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Spain, Land and Resources

Meseta Central, Mulhacen, Aneto, Tenerife Island, Ebro River

Spain occupies about 85 percent of the Iberian Peninsula and is bounded by water for about 88 percent of its periphery; its Mediterranean coast is 1,660 km (1,030 mi) long, and its Atlantic coast is 710 km (440 mi) long. The long, unbroken mountain chain of the Pyrenees, extending 435 km (270 mi) from the Bay of Biscay to the Mediterranean Sea, forms the border with France on the north; in the extreme south the Strait of Gibraltar, less than 13 km (8 mi) wide at its narrowest extent, separates Spain from Africa. The most important topographical feature of Spain is the great, almost treeless, central plateau, called the Meseta Central, sloping generally downward from north to south and from east to west, and with an average elevation of 600 m (2,000 ft) above sea level. The tableland is divided into northern and southern sections by irregular mountain ranges, or sierras, of which the most important are the Sierra de Guadarrama, the Sierra de Gredos, and the Montes de Toledo. Between many of the mountains are narrow valleys, drained by rapid rivers. The coastal plain is narrow, rarely as much as 30 km (20 mi) wide and, in many areas, broken by mountains that descend to the sea to form rocky headlands, particularly along the Mediterranean coast, where the sole excellent harbor is Barcelona. The northwestern coastal area has several good harbors, particularly along the Galician coast. The six principal mountain chains have elevations greater than 3,300 m (11,000 ft). The highest peaks are the Pico de Aneto (3,404 m/11,168 ft) in the Pyrenees and Mulhacen (3,477 m/11,407 ft) in the Sierra Nevada in southern Spain. The highest point in Spain and its insular territories is Pico de Teide (3,715 m/12,188 ft) on Tenerife Island in the Canary Islands. The lowest point is sea level along the coast.

The principal rivers of Spain flow west and south to the Atlantic Ocean, generally along deep, rocky courses that they have cut through the mountain valleys. The Duero (Douro), Mino, Tajo (Tagus), and Guadiana rivers rise in Spain and flow through Portugal to the Atlantic. The Guadalquivir River, flowing through a fertile plain in the south, is the deepest river in Spain and the only one navigable for any extent. The Ebro River, in northeastern Spain, flows into the Mediterranean Sea, and is navigable by small craft for part of its course. Most Spanish streams are too small for interior navigation, and, with courses below the general ground level, are of little use for irrigation. The rivers are, however, a good source of electric power.

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Article key phrases:

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