23 U.S. Geography Facts You Didn’t Learn in School
Do you think you know everything about the good ol’ U.S. of A.? These fascinating U.S. geography facts are guaranteed to blow your mind.
The United States is home to the world’s shortest river
Go ahead and name a few American rivers. The Mississippi, the Colorado, and the Rio Grande might be the first to come to mind. While these famous waterways get a lot of fanfare, many forget about little Roe River in Montana. Roe only flows for about 200 feet, making it the shortest river in the world. Learn more United States trivia your teacher never taught you.
Two U.S. states do not share borders with any other U.S. state
They are (you guessed it!) Hawaii and Alaska. On the flip side, two other states share borders with eight states each, the most in the entire country. Missouri borders Iowa, Illinois, Kentucky, Tennessee, Arkansas, Oklahoma, Kansas, and Nebraska. Meanwhile, Tennessee borders Kentucky, Virginia, North Carolina, Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi, Arkansas, and Missouri.
The western United States used to have enormous lakes
During a period called the “Last Glacial Maximum” over 20,000 years ago, the states of Nevada, Utah, Oregon, and California contained bodies of water so huge they rivaled the Great Lakes. Over time, the giant lakes shrank as global temperatures began to rise until they eventually disappeared altogether. Here are 50 more astonishing facts you never knew about all 50 states.
A piece of Africa is underneath the United States
You might recall that long ago, a supercontinent called Pangaea broke apart to form the seven continents as we know them today. Now, 250 million years later, geologists have discovered a chunk of Africa that stuck around in North America. It’s located near Alabama, just off the coast of the southeastern states.
The United States borders three oceans—not just two
It is common knowledge that the United States shares a coastline with the Atlantic and the Pacific Oceans. What few realize, though, is the country also touches the Arctic Ocean along Alaska’s northern border. See if you can solve these 15 stumpers from the National Geographic Bee.
The four largest U.S. cities are in Alaska
When you think of big cities, you probably think of bustling metropolises like New York, Chicago, and L.A. While those cities might be some of the most highly populated, they aren’t the biggest in terms of area. All of the four most sprawling cities are in Alaska: Sitka, Juneau, Wrangell, and Anchorage.
Only one U.S. state grows coffee
Sorry, local foodies, but most of your beans will have to come from overseas. The only place you’ll find coffee beans growing in the United States (barring Puerto Rico) is Hawaii. And even more surprisingly, the pineapples that made Hawaii famous were originally imported there from South America, and Florida used to be the primary U.S. pineapple state.
America’s first capital wasn’t Washington, D.C.
And nope, it wasn’t Philadelphia either. When the U.S. Constitution was ratified, the country’s capital was New York City, where it stayed for a year before moving to Philly, then D.C.
Los Angeles used to have a much longer name
Historians dispute what the first settlers called the city, but they can at least agree it was longer than “L.A.” According to the County of Los Angeles, it was first known as El Pueblo de la Reyna de Los Angeles but eventually shortened because, well, that was quite the mouthful. You won’t want to miss how every U.S. state got its name.
Only one state is “triply landlocked”
A landlocked state doesn’t touch an ocean, gulf, or bay; a doubly landlocked state means you’d need to travel through two other states (or a state and a Canadian province) to get to one of those bodies of water. The only state that’s triply landlocked—is three states/provinces away from the ocean on every side—is Nebraska.