FACTOID # 6: Michigan is ranked 22nd in land area, but since 41.27% of the state is composed of water, it jumps to 11th place in total area.
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Background Statistics > Landscapes and History (most recent) by state

DEFINITION: Landscapes and history profiles.
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States (A to Z) Description
Alabama Known as the ‘Heart of Dixie’, Alabama landscape stretches from the gulf shores of Mobile Bay to the southern regions of the Appalachian Mountains in the northeast. In between, fertile land and historic plantations are mixed in with wooded areas, snaking rivers and sprawling lakes. Admission to the Union was delayed for a lack of coastline, but after Andrew Jackson captured the Spanish port of Mobile in 1814, Alabama was admitted as the 22nd state on December 14th 1819. First a major cotton producer, the state moved to peanuts when the crop was routed by boll weevels in the early 1900’s. Alabama was a major proponent of secession in the years leading up to the U.S. Civil War. Though never a major battleground during the war, the first capital of the Confederacy was located in Montgomery, and the state contributed significant troops and supplies to the war effort. Reconstruction was a slow and painful period for Alabama, and over the years, the state hardened into one of the bastions of the segregation movement. The 1920’s saw the emergence of the KKK as a movement with significant political clout (though its membership and power plummeted after 1930). The Civil Rights movement took center stage in Alabama in the 1950’s and 60’s, the most notable events being the Montgomery Bus Boycott and marches led by Dr. Martin Luther King. The Red Stone Arsenal, located in Huntsville was the facility responsible for many of the developments in early American space travel.
Alaska Overwhelmingly the largest state in the U.S., Alaska is a land of vast wilderness, towering mountain ranges, and some of the most diverse plant and wildlife in the United States. The sheer size of Alaska is so large that much the eastern seaboard of the U.S., including Appalachia, could fit comfortably inside its borders. The rugged terrain of Alaska is home to the tallest mountain in North America, Mount McKinley, at 20,320 feet. Land administration in Alaska is divided into boroughs, as opposed to counties, with the largest being aptly named 'Unorganized Borough' as it has no local administration and is instead governed directly by the state. Some 65% of Alaska's land is administered directly by the Federal Government, under the auspices of organizations such as the Bureau of Land Management and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Less than 1% of Alaska's land is privately owned. Originally purchased from Russia for just over 7 million dollars, Alaska was at first not well received by most Americans, who dubbed the purchase 'Seward's Folly' (named after the U.S. Secretary of State who engineered the sale, William Seward). Shortly afterward, large deposits of gold and other precious minerals were discovered on the barren and largely unpopulated land, and later significant oil and gas deposits were also found. Alaska achieved territorial status in 1912, and on January 3rd, 1959, it became the 49th state admitted to the Union.
Arizona Arizona has been settled continuously for over 12,000 years and the modern city of Tucson is one of the oldest in the nation, founded in 1775. Despite this it was the last of the contiguous states to be admitted to the union on February 14, 1912. The name comes from two words of the language of the Papago Indian; together as "Aleh-zon" they mean 'little spring.' This 'little spring' is located near a large silver discovery on the Arizona creek in Mexico territory. Its history is awash with American legends such as Wyatt Earp, the Apache chief Cochise, Geronimo, and events such as the ‘Gunfight at the OK Corral,’ to name a few. Arizona is renowned for its natural beauty. From the Grand Canyon in the north to the Catalina Mountains in the south, the state is full of world class natural attractions such as Meteor Crater, the Painted Desert, and Monument Valley. These fantastic high desert wonders have served as the back drop to innumerable films and draw visitors from around the world.
Arkansas The 25th state to join the union on June 15, 1836, Arkansas slogan as 'The Natural State' is well earned. The Ozark Plateau in the north and the Ouachita Mountains to the south are home to lush forests, abundant wildlife and many caves. Its hot water springs are world-famous. Fertile plains comprise the areas of southern and eastern Arkansas and are known as the Grand Prairie and the Delta, respectively. During the Civil War period, Arkansas was reluctant to secede and only did so once federal troops were sent to South Carolina. Arkansas was probably named by early French explorers for the Quapaw people who lived along the Mississippi, which forms its eastern border; Arkansas means 'down river' or 'south wind'. To solve a dispute over the pronunciation of its name, state legislators signed into a law a bill officially declaring that the state be called 'ar-kan-saw' and not 'ar-kansas' in 1881.
California Arguably the most diverse geographic state in the nation, California is home to the highest point in the lower 48 (Mount Whitney) and the lowest point in North America (Death Valley), which are a mere 150 miles from each other. California also has some of the oldest and largest trees in the world in the northern Redwood Forests. Earthquake-prone and dotted with volcanoes, California originally included some parts of Nevada, Utah, Wyoming and Arizona, as well as Baja (lower) California in present day Mexico. The regions coastline was explored by Sir Francis Drake in 1579, but it was not until the late 1700's that California was significantly populated by European settlers, the majority of which were Spanish missionaries. Just before the outbreak of the Mexican-American war, the California Republic was declared and the Bear Flag was raised for the first time in the town Sonoma. The new Republic did not last long however, as the U.S. Navy appeared in the San Francisco Bay and declared California a part of the United States. Only a few years later, the Gold Rush struck California, bringing floods of prospectors and adventure seekers into the state. Railroads and road links were established over time (most notably the trans-continental railroad in 1869), turning California into an emerging force in the Union.
Colorado Colorado’s defining feature is its breathtaking mountains. Possessing the highest elevation and more 14,000 foot peaks than any other state in the union, its awe-inspiring panoramas inspired President Teddy Roosevelt to call it the 'Switzerland of America'. Millions of visitors annually come to take advantage of the many public and private parks and resorts. Some of the best skiing in the nation is found here with Aspen, Vail, and Steamboat Springs being some of the most popular destinations. From east to west, the state rises slowly from the grasslands of the Great Plains to alpine mountains forming the Continental Divide before turning into high, semi-arid plateaus and finally coming to desert-like basins. The city of Leadville has the highest elevation of any city in the U.S. and the world’s largest flat top plateau, 'Grand Mesa' is here as well. Mining initially brought thousands of prospectors into the state, as the strategically located town of Denver began to boom. Colorado came to statehood on August 1, 1876.
