Geography Glossary: Butte | Lets Go Geography

Geography Glossary: Butte

Let's Go Geography Glossary-Butte

Want to make a Geography Glossary? You can download the printable Glossary pages here to create it. If you already have one, here’s a new word to add!

Today’s Word: Butte

What is it?

Monument Valley buttes
Buttes in Monument Valley. The butte on the right is nicknamed The Mitten.

When you know that the word butte comes from the French word meaning small hill, you have an instant clue to its meaning. A butte is an exposed rock formation that appears to rise out of the ground like a small hill. It typically has very steep sides rising up to meet a flat top, although that can vary. Sometimes the sides aren’t a vertical drop, and sometimes the top isn’t a totally flat table. But more or less, those are its typical features.

Mesas and plateaus are similar, with steep sides and flat tops, but they are bigger than buttes. Think of a butte as a mini-mesa, and you’re on target.

Where in the world…?

Back in the day, old TV westerns tried to paint a dramatic picture of the authentic Wild West, and a butte or two often found a place in the setting. This is because buttes in the American West are often a dramatic part of the extraordinary desert-like scenery in that part of the world.

Out of all the spectacular buttes in the American West, Monument Valley in Utah and Arizona, and Devil’s Tower in Wyoming have/are some of the world’s most admired buttes.

Devil's Tower, Wyoming
Devil’s Tower, Wyoming [photo by Will Adams]

How to Draw It

The Devil’s Tower butte is a good choice for your drawing. Lightly sketch a horizontal line a little lower than the middle of your page for the ground and then sketch a fat rectangle shape, sitting on its short end, on top of that line.

Using this rectangle sketch as your guide, make darker, permanent lines on each side that slightly slope at the bottom, and then round the top just a bit. Now fill in the middle of the butte with lots of vertical lines.

To draw each pine tree on the ground around the butte, sketch a light vertical trunk, and then zigzag horizontal lines across each trunk, going from longer zigzags at the bottom, to very small ones at the top of each tree. Make as many pine trees as you like, and you are done!

Let's Go Geography Glossary-Butte

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