• mesa
    Like many mesas, this one is in the American Southwest.

    Photograph by James P. Blair

    Tabletop Community
    There are over 300 lakes on top of the Grand Mesa, in Colorado, as well as a state highway.

    A mesa is a flat-topped mountain or hill. It is a wide, flat, elevated landform with steep sides.

    Mesa is a Spanish word that means table. Spanish explorers of the American southwest, where many mesas are found, used the word because the tops of mesas look like the tops of tables.

    Mesas are formed by erosion, when water washes smaller and softer types of rocks away from the top of a hill. The strong, durable rock that remains on top of a mesa is called caprock. A mesa is usually wider than it is tall.

    Mesas are usually found in dry regions where rock layers are horizontal. The Grand Mesa in the U.S. state of Colorado, considered the largest mesa in the world, has an area of about 1,300 square kilometers (500 square miles) and stretches for 64 kilometers (40 miles).

  • Term Part of Speech Definition Encyclopedic Entry
    caprock Noun

    strong, hard rock that remains on top of a mesa.

    durable Adjective

    strong and long-lasting.

    erosion Noun

    act in which earth is worn away, often by water, wind, or ice.

    Encyclopedic Entry: erosion
    hill Noun

    land that rises above its surroundings and has a rounded summit, usually less than 300 meters (1,000 feet).

    Encyclopedic Entry: hill
    horizontal Adjective

    left-right direction or parallel to the Earth and the horizon.

    landform Noun

    specific natural feature on the Earth's surface.

    Encyclopedic Entry: landform
    mesa Noun

    broad, flat-topped landform with steep sides.

    Encyclopedic Entry: mesa
    mountain Noun

    landmass that forms as tectonic plates interact with each other.

    region Noun

    any area on the Earth with one or more common characteristics. Regions are the basic units of geography.

    Encyclopedic Entry: region
    rock Noun

    natural substance composed of solid mineral matter.

    steep Adjective

    extreme incline or decline.

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