The Southwest Region
The region, known by many for its extraordinary landforms, provides a large backdrop for a variety of natural resources. Discover the importance of oil and cattle to this region, as well as mining and farming. Learn how the people in this region have learned to conserve water, one resource that is not plentiful to this area.
Explore the environment, climate and natural resources of the Southwest Region of the United States.
- Students will know the four states that make up the Southwest Region: Oklahoma, Texas, New Mexico, and Arizona.
- Students will realize that the Southwest Region has a wide variety of landforms. Know example(s) of each type of landform.
- Mountains: Part of the Rocky Mountains is located in New Mexico.
- Plateaus: Much of the Southwest is made up of plateaus. The Colorado Plateau begins at the western edge of the Rocky Mountains and covers southern Utah, southwestern Colorado, Northern Arizona, and northwestern New Mexico. The Colorado Plateau is unique because of the diversity of landforms found there; it has valleys, cliffs, and mesas.
- Canyons: The Colorado Plateau is famous for its canyons. The Grand Canyon is the largest canyon on the plateau.
- Rivers: Rivers are an important part of the Southwest Region. Through a process called erosion, rivers and streams shaped the land in the southwest. The Colorado River, for example, is responsible for carving the Grand Canyon through the Colorado Plateau. Rivers also provide the southwest with an important resource: water. The Rio Grande runs between Texas and Mexico. People who live along its banks depend on the river for drinking water; and farms along the river depend on it for irrigation.
- Plains: These long stretches of flat land cover much of the Southwest Region. The Coastal Plain lies along the Rio Grande River in Texas. The Gulf Coast, which is on the southeastern side of the Coastal Plain, is the lowest landform in the Southwest Region. A small arm of the Central Plains, which stretches south through Oklahoma and Texas, lies just beyond the Coastal Plain. This gently rolling farmland separates the Coastal Plain from the Great Plains. The Great Plains cover parts of Oklahoma, Texas, and New Mexico.
- Students will understand that the climate in the Southwest Region varies. The southern portion of the Coastal Plain is warm and wet, which allows for excellent farming conditions. The eastern part of Texas and Oklahoma are the wettest areas in the Southwest, receiving more than 40 inches of rain each year. Further west, in the Great Plains, there is very little rainfall. This area is famous for major droughts, including the "Dust Bowl." An area called "Tornado Alley" runs through parts of Texas and Oklahoma. These windstorms are responsible for major destruction. Many areas of the Southwest Region are considered desert because they receive less than ten inches of rain a year. Deserts stay hot and dry because mountains on the western edge of the Southwest Region block the moist ocean air from reaching these areas.
- Students will realize that organisms must adapt to the harsh, desert climate that is part of the Southwest Region. Many desert animals are light-colored, allowing them to reflect the heat of the sun and stay cool in the hot weather. Desert animals depend on the presence of water holes for survival. Many desert plants store massive amounts of water in their trunks or stems, so they can survive for months without rain.
- Students will know about the wide range of natural resources that the Southwest Region supports.
- Water: The waters of the Gulf of Mexico are a major source of seafood. People obtain water for drinking and farming from the rivers. Dams across rivers, like the Rio Grande, create reservoirs from which water is drawn in pipes and aqueducts. These conduits bring the water to farms and cities.
- Minerals and Metals: Copper, silver, and uranium are found in the deserts of the Southwest.
- Coal and Oil: Many coal mines are found in Texas. Coal is a major source of fuel in America. Oil is one of the most important resources found in the Southwest. Much of the nation's crude oil is found in the states of Texas, Oklahoma, and New Mexico. Oil has many important uses, including fuel, fertilizers, and even aspirin.
- Livestock: Texas leads the country in cattle and sheep production.
- Crops: The Great Plains provide the right condition for growing peanuts and cotton.
- Lumber: Forests of pine and hardwood trees grow inland from the Gulf Coast. Uses for lumber include homes and paper products.
- Students will realize that tourism is a major industry in the Southwest Region. Nearly one million people visit the Grand Canyon each year. The Carlsbad Caverns in New Mexico, the Cherokee Cultural Center in Oklahoma, and the Johnson Space Center in Texas are also popular tourist destinations.
- Have students work in groups to prepare a creative extension to any one of the topics covered in the video. For example, students who choose climate might build a model of farmland that requires irrigation due to dry weather. Students who choose natural resources may want to present the class with examples and explain their importance (i.e. coal, lumber, etc.)
- Have students work alone or in groups to plan a trip to the Southwestern Region. Research airfare, transportation, etc. Ask students to prepare a budget and itinerary for their trip.