Connecticut The third smallest state in the Union, Connecticut is divided by the river which bears its name and gradually rises in elevation westward toward the Litchfield Hills. The state's coastline is along the Long Island Sound, and the state shares its longest border with Massachusetts to the north. Puritans were the first to settle the state in 1633. Connecticut was one of the 13 original colonies and was the fifth state admitted to the Union on January 9th, 1788. Largely agricultural in its early history, Connecticut's industry boomed over time to include famous manufactures such as the Colt revolver, the world's first submarine (dubbed 'the Turtle') completed in 1755 and America's first steamship built in 1786.
Delaware Delaware is the second smallest state and was the first state to ratify the U.S. Constitution on December 7th 1787, thereby making it the first state in the Union, but it's history goes back further to the Native Indian tribes of the region and the first European settlers. Its name derives from the Eastern Algonquian tribe of Delaware, and the area was first settled by the Dutch in 1631. In 1682, William Penn leased the lands known as the 'Lower Counties on the Delaware' to provide access to the Atlantic for his burgeoning Pennsylvania colony. Delaware is located on the 'Delmarva' Peninsula (so named because of the three states which are found on the peninsula: Delaware, Maryland and two counties of Virginia) a land mass known for its relative seclusion, low coastal plain, and vegetable farming. The northern boundary with Pennsylvania is highly unusual as it is the only true-arc boundary in the U.S. It is an arc that extends exactly 12 miles from the cupola of the courthouse in New Castle, Delaware, and is commonly referred to as the 'Twelve-Mile Circle'.
District of Columbia The District of Columbia was carved out of regions from both Maryland and Virginia in 1791 for the purpose of building the nation's capital between the North and South. The cornerstone of the White House was laid on October 13th 1792, and gradually the city developed into a small Federal City. The city was raided during the War of 1812 by British troops and much of the capital, including the White House, was looted and burned. The Civil War saw a massive influx in population due to the surrounding residents seeking government protection and benefits. The towering Washington Monument was opened in 1888, and paved the way for future monument building in the city and the construction of the National Mall in the early 20th century. The geography of Washington DC is largely one of low-lying swamp land located along the banks of the Potomac River. The Anacostia River and Rock Creek form tributaries which flow into the Potomac. There are a few islands on the Potomac which are part of the District of Columbia, the most notable being Theodore Roosevelt Island and Columbia Island.
Florida Florida’s name comes from the Spanish word for flowery. Spanish conquistador Ponce de Leon gave it the name on April 2nd, 1513 in honor of the day he landed there, Pascua Florida, or 'Flowery Easter'. Over the next 400 years the peninsula remained in Spanish control though often only tenuously. The first European colony in this new world, Spanish Pensacola, was established here in 1559. However this city, Pensacola, was abandoned just three years later and not repopulated until the late 17th century. In subsequent years brittle control on the peninsula was maintained through a policy of converting the local Native American population to Catholicism. The British held claim to the territory through the Peace of Paris from 1763 until their defeat at the hands of American revolutionary forces. Transferred again to Spanish control in 1783 it was finally ceded to the United States in 1819 in exchange for U.S. renouncement of claims on Texas. Florida became the 27th state on March 3, 1845. Florida seceded from the union at the outbreak of the Civil War and was reinstated on June 25th, 1868. Florida is the southern most of the American states and at its most southern point, Key West, it is a mere 60 miles from the island nation of Cuba.
Georgia Georgia's early history was marked by competing claims from Spain and Great Britain. It was later added to the American colonies and named after King George II in 1724. It was the last of the original thirteen colonies to be established, and was the fourth to be admitted to the Union on January 2nd, 1788. The Cherokee Indian tribe, a well-advanced and powerful American Indian culture, was established in the northern region of Georgia, as well as eastern Tennessee and the Carolinas. Despite taking their case to the U.S. Supreme Court, the Cherokees were forced to evacuate their ancestral lands by President Andrew Jackson and march to present-day eastern Oklahoma in what became known as the 'trail of tears'. On January 19, 1861, Georgia seceded from the Union, and became a major theater in the Civil War. Late in the war, William Tecumseh Sherman led his army through a large swath of the state, destroying anything in their path and burning much of Atlanta before capturing the port city of Savannah. Georgia was later the last state to be readmitted to the Union. Geographically, the Peach State is the largest state east of the Mississippi in land area, and has more counties than any other state aside from Texas. The northern half of the state is largely mountainous, and the southern is dominated by fertile farmland with ecologically valuable swampland near the border with Florida and along the coast.
Hawaii Hawaii, also known historically as the Sandwich Islands, is composed of 19 islands and atolls forming the Hawaiian Archipelago. The chain owes its existence to intense volcanic activity over thousands of years, and today is the only state continuing to grow because of lava flows. Hawaii also represents the southern most point in the U.S., and the only state which is entirely tropical. It is believed that the first inhabitants of the Hawaiian Islands were Polynesians who arrived around 300 AD. Some one thousand years later Tahitian settlers conquered the island and wiped out the original inhabitants. Though there are sketchy reports of earlier sightings and explorations, Captain James Cook is generally regarded as the first European explorer to set foot on Hawaii (as well as the first European explorer to die on it) in 1778. Between 1795 and 1810, Hawaii began to unify under one Kingdom, led by the skillful leader Kamehameha the Great. The Hawaiian Kingdom did not last long however, and after effectively sidelining the Monarchy with the Bayonet Constitution in 1887, Hawaii was incorporated into the United States as a territory on June 15th 1898, and received full-fledged statehood a half a century later in 1959, becoming the 50th and last state in the Union.
Idaho If all the lower 48 states were ironed out flat, Idaho would be the largest; its rugged terrain with towering cliff sides, pine-forested peaks and deep canyons make Idaho's natural scenery one of the wildest and striking in the U.S. The southern half of the state is much lower in elevation compared to the north. The Snake River forms the western border with part of Washington and Oregon before turning into the state and bisecting the southern half, meandering through the fertile Snake River Plain in the eastern part of the state. The Bitterroot Range serves as a natural border with Montana, and further east, the Clearwater and Salmon River mountains extend for miles into the some of the most isolated regions in America. Native Americans had long settled in the region of Idaho, the most dominant groups being the Nez Perce in the north and Shoshone in the south. The Lewis and Clark Expedition traversed the northern terrain of Idaho, becoming the first Europeans to explore the area. Missionaries and fur traders began to settle the area in the early 1800's, but it was not until 1846 that the U.S. established a permanent foothold in the region. Some 14 years later the first organized town, Franklin, was set up by Mormon pioneers (who thought they were in Utah). In 1863, the Territory of Idaho was at last established, though the borders remained in dispute until 1868. On July 3rd, 1890, President Benjamin Harrison signed in Idaho as the 43rd state to enter the Union.
