America live in the Andes especially in major cities.
Fact 9. It is endowed with numerous natural minerals
The Andes ranges are rich in iron, copper, silver, tin, and gold which have attracted thousands of miners. The principal minerals located in different regions are Copper in Peru and Chile; Lead, zinc, and silver in Peru and Bolivia; tin and bismuth in Bolivia; iron and coals in Colombia, Chile and Peru. Petroleum deposits are also found on the Andes especially on the eastern side.
Fact 10. Cropping activities performs poorly in the Andes
Agriculture in the Andes is difficult with the yields being poor. There is not enough water supply and most of the plateaus are dry with seasonal rainfall. The cold temperatures of the high plains cause freezing in plants. Furthermore, the soils are shallow and rich in minerals but lacking organic matter important for crop growth.
Nevertheless, people still farm on terraced fields and produce a substantial amount of harvest. Main produce for export is coffee, tobacco, and cotton. Others farm coca the source of cocaine especially in Colombia and Bolivia.
Fact 11. The region is mainly utilized for pastures
The plateau regions of the Andes are mainly utilized as pastures. Countries such as Columbia rear cattle for export and Peru has invested in milk production. The livestock reared in the region are the llama, sheep, alpaca, and goats.
Fact 12. The ranges are rich in fauna with over 1,000 different species
There are almost 1,000 different species of animals found in the region. Two-thirds of the total species found in the region have lived in the mountains for ages. There are 400 fish species, 600 reptile species, more than 1,700 bird species, and 600 mammal species. It is also a home to endangered species of chinchillas and the crepuscular among other animals.
Fact 13. It has about 30,000 species of Flora
The ranges cross many floristic regions. The regions it passes through range from wet and cold areas in Cape Horn, arid Atacama regions, to rainforests. As a result, there are approximately 30,000 species of plants located in the region. The Andes is the only place in the world with such diverse plant species.
Fact 14. It is touted to be the origin of some of the world’s important crops like potatoes and Cinchona pubescens used to produce quinine for treating malaria
The Andes Mountain was the origin of important crops such as the potatoes, tobacco, tomatoes and Cinchona pubescens – which produces quinine for treating malaria.
Fact 15. Its host numerous Islands
The Curacao, Aruba and the Bonaire islands found in the Caribbean Sea near the Venezuela coast are part of the Andes. The islands are located on the northern edge of the submerged Andes Mountain ranges.
Fact 16. The Incas civilization occurred in the Andes in 1400
The tribe employed meticulous governmental management to bring civilization into the Andes. They constructed the aqueducts roads which are still in use currently.
Fact 17. Most local communities in the Andes depend on donkeys, mules, oxen, llama, and horses for transportation
The mountain is a formidable barrier in the development of communication systems. Construction of roads is impossible in some places due to the character of the land. Therefore, the communities living in the regions mainly depend on donkeys, mules, oxen, llama, and horses as a means of transport.
Fact 18. One of the main road networks in the Andes region is the Pan American Highway
It plays a major role in connecting the cities found on the Western part of the Andes.
Fact 19. The “Lost City of The Incas” is one of the most renowned historical sites in the Andes
The Machu Pichu commonly referred to as “Lost City of The Incas” is one of the most renowned historical sites in the Andes. It is a region that was once occupied by the Inca Empire and is located at the edge of the Andes near the Amazon.
Fact 20. The Andes contributes 52% out of the 63.6% of hydroelectricity that is supplied in the seven countries that it crosses
Some countries such as Bolivia, Colombia, and Chile depend mainly on the reservoirs and lakes in the Andes that are used to generate electricity.