Most of Mexico is an immense, elevated plateau, flanked by mountain ranges that fall sharply off to narrow coastal plains in the west and east. The two mountain chains, the Sierra Madre Occidental to the west and the Sierra Madre Oriental in the east, meet in a region called La Junta in the south-east. At La Junta the two ranges form the Sierra Madre del Sur, a maze of volcanic mountains containing the highest peaks in Mexico. The Sierra Madre del Sur leads into the Isthmus of Tehuantepec, which lies between the Bay of Campeche and the Gulf of Tehuantepec.
The prominent topographical feature of the country is the central plateau, a continuation of the plains of the south-western United States. Comprising more than half the total area of Mexico, the plateau slopes downwards from the west to the east and from the south, where the elevation varies from about 1,830 to 2,440 m (6,000 to 8,000 ft) above sea level, to the north with an elevation of about 1,070 to 1,220 m (3,500 to 4,000 ft). Two large valleys form notable depressions in the plateau: the Bolsón de Mapimí in the north and the Valley of Mexico, or Anáhuac, in central Mexico.
The coastal plains are generally low, flat, and sandy, although the Pacific coast is occasionally broken by mountain spurs. Baja California, a long, narrow peninsula extending about 1,225 km (760 mi) south from the north-western corner of the country, is traversed by mountains that are a continuation of the coastal ranges in the US state of California. The Yucatán Peninsula, which forms the south-eastern tip of the country, is low and flat, averaging about 30 m (100 ft) in elevation.
Mexico has few major rivers, and most are not navigable. The longest river is the Rio Grande (called the Río Bravo del Norte in Mexico), which extends along the Mexican-US border. Other important rivers include the Balsas Pánuco, Grijalva, and Usumacinta in the south and the Conchos in the north. Mexico has few good harbours.
Tampico, Veracruz Llave, and Coatzacoalcos (Puerto México) are major Gulf of Mexico ports. Pacific ports include Acapulco de Juárez, Manzanillo, Mazatlán, and Salina Cruz. Lake Chapala, in the west, is the largest inland body of water. The Valley of Mexico contains several shallow lakes.
The mineral resources of Mexico are extremely rich and varied. Almost every known mineral is found, including coal, iron ore, phosphates, uranium, silver, gold, copper, lead, and zinc. Proven oil and natural-gas reserves are enormous, with some of the world’s largest deposits located offshore, in the Bay of Campeche. Forests and woodland, which cover about 24 per cent of the land, contain such valuable woods as mahogany, ebony, walnut, and rosewood. Mexico has some of the largest remaining forest reserves, despite the high levels of deforestation. About 12 per cent of the land is suitable for agriculture, but less than 10 per cent receives enough rainfall for raising crops without irrigation. "Mexico" © Emmanuel BUCHOT, Encarta, Wikipedia
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