Illinois Geographically the second tallest (north-south) state east of the Mississippi (after Florida), Illinois is dominated by massive urban and suburban expansion in the north, fertile prairies in the central part of the state, and more rugged landscapes of the southern tip. The Mississippi River forms the western border with Iowa and Missouri, and the Ohio River forms the southern boundary with Kentucky. Originally part of the Northwest Territories, Illinois Territory was established on February 3rd, 1809. Less than 10 years later, on December 3rd 1818, Illinois became the 21st state to join the Union. Illinois is known as the 'Land of Lincoln' since Abraham Lincoln spent much of his adult life in Springfield, the capital (though he was actually born in Kentucky). Chicago began as a town of 350 people on the banks of Lake Michigan in 1833, but went through a massive urban boom over the next 100 years, owed largely to its ideal geographical position, waterway routes, and the development of its rail connections. In 1871, the Great Chicago Fire burned most of the city to the ground, though the rebuilding afterward helped Chicago became an influential metropolis and architectural gem where the world's first skyscraper was raised in 1885.
Indiana ‘The Crossroads of America’ has long been just that. Three rivers gave the area special strategic value to early settlers: the Ohio, the Wabash and the Kankakee. During the time of French ownership, Indiana was the link between Canada and Louisiana. Later, the British took control in 1763 as part of the settlement of the French and Indian War. After the Revolutionary War and the War of 1812, American settlers utilized Indiana’s waterways on their way to points west. It was in this way that Indiana (meaning 'Land of Indians') became a state on December 11, 1816, with a population of just over 60,000. Indiana continued in its role as a crossroads in the years before the Civil War as many in the state provided safe haven for slaves seeking freedom on the Underground Railroad. Physically, Southern Indiana is a hilly blend of farmland and forests which stretches north to a vast flat plain that comprises most of the state. Hoosier National Forest in southern Indiana is one of the largest national forests east of the Mississippi River. In the extreme northwestern corner, Indiana has a small strip of shoreline on Lake Michigan which provides access to other Great Lake ports in the U.S. and Canada.
Iowa Iowa is a landlocked state slightly larger than neighboring Illinois and Wisconsin in land area. The highest point is in the northwestern corner of the state, and is only a mere 363 meters off the lowest point. The geography of the state is one of rolling hills and farmland, with two major rivers - the Missouri and Mississippi - defining its borders on the west and east respectively. Other major rivers include the Des Moines and Cedar Rivers. Iowa was at one time home to several America Indian tribes, and was first officially settled in 1833 by families from neighboring states. 13 years later, on December 28th 1846, Iowa became the 29th state in the Union. In 1867, the first railroad was completed through Iowa, later making Council Bluffs an important terminal connecting the West with Chicago. In 1928, Herbert Hoover became the only Iowan elected President of the United States.
Kansas On the great central plain of the U.S., Kansas rolls from the hills of the Ozarks in the south-east to a nearly flat prairie land rising gently through farms and fields until it meets the border of Colorado. Often called 'The Central State,' within its borders lie both the geographic center of the contiguous U.S. states and the geodetic center of North America. First visited by Europeans in 1541, it was not until 1682 that Kansas was claimed for France and given its name, a word from the local Native American tribes meaning 'south wind'. The early history of Kansas leading up to the U.S. Civil War was rife with blood-shed. When it became clear that the establishment of Kansas as a state could swing the balance of power between Free and Slave states, Pro-slavery representatives and their opposition began flooding the state. Raids by both against each other crossed the border into Missouri and earned Kansas its first nickname: Bloody Kansas. Pro-slavery forces were unsuccessful and Kansas entered the union as a free state on January 29, 1861. The memory of this time is echoed in the mascot of the University of Kansas at Lawrence: the Jayhawk. Jayhawkers was the name given to Kansas forces at that time.
Kentucky Key-shaped Kentucky is a landlocked state off the foothills of western Appalachia. Its early American history was one of a crossroads between the colonies and the wild land further west, and was at one time owned by the colony of Virginia. After the Revolutionary War, Kentucky became a county of Virginia and separated from its parent state in 1790. 2 years later, on June 1st, 1792, Kentucky became the 15th state to be admitted to the Union. Kentucky was the birthplace of both Jefferson Davis, President of the Confederate States of America, and Abraham Lincoln, the American President who fought against Davis to hold the Union together. The state itself fought to remain neutral during the Civil War, but eventually acquiesced in the face of Union military success. Kentucky's landscape is largely one of rolling pasture, home to one of the finest horse breeding cultures in the world. Unique geographical features include the 'land between the lakes' and 'Kentucky Bend', which forms the only geographic state enclave in the U.S., a chunk of fertile land completely enclosed by Tennessee and Missouri. Mammoth Cave, the largest cave complex in the world, draws tens of thousands of tourists to Kentucky every year.
Louisiana The Deep South state of Louisiana is divided into two regions: the fertile uplands area and the swampy coastal regions in the south. The Mississippi River forms the eastern border with Mississippi before cutting through the southern half of the state and emptying into the Gulf of Mexico at the Mississippi Delta region. The Sabine River and the Toledo Bend Reservoir forms part of the western border with Texas. The northern parishes of Louisiana, with its woodland and prairies, contrast sharply with the wetter delta regions in the south. Though the Spanish were the first to explore the region, the French set up permanent settlements toward the end of the 17th century, maintaining dominance in the region until Napoleon Bonaparte sold the lands to the U.S. in 1803. Before that date, the region had changed hands several times, first to the British, then to Spain and lastly back to France. On April 30th, 1812, Louisiana became the 22nd state to be admitted to the Union. Development of cotton plantations began intense development throughout the 1800's. Louisiana seceded from the Union in 1861, and a year later, New Orleans was captured by Union troops.
