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Land and Resources, Natural Regions

Mosquito Coast, river deltas, silver mines, major lakes, Managua

Nicaragua is divided into three major regions. Tropical lowlands lie along the Pacific and Caribbean coasts, while the center of the country is a cooler highland plateau crossed by several mountain ranges.

Along the Pacific, a stretch of low, hot land lies between the ocean and the two major lakes, Nicaragua and Managua. A chain of volcanoes, many of them active, rises along the length of the coastline. This fertile area produces sugar and cotton and is the site of most of Nicaragua’s major cities, including Managua.

Farther inland the land rises to plateaus of more than 450 m (1,500 ft). The country’s highest mountain range, the Cordillera Isabella, crosses the area, containing peaks of 2,100 m (6,890 ft). The lower areas of this highland region have extensive cattle ranches, while coffee, the nation’s major export crop, grows at higher elevations. There are also small gold and silver mines.

About half of Nicaragua’s territory consists of the eastern lowlands, known as the Mosquito Coast, which extend 70 km (40 mi) inland from the Caribbean. This area once contained extensive stands of tropical hardwoods, but most have been cut. Tropical rain forest covers much of the area, threaded with rivers that begin in the highlands and empty into the Caribbean. The coast is indented with lagoons and river deltas, and islands and coral reefs are scattered offshore. Bananas are grown along river valleys, but elsewhere soils are often poor, and there are extensive salt marshes. Less than 5 percent of Nicaragua’s population, mostly Native Americans and people of African descent, lives in this isolated region, which was partially controlled by Great Britain until the late 19th century. While not on the main storm track, this coast is occasionally struck by severe hurricanes.

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