“Andes: Mountain system, western South America. One of the great natural features of the globe, the Andes extend north-south about 5,500 miles (8,850 kilometers). They run parallel to the Caribbean coast in Venezuela before turning southwest and entering Colombia. There they form three distinct massifs: the Cordilleras Oriental, Central, and Occidental. In Ecuador they form two parallel cordilleras, one facing the Pacific and the other descending toward the Amazon basin. These ranges continue southward into Peru; the highest Peruvian peak is Mt. Huascaran, at 22,205 feet (6,768 meters), in the Cordillera Blanca. In Bolivia, the Andes again form two distinct regions; between them lies the Altiplano. Along the Chile-Argentina border they form a complex chain that includes their highest peak, Mt. Aconcagua. In southern Chile part of the cordillera descends beneath the sea, forming innumerable islands. The Andes are studded with numerous volcanoes that form part of the Ring of Fire. They also are the source of many rivers, including the Orinoco, Amazon, and Pilcomayo.”

Excerpted/Adapted from: Stevens, Mark A., Ed. Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Encyclopedia. Springfield, Massachusetts: Merriam-Webster, 2000.

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