Maine The only U.S. state to border only one other state, Maine is the eastern most location in America. A largely mountainous and sparsely populated state, Maine's landscape is one of vast pine forests and untouched rivers and lakes. Some 90% of Maine is forested. The largest lake is Moosehead Lake, found in the northern stretches of the Appalachian Mountains. The scenic coastline of Maine is known for its secluded harbors and ubiquitous islands. Maine is the largest state in New England, and has the lowest population density of any state east of the Mississippi River. The French, whose dominance in the region only began to wane after French defeat in the 1740's, established the first European settlement in Maine in 1604. Originally part of Massachusetts upon independence of the American colonies, Maine was formally admitted to the Union as the 23rd state on March 15th, 1820, part of the Missouri Compromise which saw one non-slave state (Maine) and one slave state (Missouri) enter the Union at roughly the same time.
Maryland Part of the original 13 colonies, Maryland was established by Lord Baltimore in 1634. It was one of the predominantly Catholic regions of Colonial America, and destination for thousands of British prisoners. The Mason-Dixon Line was established early on by two surveyors from the colonies of Maryland and Pennsylvania, which today is the straight-line border between the two states and represents the unofficial border between North and South. Maryland is largely a low land state with fertile soil that provides for a rich variety of crops, cucumbers, melons, peas and tobacco to name a few. Western Maryland narrows considerably as it rises in elevation into the Appalachian Mountains, and at one point is a mere 2 miles wide. Despite widespread support for the southern cause in Maryland, the state did not secede from the Union during the Civil War, in part because of measures taken by Abraham Lincoln to suspend civil liberties. The more rural and sparsely populated west is home to the Antietam Historic Battlefield near the town of Sharpsburg, site of the first major military engagement in the North, and the bloodiest single-day battle in American history. Maryland was admitted as the 7th state in the Union on April 28th, 1788.
Massachusetts The 6th smallest state in the Union, Massachusetts varies from the densely populated east with its low elevation and distinctive Cape Cod arcing widely into the Atlantic, to the more sparsely populated hills in the extreme west of the state. The state's long and important history began with the iconic landing on Plymouth Rock, quickly developing into one of the most important colonies in America, centered around colonial Boston. The culture at this time was largely dominated by the Puritans, whose ethos of hard work, moral standing and education spurred the establishment of America's first school (the Boston Latin School in 1635) and America's first college (Harvard College in 1636). Massachusetts was the literal heart of the American Revolution, with Bostonians initially rallying against British control and the first battles being waged at Lexington and Concord. Boston later developed into one of the world's leading port cities. By the 1820's the state's demographic makeup went through a tremendous change, with a large influx of Italian and Irish immigrants who consequently strengthened the role of Catholicism in the state.
Michigan A natural division when speaking of Michigan is the Upper Peninsula, a swath of largely wooded land jutting out from Northern Wisconsin, and the Lower Peninsula, a mitten-shaped piece of land between the Great Lakes of Michigan and Huron. The two peninsulas meet at the Straits of Mackinac and are connected by the Mackinac Bridge, the third longest suspension bridge in the world. Michigan has the longest freshwater shoreline in the lower 48 states, and factoring in fresh water area, Michigan passes both Georgia and Florida as the largest state east of the Mississippi. An incredible 41.3% of the total area is fresh water. Michigan's pre-European history was a loosely-based confederation of tribes, the most populous of which were the Chippewa in the Upper Peninsula. The first settlement was a French mission established by Jacques Marquette at Sault Ste Marie. The French lost their claims to Michigan after the French and Indian War, and the British passed on the possession to the U.S. after the Revolutionary War. Michigan was slow to receive statehood however because of disputes over the strategic city of Toledo with Ohio. In one of the few instances of 'state conflict' in American history, militias in both states began maneuvering against each other in what became known as the Toledo War. Congress ultimately sided with Ohio, and Michigan was admitted to the Union as the 26th state on January 26, 1837.
Minnesota Minnesota is geographically split between the farmlands and deciduous vegetation of the southern regions and the vast coniferous forests and lakes of the northern region. The Mississippi River, whose headwaters are at Lake Itasca in North Minnesota, forms part of the eastern border with Wisconsin. Further north, the shores of Lake Superior stretch up to the border with Canada, a region which has some of the coldest temperatures in the lower 48 states. Known as the land of 10,000 lakes (in actuality there are over 15,000 freshwater lakes in the state) outdoor water recreation, camping and fishing (both in summer and winter) form a large part of Minnesotan culture. Notable lakes include Mille Lacs Lake, Leech Lake, Upper and Lower Red Lake, and Lake of the Woods, which is located on a strip of water and land jutting into Canada. American Indian tribes had long established themselves in the region before the arrival of European settlers, among them the Chippewa tribes in the north, and the Dakota (Sioux) tribes in the south. Part of Minnesota was granted to the U.S. after the Second Treaty of Paris following the Revolutionary War, whereas the rest of the state (mainly regions west of the Mississippi) was added after the Louisiana Purchase in 1803. The region remained divided however with the eastern half forming part of the Northwest Territory, and the southern and western areas were incorporated into the Iowa Territory in 1838. Some ten years later the Territory of Minnesota was established, but included much of present day North and South Dakota, extending all the way to the Missouri River. These regions were cut off from Minnesota as it was admitted into the Union on May 11th 1858 as the 32nd state.
Mississippi Blessed with rich fertile soil in the Delta and Black Belt regions, Mississippi's landscape is relatively flat and varies slightly from east to west and from north to south. Generally, the western and southern regions of Mississippi, including the Gulf Coast area, are wetter and more humid. Its pre-European history was dominated by a Mississippian American Indian culture which flourished for hundreds of years, and who first met Hernando de Soto as he passed through the region in 1540. The Territory of Mississippi was organized in 1798, and was expanded several times through treaties with the American Indian tribes and land claimed from the Spanish. On December 10th, 1817, Mississippi became the 20th state admitted to the Union. Cotton began to be farmed intensively from the 1800's onward, underpinning the wealth and culture of Deep South plantation owners, though the cotton industry necessitated the need for hundreds of thousands of slaves. Mississippi became the second state in the Union to secede from the North and join the Confederacy on January 9th, 1861. After being readmitted to the Union in 1870, the state underwent a period known as the Jim Crow era, where segregation of Whites and Blacks remained the rule well into the 1960's.
