North America is the third largest continent, with the diversity to show for it. Weather ranges from icy Greenland to tropical beaches of the Caribbean, and an incredible array of national parks and preserves show off huge canyons, breathtaking mountains, ancient forests, and fascinating wildlife. Every part of the continent has a complex and mixed cultural heritage, shaped by indigenous peoples, colonization, and waves of immigration.
The indigenous cultures of North America, also called Native Americans, Indians or First Nations arrived in Alaska before 10,000 BC, and have populated virtually all parts of North America. Except a short-lived Viking colony around AD 1000, the Americas were isolated from the rest of the world until the voyages of Columbus from 1492, and the subsequent wave of colonization, where first Spain, and later France, the British Empire and the Russian Empire seized parts of the continent. The United States became independent in 1776, was the first country outside the United Kingdom to industrialize, expanded westwards during the 19th century to dominate the continent , and became the world's undisputed dominant power by the middle of the 20th century.