Encyclopedic Entry

The sierras of the Sierra Nevada glisten in the twilight.

Photograph by Lee Bolger, MyShot

Sierras are mountain ranges. Mountains in Spanish-speaking and Portuguese-speaking regions often have "sierra" in front of their names, such as the Sierra del Sur in southern Mexico or the Sierra Negra in Ecuador.

Sierra is a Spanish word that means "saw." The peaks of sierras are often rocky and jagged, like the rugged teeth of a saw blade.

In the United States, the Sierras or the High Sierra usually refers to the Sierra Nevada, a craggy mountain range that borders the U.S. states of California and Nevada.

The African country of Sierra Leone was named by European explorers in the fifteenth century. Sierra Leone means lion mountains in Italian. The name comes from the Loma Mountains and the lions native to the area.

Sierras are often popular places for skiing and snowboarding in the winter or camping and hiking in the summer. The Sierra Club, one of the most important environmental preservation groups in the United States, was founded in 1892 by the conservationist John Muir.

Vocabulary

Term Part of Speech Definition Encyclopedic Entry

border

Verb

to exist on the edge of a boundary.

camp

Verb

to live outdoors in temporary shelter such as tents, usually for recreation.

conservationist

Noun

person who works to preserve natural habitats.

country

Noun

geographic territory with a distinct name, flag, population, boundaries, and government.

craggy

Adjective

rugged or rocky.

environment

Noun

conditions that surround and influence an organism or community.

explorer

Noun

person who studies unknown areas.

high sierra

Noun

tallest part of a high mountain range, usually in a Spanish-speaking country.

hike

Verb

to walk a long distance.

John Muir

Noun

(1838-1914) Scottish-American conservationist.

mountain range

Noun

series or chain of mountains that are close together.

preservation

Noun

protection from use.

region

Noun

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

Encyclopedic Entry: region

sierra

Noun

high mountain range with jagged peaks.

Encyclopedic Entry: sierra

skiing

Noun

art and sport of gliding across snow on long, narrow boards strapped to the bottom of the athlete's feet.

snowboarding

Noun

art and sport of gliding across snow on a short piece of wood and/or fiberglass attached to the bottom of the athlete's foot.

Credits

Media Credits

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Writers

Kim Rutledge
Melissa McDaniel
Diane Boudreau
Tara Ramroop
Santani Teng
Erin Sprout
Hilary Costa
Hilary Hall
Jeff Hunt

Illustrators

Tim Gunther
Mary Crooks, National Geographic Society

Editors

Kara West
Jeannie Evers

Educator Reviewer

Nancy Wynne

Producer

Caryl-Sue, National Geographic Society

Sources

Dunn, Margery G. (Editor). (1989, 1993). "Exploring Your World: The Adventure of Geography." Washington, D.C.: National Geographic Society.

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