Missouri On August 10th, 1821, the state of Missouri became the 24th state admitted to the Union. It was carved from the territory that took its name from the Missouri River, so named for the Native American tribe that occupied its banks. Formed as a result of the Missouri Compromise, it was intended to balance the power of Slave states and Free states in the federal government. Containing the confluence of the Missouri and Mississippi rivers, the state had become the supply route and launching point for the westward expansion of American settlers. Both the Santa Fe and Oregon trails began in Missouri as well as the Pony Express and Overland Butterfield Mail Route. Physically, Missouri is comprised of three main areas: the Northern Plains extending north of the Missouri river; the Ozark Plateau which begins just south of the river and extends southward to Arkansas; and the southeastern part of the state which includes the ‘Bootheel’, part of the fertile Mississippi Alluvial Plain.
Montana Dubbed 'Big Sky Country', Montana is the 4th largest state in Union in total land area, and is composed of vast rolling prairie land in the east and rugged Rocky Mountain peaks in the west. The Missouri is the state's most important river, which forms the region in central Montana known as the Missouri Breaks. Other major rivers include the Flathead and Yellowstone rivers, the latter being the longest undammed river in North America. Glacier National Park in the extreme north of the state is one of the most striking nature reserves in the world. The state is also home the largest population of American Bison. Cheyenne, Crow, and Blackfeet were just a few of the numerous Native Indian tribes that had settled in the area for over a thousand years. Spurred on by discovery of gold and copper in the region, the U.S. Government established the Territory of Montana on May 26th, 1864. The Territory was the scene of the Battle of the Little Bighorn in 1876, where General George Armstrong Custer made his last stand against an overwhelming force of Native Indian tribes led by Crazy Horse. Some 13 years later, Montana became the 41st state to be admitted to the Union.
Nebraska Nebraska’s landscape stretches from the arid Sand Hills in the west to the low rolling hills and fertile farmland along the Missouri River, which forms the eastern border with Iowa and Missouri as well as a small portion of the northern border with South Dakota. The Platte River cuts through the state, starting in the southwest corner and emptying into the Missouri near Omaha. Much of Nebraska’s geography can be accurately described as a vast prairie land of the Great Plains, though this hides much of the diversity in landscapes that partly explains its nickname ‘Where the West Begins.’ Nebraska is in many ways a bridge between fertile farmlands of the Midwest and semi-arid high steppe of the Rocky Mountain foothills. Nebraska’s name comes from a word in the language of the Oto tribe meaning ‘flat water.’ The name was first used in 1842 to reference the Platte River and was given to the territory upon its creation with the Kansas-Nebraska Act in 1854. From before the time the first wave of homesteaders made their way across the state in the 1860’s, Nebraska was the stage upon which many important characters in the history of the American West made an appearance: Explorers Lewis and Clarke and Native American heroes Crazy Horse and Red Cloud among them. The Mormon and Oregon Trails crossed this land. Nebraska achieved statehood shortly after the Civil War, on March 1st, 1867, so the question of Nebraska becoming a Free or Slave state was never put to the test.
Nevada Originally part of the Utah territory established by Congress in 1850, Nevada quickly boomed upon the discovery of gold and silver in the Comstock Lode, which lured thousands of miners and prospectors to the territory. In 1861, just as America descended into the Civil War, Nevada separated from the Utah territory and adopted its current name, derived from the Sierra Nevada mountain range. On October 31st, 1864, just days before the presidential election, Nevada became the 36th state in the Union. The reason for rushing this thinly populated and barren land into statehood was to help ensure Abraham Lincoln's reelection bid, as Nevada was at that time more connected to the industrialized north due to its silver lodes. Nicknamed 'The Silver State', Nevada is home to some of the largest tracts of U.S. federal land, a great majority of which is under the jurisdiction of the Bureau of Land Management. The interior of Nevada, with its high arid desert, marks some of the most desolate places in the U.S. Time-Life magazine once called U.S. State Highway 50 'the loneliest road in America'.
New Hampshire Located in the heart of New England and bordering three states and one Canadian Province, New Hampshire is a largely mountainous state with wooded valleys and pristine rivers and lakes. Mount Washington is the tallest peak in the Northeast and famous for its violent weather, where in 1934 the highest winds ever recorded on Earth were observed. The mountain is part of the White Mountains Range, which stretches across much of the central portion of the state. The southern portion of New Hampshire has lower elevation, and in the extreme southeast corner, a mere 18 miles of coastline. Originally settled by Europeans in 1623, New Hampshire suffered from frequent Indian raids, and in 1776, was the first colony to declare independence from Britain. It became the 9th state admitted to the Union on June 21st, 1788.
New Jersey Often called 'The Crossroads of the Revolution', New Jersey was the site of some of the most important battles during the American War for Independence, and scene of the famous crossing of the Delaware River by George Washington, on his way to engage Hessian troops at the 1st Battle of Trenton. On December 18th, 1787 New Jersey became the 3rd state to join to Union. Long before this however, the lands of New Jersey were first inhabited by Lenape American Indians, then the Dutch in the 1630's (under the name New Netherlands), and followed by the Swedish colony of New Sweden in what is now southern New Jersey. Britain officially took control of the region in 1664. New Jersey is a low-lying state and the fourth smallest in the U.S. The southern region of New Jersey is sparsely populated and dominated by swamplands. Notable geographic features in the state include the Delaware Water Gap, the New Jersey Palisades, the ecologically sensitive Meadowlands, and the Pine Barrens.
New Mexico New Mexico takes its name from the anglicized name ‘Neuvo Mexico,’ the name of the area given by the Spanish to the upper Rio Grand, the river which divides the state in two. Occupied for thousands of years by Native Americans, the area’s first European settlers were the Spanish who added it to their territory of New Spain. Later a province of Mexico, it became a state on January 6th, 1912. The Hispanic influence in the area continues to this day and contributes heavily to the state’s unique culture. Geographically, New Mexico is primarily high-desert and is probably best characterized by its moving panoramas, rose-colored deserts, arid mesa steppes, and heavily forested mountains. Notable natural attractions include Carlsbad Caverns National Park, Aztec Ruins National Monument, and White Sands National Monument. Large swaths of land in the southwestern part of the state are dedicated toward missile testing sites and airforce bases.
