Geography of the Midwestern United States

Instructor: Artem Cheprasov

Artem has a doctor of veterinary medicine degree.

The Midwestern United States isn't as famous as some other regions of this country, but it has a great deal of important geographical features and other components. All of these will be covered in this lesson.

The Midwestern United States

What do the Sears (now Willis) Tower, Al Capone, a large Polish community, Barack Obama, & O'Hare Airport have in common? They are all tied to the biggest city of the Midwestern United States: the city of Chicago, located in the state of Illinois. But Illinois isn't the only state comprising the Midwestern United States. Others include:

  • Indiana
  • Michigan
  • Ohio
  • Wisconsin
  • Iowa
  • Kansas
  • Minnesota
  • Missouri
  • Nebraska
  • North Dakota
  • South Dakota

This delineation, by the way, is based on the U.S. Census Bureau. Let's learn about some of this region's important geographical features and some other cool tidbits as well.

The Geography & Climate Of The Midwestern United States

Running largely north to south, one of the largest rivers in the world snakes right through the Midwestern U.S. That river, over 2,200 miles long, is the Mississippi. This river is important as a water supply, as a way of transporting goods, and as a place with a great deal of biodiversity.

Perhaps as, or more, famous as the Mississippi River are the Great Plains, essentially flat lands covered in prairie and grassland. They are perhaps best remembered thanks to Hollywood as the place where Native Americans and white settlers rode horses to slaughter huge buffalo (bison) herds.

Bison resting on the Great Plains.

As immense and utterly important to many Midwestern States, are the Great Lakes, especially Lake Superior, Michigan, Huron, and Erie. The Great Lakes contain 250 species of fish and support a $4 billion sport fishery industry. They also provide drinking water for 40 million people and ship 200 million tons of goods every year.

This image shows the city of Chicago, with the Sears Tower to the left and the shores of Lake Michigan on the right.

The climate of the Midwestern U.S. is largely temperate, one where all four seasons exist. However, summers can be very hot and humid in some parts, and winters can be very cold and full of blistery snow. This area of the country is also known for severe thunderstorms and even tornadoes.

Other Aspects Of Midwestern States

If you were to take a drive through the countryside of the Midwestern states, you'd drive past quite a bit of flat land that is either forested, prairie, or commercially managed for one industry or another, such as the dairy industry. In fact, Wisconsin is quite famous for its cheese. Other than a big dairy industry, the Midwest is also known for farming lots of crops. Some famous Midwestern crops you'd find being grown and harvested would be undoubtedly corn, soy, and wheat. Besides a number of farm fields, you'd also find many railways crisscrossing the Midwest, taking all sorts of goods from one side of the country to the other.

The Midwest is also home to big pharma, especially near the suburbs of Chicago. Chicago is also home to a large financial district, although not as immense as that of New York City. Chicago is far and away the largest city in the Midwestern United States. The city and metro area have roughly 10 million people. This accounts for more than 1/7th of the entire population of the Midwest, which has about 67 million people. Much of Chicago's population is made up of immigrants, especially a large Polish community and a well-known Chinatown neighborhood. Chicago is famous for its pizza, jazz, blues, and the Chicago Bulls and Bears.

The Midwest is home to many important and famous organizations and universities, including:

To unlock this lesson you must be a Member.
Create your account

Register to view this lesson

Are you a student or a teacher?

Unlock Your Education

See for yourself why 30 million people use

Become a member and start learning now.
Become a Member  Back
What teachers are saying about
Try it risk-free for 30 days

Earning College Credit

Did you know… We have over 200 college courses that prepare you to earn credit by exam that is accepted by over 1,500 colleges and universities. You can test out of the first two years of college and save thousands off your degree. Anyone can earn credit-by-exam regardless of age or education level.

To learn more, visit our Earning Credit Page

Transferring credit to the school of your choice

Not sure what college you want to attend yet? has thousands of articles about every imaginable degree, area of study and career path that can help you find the school that's right for you.

Create an account to start this course today
Try it risk-free for 30 days!
Create an account