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Argentina , country of South America , covering most of the southern portion of the continent. It encompasses immense plains, deserts, tundra, and forests, as well as tall mountains, rivers, and thousands of miles of ocean shoreline. Argentina also claims a portion of Antarctica, as well as several islands in the South Atlantic, including the British-ruled Falkland Islands Islas Malvinas. Defeat led to the fall of the military regime and the reestablishment of democratic rule, which has since endured despite various economic crises.

The elemental earth was not perturbed either by settlements or other s of humanity. The country was vast, but at the same time it was intimate and, in some measure, secret. The limitless country sometimes contained only a solitary bull. The solitude was perfect and perhaps hostile, and it might have occurred to Dahlmann that he was traveling into the past and not merely south. Despite the romantic lure of the Pampas and of vast, arid Patagonian landscapes, Argentina is a largely urban country.

Buenos Aires , the national capital, has sprawled across the eastern Pampas with its ring of modern, bustling suburbs. Its industries have drawn colonists from Italy , Spain, and numerous other countries, millions of whom immigrated in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Greater Buenos Aires is home to about one-third of the Argentine people.

Argentina is shaped like an inverted triangle with its base at the top; it is some miles 1, km across at its widest from east to west and stretches 2, miles 3, km from the subtropical north to the subantarctic south. The country is bounded by Chile to the south and west, Bolivia and Paraguay to the north, and Brazil , Uruguay , and the Atlantic Ocean to the east. Its undulating Atlantic coastline stretches some 2, miles 4, km.

The Andean region extends some 2, miles 3, km along the western edge of the country from Bolivia to southern Patagonia, forming most of the natural boundary with Chile. It is commonly subdivided into two parts: the Northwest and the Patagonian Andes, the latter of which is discussed below under Patagonia. The centrally located plains, or Pampas, are grasslands subdivided into arid western and more humid eastern parts called, respectively, the Dry Pampa and the Humid Pampa. Patagonia is the cold, parched, windy region that extends some 1, miles 1, km south of the Pampas, from the Colorado River to Tierra del Fuego.

This part of the Andes region includes the northern half of the main mountain mass in Argentina and the transitional terrain, or piedmont, merging with the eastern lowlands. Within the region the Andean system of north-south—trending mountain ranges varies in elevation from 16, to 22, feet 4, to 6, metres and is interrupted by high plateaus punas and basins ranging in elevation from about 10, to 13, feet 3, to 4, metres. The mountains gradually decrease in size and elevation southward from Bolivia.

Some of these mountains are volcanic in origin. To the southeast, where the parallel to subparallel ranges become lower and form isolated, compact units trending north-south, the flat valleys between are called bolsones basins. This southeastern section of the Northwest is often called the Pampean Sierras, a complex that has been compared to the Basin and Range region of the western United States.

The Pampean Sierras have variable elevations, beginning at 2, feet metres in the Sierra de Mogotes in the east and rising to 20, feet 6, metres in the Sierra de Famatina in the west. The Gran Chaco in Argentina descends in flat steps from west to east, but it is poorly drained and has such a challenging combination of physical conditions that it remains one of the least-inhabited parts of the country. East of the Gran Chaco, in a narrow depression 60 to miles to km wide, lies Mesopotamia , which is bordered to the north by the highlands of southern Brazil.

The eastern boundary is the Atlantic coast. The largely flat surface of the Pampas is composed of thick deposits of loess interrupted only by occasional caps of alluvium and volcanic ash. In the southern Pampas the landscape rises gradually to meet the foothills of sierras formed from old sediments and crystalline rocks.

This region consists of an Andean zone also called Western Patagonia and the main Patagonian plateau south of the Pampas, which extends to the tip of South America. The surface of Patagonia descends east of the Andes in a series of broad, flat steps extending to the Atlantic coast. The cliffs are rather low in the north but rise in the south, where they reach heights of more than feet 45 metres. The landscape is cut by eastward-flowing rivers—some of them of glacial origin in the Andes—that have created both broad valleys and steep-walled canyons. Patagonia includes a region called the Lake District , which is nestled within a series of basins between the Patagonian Andes and the plateau.

These hills and the accompanying lava fields have dark soils spotted with lighter-coloured bunchgrass, which creates a leopard-skin effect that intensifies the desolate, windswept appearance of the Patagonian landscape. Glacial ice in the past extended beyond the Andes only in the extreme south, where there are now large moraines. It drains an area of some 1. Wide rivers flow across the Gran Chaco flatlands, but their shallow nature rarely permits , and never with regularity.

Moreover, long-lasting summer floods cover vast areas and leave behind ephemeral swamplands. During winter most rivers and wetlands of the Gran Chaco dry up, the air chills, and the land seems visibly to shrink. In the Northwest the Desaguadero River and its tributaries in the Andes Mountains water the sandy deserts of Mendoza province.

In the northern Pampas, Lake Mar Chiquita , the largest lake in Argentina, receives the waters of the Dulce, Primero, and Segundo rivers but has no outlet. Rivers that cross Patagonia from west to east diminish in volume as they travel through the arid land. The Colorado and Negro rivers , the largest in the south-central part of the country, produce major floods after seasonal snow and ice melt in the Andes.

Farther south the Santa Cruz River flows eastward out of the glacial Lake Argentino in the Andean foothills before reaching the Atlantic. Soil types in Argentina range from the light-coloured saline formations of the high puna in the Northwest to the dark, humus-rich type found in the Pampas. Golden-brown loess soils of the Gran Chaco are sometimes lighter where salinity is excessive but turn darker toward the east in the Mesopotamian border zone.

These give way to soils ranging from rust to deep red colorations in Misiones. Thick, dark soils predominate in the fertile loess grasslands of the Pampas, but lighter brown soils are common in the drier parts of northern Patagonia.

Light tan arid soils of varying texture cover the rest of this region. Grayish podzolic types and dark brown forest soils characterize the Andean slopes. Fast Facts. Videos Images Audio. Additional Info. Table Of Contents. While every effort has been made to follow citation style rules, there may be some discrepancies. Please refer to the appropriate style manual or other sources if you have any questions.

Facebook Twitter. Give Feedback External Websites. Let us know if you have suggestions to improve this article requires . External Websites. Articles from Britannica Encyclopedias for elementary and high school students. By Peter A. See all media. Show more Capital: Buenos Aires Show more Population: est. Show more. Full Article. Britannica Quiz. Match the Country with Its Hemisphere Quiz. This quiz will present you with the name of a country. There will be no trickery with countries that touch the Equator. Explore the many faces of the city of Buenos Aires, Argentina.

Get a Britannica Premium subscription and gain access to exclusive content. Subscribe Now. Flock of sheep in the Pampas, Argentina. Listen to a farmer talking about raising sheep in Patagonia. Sheep raising in Patagonia, southern Argentina. It is one of the Patagonia region's most-popular tourist attractions. Load Next .

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