New York The geographical make-up of New York varies considerably from the shores of the Great Lakes Erie and Ontario to the Eastern Adirondack Mountains to the southern Hudson River Valley and the metropolis of New York City. Considering the size and importance of New York, it is often divided between upstate and downstate, the border generally being the northern stretches of the New York Metropolitan area. The Finger Lakes, Lake Oneida and Lake Champlain on the border of Vermont make up the largest freshwater reserves, while the Hudson River is arguably the most important river in the state. New York's long history of settlement began with Dutch fortifications along the Hudson River and on Manhattan Island in 1613. Later, the state was one of the original 13 colonies and was the 11th state to ratify the U.S. Constitution on July 26th, 1788. The city of New York continued to develop in the early years of the American Republic and with the opening of the Erie Canal in 1825, the city quickly surpassed both Boston and Philadelphia as the largest American city. Notwithstanding crisis and upheavals (including the New York Draft Riots during the Civil War and the Great Depression of the 1930's) New York eventually established itself as one of the most populous and important cities in the world. The rest of the state's fortunes, in particular the Hudson River Valley up to Albany and Troy, largely depended upon the success of New York City.
North Carolina North Carolina is a southern state bordering the Atlantic Ocean. Located in the west of the state are Great Smokey Mountains National Park and the Blue Ridge Range of the Appalachian Mountains. Further East, a vast expanse of rugged and gentle hills called the Piedmont Plateau cover approximately 40 percent of the state. Its coastal plain is flat fertile ground for the state’s agricultural interests and the Outer Banks located there encompass the two largest land-locked sounds in the entire country. Named to honor King Charles IX of France and then kings Charles I and II of England, North Carolina has long played an important role in the history of America. It was the site of the first English settlements in the new world in the late 16th century (both failed). It was also the first of the American Colonies to vote for independence from England. It finally ratified the U.S. Constitution on November 21st, 1789, entering the union as the 12th state. This occurred once its demands for a guarantee concerning the rights and privileges of the new nation’s citizens be included in the document were met. Thus, the Bill of Rights was born. During the U.S. Civil War, this state contributed more soldiers to the South than any other member of the Confederacy and its citizens suffered 25 percent of all casualties in that conflict.
North Dakota Formerly part of the Dakota Territory, North Dakota became a state on the same day South Dakota entered the Union, November 2nd, 1889. The geography of North Dakota varies widely from the fertile Red River Valley in the east to the butte-spotted and rugged Badlands of the west. The Missouri River cuts through the state and is a major source of freshwater and irrigation for the surrounding areas. The geographic center of North America is located in North Dakota, near the town of Rugby. The harsh weather of North Dakota includes fiercely cold winters, some of the windiest areas of the U.S., frequent thunderstorms and a rather active tornado season. Though the land was aggressively marketed for new settlement through the early twentieth century, geographic isolation and economic stagnation meant the population of the state changed little over the years (current population is roughly equal to the population of the state in 1920).
Ohio Spanning the border region between the East and the Midwest, Ohio's landscape ranges from the mountainous regions of the southwest to flat agricultural regions in the northeast. The Ohio River forms the southern border with West Virginia and Kentucky, and the shores Lake Erie, historically important to Northern Ohio's industry, form much of the northern border. Originally home to various Native Indian tribes, Ohio passed from the hands of the French to the British after the French and Indian War. The region of Ohio was known as 'Ohio Country' in the Northwest Territory, established in 1787. Ohio's population then grew rapidly and on March 1st, 1803, President Thomas Jefferson recognized Ohio as the 17th state admitted to the Union. Shortly afterward, Ohio developed rapidly, especially in terms of industry, as Cleveland emerged as a major industrial and manufacturing base. 6 U.S. Presidents are from Ohio, more than any state except Virginia.
Oklahoma The 46th state to ratify the U.S. Constitution, Oklahoma became a state in 1907. The diversity of the state’s geography and the presence of 55 distinct Native American tribes is the reason that the state’s slogan is ‘Native America.’ The name Oklahoma was created by Allen Wright, the Principle Chief of the Choctaw Nation, from two Choctaw words meaning ‘red person.’ Before it was a state Oklahoma was known as Indian Territory. The town of Tahlequah in the east was the last stop on the Trail of Tears for the Cherokee Nation. After the Civil War a renegotiation of the treaties held with the tribes occupying the region created the Unassigned Lands. In the late 1880’s the U.S. government held a number of ‘land runs’ which were essentially races to grab unoccupied land within the Territory. Individuals who did not abide by the rules of the contest and settled the land before the onset of the race were called ‘Sooners.’ It soon lost its negative connotation and is now used with pride by the citizens of the state. Oklahoma covers land ranging from the high plains and semi-arid regions of the west to oak savannah lands in the central portion. Further east, the heavily forested regions of the Quachita Mountains and the western portion of the Ozarks in the east stretch across a wide swath of land bordering Arkansas. Oklahoma City is the 3rd largest city in the U.S. by total area.
Oregon Geographically one of the most varied states in the U.S., Oregon is roughly divided by the Cascade Mountain range into the semi-arid desert and prairie regions of the east and the forested regions of the Pacific coastline. Buttressed between two mountain ranges, the Willamette Valley is one of the most fertile agricultural areas in the U.S. This region was also the destination point of the historic Oregon Trail, which brought thousands of settlers to the Northwest region. The Territory of Oregon was established in 1848, and on February 14th, 1859, Oregon became the 33rd state to be admitted to the Union. The construction of railroads in the 1880's led to a massive increase in population and industry, which exploited Oregon's significant timber reserves. The Columbia River forms the northern border of Oregon, and the Snake River defines the eastern border with Idaho. Other major river systems include the Deschutes and Willamette Rivers. Crater Lake, formed from in the cavity of an ancient volcano, is one of the deepest lakes in the world. The Harney Basin area of Eastern Oregon is a high desert region and one of the most desolate places in the U.S.
Pennsylvania Straddling the bridge between the Northeast and the South, as well as the East and the Midwest, Pennsylvania is at a geographic crossroads which defined much of its history and culture. The Appalachian Mountains cut through the center of the state, which itself is sparsely populated compared to the extreme eastern and western borders. This divide in the middle creates two distinct regions in Pennsylvania, as much of the river systems in the west flow to the Mississippi drainage system, whereas much of the eastern rivers flow into the Atlantic seaboard. In the extreme northwest, the state is bordered by Lake Erie. Major river systems include the Ohio, Delaware, Allegheny and Susquehanna rivers. Pennsylvania is one of the most historic states in the nation, with Philadelphia being home to the Declaration of Independence, the Articles of Confederation and the U.S. Constitution. Not long after Swedish and Dutch settlements in the area, Britain granted a land charter to the Quaker William Penn for the establishment of a colony founded on religious freedom. By the 1700's, a large wave of German immigrants began to settle in the region. On the 12th of December, 1787, Pennsylvania became the second state to join the Union. The state was also the site of the turning point in the Civil War, the Battle of Gettysburg, which was fought in the south-central part of the state near the town of Gettysburg.
