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By Kristi L. Desaulniers, Charles F. Gritzner

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By Kristi L. Desaulniers, Charles F. Gritzner

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Improved Access Throughout much of Northern America, railroads proved to be the primary magnets for settlement. In fact, in the vast region between the Rocky Mountains and the Appalachians, an estimated 80 percent of all communities can attribute their origin to railroads. Look closely at a detailed highway map that shows states or provinces east of a line that roughly coincides with the 100th meridian. (West of this, less than 20 inches [50 centimeters] of precipitation falls annually, thereby limiting agricultural potential).

Inevitably, the French and British struggled to control colonial lands in Northern America. This disruption caused much conflict between the French and British colonists, particularly along the eastern coastlands of Northern America during the 1700s and early 1800s. As European settlement and political control spread, so, too, did European diseases and critical disruptions of native ways of life. In many areas, native populations were decimated and their lands taken, often by force. This loss of native people and their traditional ways of living altered the cultural history of Northern America.

Mills for sawing timber or milling grain could be built at points where streams cascaded over falls or rapids. Fish provided a reliable source of food. ” In arid regions, oasis sites often grew into thriving communities. Along coasts, settlements often were founded at or near the mouth of a navigable river or on a natural harbor. Today, water resources are still of great importance. In addition to their historical uses, streams are now harnessed to provide electrical energy. In arid regions, water is transferred great distances, as is the case with diversion from the Colorado River to Phoenix and Tucson, Arizona, and the Los Angeles basin in southern California.

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