Rhode Island Rhode Island is the smallest state in the Union and is sandwiched between Massachusetts and Connecticut in the New England region. Its flat landscape is composed of several islands and harbors. In fact, no point on Rhode Island is more than 30 miles from sea water. The eastern half of the state is dominated by the Narragansett Bay, which juts deep into the state. The western half of the state has a much larger land area but much lower population. There are over 30 islands in Narragansett Bay, the largest being Aquidneck Island. Most of the first settlers of Rhode Island came because of religious persecution, namely Roger Williams in 1636, and Anne Hutchinson in 1637. Early alliances were made between the powerful Narragansett tribe and the White settlers, but animosities eventually culminated into King Philip's War in 1675 and 76. Rhode Island was the first colony to declare independence from Britain on May 4th, 1776, but was the last to ratify the U.S. Constitution on May 29th, 1790, becoming the last of the original 13 colonies to enter the Union.
South Carolina South Carolina is a southern state bordering North Carolina, Georgia and the Atlantic Ocean. The western border with Georgia is formed by the Savannah River. The lower part of the state is mostly flat and known as the 'Coastal Plain'. Most of South Carolina's land is either excellent for agricultural purposes or swampland, a contrast determined by the quality of water drainage. The hills in the upper western portion of the state are the highest elevated areas, and also some of the most densely populated. First settled by the British in 1670, South Carolina split from North Carolina in 1729, and was one of the few states to immediately set up its own government in 1776 after declaring independence from Britain. On May 23rd, 1788 it became the 8th state to be admitted to the Union. On December 20th, 1860, South Carolina became the first state to secede from the Union, and less than four months later, the Civil War began at Fort Sumter, located on an island in Charleston Harbor. After the war, Reconstruction was particularly hard for South Carolina, as it battled populist movements and sought to rebuild its shattered economy.
South Dakota Situated at the crossroads between the farmlands of the Midwest and the more arid high steppe of the Rocky Mountain foothills, South Dakota's striking geography varies considerably from the sunflower fields of the eastern Prairie Coteau to the western ragged moonscape of the Black Hills. The Missouri River divides the state geographically, and widens considerably into the snaking Lake Oahe just north of capital Pierre. South Dakota had long been home and bison hunting ground for the Sioux (or Dakota) tribes by the time the first permanent American settlement was established at Fort Pierre in 1817. The number of white settlers increased dramatically when gold was discovered in the Black Hills in 1874. Despite fierce resistance by Sioux tribes in the area, led by Chief Crazy Horse and spiritual leader Sitting Bull, the American Indian population could not resist the flood of European settlers. The conflict culminated in the Wounded Knee Massacre, where some 150 unarmed Sioux - including women and children - were killed. Only a year earlier (November 2nd 1889), South Dakota and North Dakota had been admitted to the Union by President Benjamin Harrison.
Tennessee Tennessee is a landlocked Southern state which borders 8 states. The eastern half of the state is more mountainous, rising to the Cumberland Plateau, and further, along the border with North Carolina, the Great Smokey Mountains. The lower elevated eastern half of the state is dominated by rolling grass lands, with the extreme western border formed by the meandering Mississippi River. The Tennessee River is the most important in the state, and actually bisects the state twice by looping down into Alabama and turning back northwards. American Indians had inhabited the region of present day Tennessee for over 11,000 years. The most dominant tribes were the Cherokees in the eastern half, and the Choctaw and Chickasaw in the south-central and west. On June 1st, 1796, Tennessee became the 16th state admitted to the Union (coincidentally, it is also the 16th most populous state today). It was the last state to secede from the Union during the Civil War and the first state readmitted on July 24th 1866.
Texas Ranked 2nd in both population and size, Texas is a massive southern state stretching from El Paso in the extreme west to the metropolis of Houston and the cotton fields and historic plantations of Eastern Texas. From north to south, the state extends from the semi-arid terrain of the Texas Panhandle to the Gulf Coast region and the Rio Grande River that forms the border with Mexico. The geography of such a large state obviously varies dramatically, though generally speaking Texas is not an extremely mountainous state (the only debatable exception being The Basin and Range Province, which includes the Big Bend region). The climate tends to become drier and the terrain more rugged as one moves further west. Over the long history of Texas, it was at various times part or whole of six different countries (France, Spain, Mexico, Republic of Texas, the U.S., and the Confederate States of America). Numerous Native American tribes had long settled in the region, and prior to 1821, it was part of the New Spain colony. Texas was then incorporated into newly-independent Mexico, though the restless region could never be fully subdued by the Mexican Government. Slavery and regional rights were at the heart of the issue when Texas ultimately decided to secede from Mexico on March 2nd, 1836 (it was less than 30 years later when Texas decided to secede from the U.S. for similar reasons). After the economic collapse of the budding Texan Republic, the United States admitted Texas into the Union on December 29th, 1845 as the 28th state.
Utah Wild and rugged Utah has some striking diversity in its landscapes, with the mountainous central and eastern area receiving heavy snowfalls and the western half of the state being mostly arid high desert. The Great Salt Lake dominates the northern half of the state as one of the largest inland salt water lakes in the world. The Wasatch Range, just west of the largest concentrated population in Utah (the Salt Lake City-Provo area) is world famous for skiing and winter sports. Further to the south, much of Utah is federally protected as National Parks, the most notable being Zion, Arches and Bryce Canyon National Parks. Over 70% of Utah is federally owned and managed. Much of the state is consequently underpopulated, with the largest population of wild horses in the U.S. In the northwest of the state, the Great Salt Flats represent hundreds of miles of straight, flat landscape, which is why most of the world's land-speed records are broken here. American Indians had inhabited the region of Utah for several thousand years, and although a handful of explorers had ventured into the area, the first permanent White establishment was in the Salt Lake Valley in 1847 by Mormon settlers. The Utah Territory was created in 1850, and after several disputes with the U.S Government (most notably the 'Utah War') largely due to the practice of polygamy in the territory, Utah was finally admitted to the Union on January 4th, 1896.
Vermont The only New England state with no coastline on the Atlantic Ocean, Vermont is tucked in between New York to the west and New Hampshire to the east, a border defined by the Connecticut River. Along the northwestern border with New York and the Canadian province of Quebec sits Lake Champlain, the 6th largest body of freshwater in the U.S. The Green Mountains runs north and south through the state and define much of its geography. It is from this mountain range that Vermont gets its name (Green Mountains in French is Verts Monts). A largely mountainous state of pristine lakes, clean fresh water streams and untouched wilderness, some 77% of Vermont is comprised of forestland, along with large areas of meadow and swampy wetlands. The turn of the leaves in autumn is perhaps the most striking natural feature in the state, with bright red and gold hues on the sugar maple trees stretched across hundreds of miles of rolling landscape. Originally claimed by France in the 17th century, the first European settlement was Fort Sainte Anne in 1666. The first British settlement was Fort Dummer in 1724. Vermont the became much a battle ground between the two European powers, as they sought to position themselves strategically in the New World. There were military engagements in Vermont throughout the French and Indian War, and in 1759 Fort St. Frédéric was captured by the British. France's loss in the war gave control over to the British. On January 18th, 1777, the independent Vermont Republic was proclaimed. Later that same year, the British army invaded Vermont and the early Republic collapsed. The Battle of Bennington (August 16th, 1777) was a major turning point in the American Revolutionary War and served as a catalyst for French involvement and aid to the American revolutionaries. After the war, Vermont remained a sovereign entity for 14 years, until becoming the 14th state to join the Union on March 4th 1791.
Virginia The Commonwealth of Virginia is home to more U.S. Presidents (eight) than any other state, though only one in the twentieth century (Woodrow Wilson). One of the thirteen original colonies, Virginia was home to Jamestown, the first permanent settlement in the Americas by the British; Yorktown, the last battle of the American War for Independence; and more battles during the Civil War than any other state. It was during the latter war that northern counties of Virginia decided against seceding from the Union, a decision which was upheld by the Supreme Court, thus laying the groundwork for the state of West Virginia. Geographically, the Blue Ridge Mountains dissect Virginia from north to south. The fertile and historic Shenandoah Valley follows the spine of the Blue Ridge to the east and the Allegheny Mountains to the west. A narrow slice of land on the Delmarva Peninsula is composed of two Virginia counties and is known as the 'Eastern Shore of Virginia'.
Washington The geography of Washington is divided between the rainy west coast and the semi-arid sagebrush high plains in the east. The two areas are split by the Cascade Mountains, a relatively young (and still volcanically active) range which runs north-south through the state. Major stratovolcanos in this range include Mount Rainier, the highest peak in the Northwest, Mount St. Helens, which erupted in 1980 killing 57 people, and Mount Adams, the second highest peak in the Northwest. Arguably the most important river is the Columbia, which forms the Columbia River gorge area along the border with Oregon and eventually cuts up into the interior of the state. The Olympic Peninsula in the far western section of the state is home to eco-sensitive petrified forests, some of the rainiest places in the world, and the only rain forest in the continental United States. In early history, the region of Washington was home to various well-established American Indian tribes before being claimed by Spain. Settlement was opened for Americans and British in 1790, and after 1819, Spain ceded control of the region to the U.S. Disputed claims between Britain and the United States raged until the Treaty of Oregon was signed on June 15th, 1846, passing all control of the region to the U.S. The establishment of the Oregon Trail led to an influx of settlers to the region, and in 1853 the area was designated Washington Territory. On November 11th 1889, it became the 42nd state to join the Union.
West Virginia A landlocked and mountainous state in Appalachia, West Virginia is relatively isolated and straddles the regions of the Midwest, the Northeast and the South. The Ohio and Potomac rivers form part of the state's boundaries. Nearly every corner of the state is mountainous, thus developing a climate similar to that of the New England states. West Virginia enjoys rich biodiversity and scenic beauty, with New River Gorge National River a popular natural attraction. Harper's Ferry, a historic town at the confluence of the Potomac and Shenandoah rivers, was the site of a U.S. Armory which was the target for John Brown's famous raid in 1859. West Virginia was originally part of the state of Virginia until the outbreak of the Civil War, where residents in the West Virginian region overwhelmingly voted to stay with the Union. A break with Virginia then became inevitable, and on June 20th, 1863, it became the 35th state to join the nation.
Wisconsin Wisconsin is bordered by the St. Croix and Mississippi Rivers to the west, Lake Superior and the Upper Peninsula of Michigan to the north, Lake Michigan to the east, and Illinois to the south. The state is dotted with numerous freshwater lakes, rivers and streams, and its overall geography is largely one of rolling pasture lands, farms, and a well-developed network of small and large towns. In the northern half of the state, much of the region is sparsely populated and dominated by coniferous forest and a variety of wildlife. The small coastline on Lake Superior scatters outward to form the Apostle Islands, and the long coast line along Lake Michigan is pronounced by the Door Peninsula which extends upwards between the lake and Green Bay. Originally sighted by French explorers, Wisconsin was a part of the U.S. Northwest Territory before gaining its own territorial designation in 1836, and later, official statehood on May 29th, 1848. The political history of the state has often been one of paradoxical extremes, being one of the few states to have several Socialist mayors in the early 20th century, as well as being home to Joseph McCarthy, the fervently anti-Communist Senator who brought the age of McCarthyism to America.
Wyoming Large and sparsely populated, the landlocked state of Wyoming straddles the high prairie known as the Great Plains in the east, and the Rocky Mountains in the west. Major mountain ranges include the Wind River Range and the Teton Range. Yellowstone Lake and Jackson Lake are the largest freshwater reserves, while the Bighorn and North Platte rivers are important waterways. Numerous Native American tribes inhabited the region for several thousand years, and when exploration by Americans began in the early 1800's, they encountered Crow, Arapahoe, and Shoshone bands. Early White settlement was slow and the area became merely a transit point along the Oregon Trail. The construction of the Union Pacific Railroad in 1868 brought a more permanent population to the area. It was in the same year that the Territory of Wyoming was recognized. In 1869, Wyoming became the first state to extend partial suffrage to women, in an attempt to collect enough votes for statehood. In 1872, the striking natural beauty of the Yellowstone region became the world's first National Park. On July 10th, 1890, Wyoming was admitted as the 44th state in the Union.

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7th August 2010
Alaska and California both have higher elevations than Colorado, and alaska certainly has more 14,000 foot peaks as well.
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