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Prominent Places in the U.S.

Instructor: David Wood

David has taught Honors Physics, AP Physics, IB Physics and general science courses. He has a Masters in Education, and a Bachelors in Physics.

Learn about the most prominent places in the United States, including both natural and human places. In this lesson, you'll discover important natural places like the Grand Canyon and human places like New York City.

Geography of the United States

If you were going on a road trip across the United States, where would you go? It could be pretty hard to decide. The United States is one of the most beautiful and interesting countries on Earth. It has gigantic mountains, majestic valleys, vast plains, enormous lakes, and towering skyscrapers.

When people think of the geography of an area, they tend to think about physical things. They think about mountains, valleys, coasts, and other natural features. But geography is about all aspects of the land on which we live, including human features like cities. Geography is the study of the features of the Earth's surface and atmosphere, including how they are affected by human activities, and how humans are in return affected by the landscape.

Let's explore a few of the most significant features of the geography of the United States, both natural and human.

Prominent Natural Places

The natural landscape of the United States is best described in superlatives. The tallest mountains are really tall. The largest lakes are really large. And the longest river is really long.

The tallest mountains in the United States are almost all in Alaska. The tallest is Denali (formerly known as Mount McKinley) and is over 6000 meters tall. But while all of the top 10 tallest mountains in the United States are in Alaska, the United States is probably most famous for the Rocky Mountains. These mountains might not be as tall, but the mountain range is long. It's like the spiny backbone of the western United States, continuing the Andes range in South America.

The longest river in the United States is the Missouri at 2341 miles, though the Mississippi is a close second. The Missouri begins in the Rocky Mountains of Montana, and eventually feeds into the Mississippi near St. Louis. The Mississippi runs from the Great Lakes to the Gulf of Mexico.

The United States is also home to the Great Lakes, which are five freshwater lakes in the northern United States, on the border with Canada. Together they contain 21% of the world's fresh water, and Lake Superior is the second largest lake in the world.

The Great Lakes
The Great Lakes

The United States has many other natural features from the Great Smoky Mountains to Yellowstone to Niagara Falls. But the natural feature that is most prominent in the minds of people around the world is probably the Grand Canyon. The Grand Canyon is a steep-sided canyon that follows the path of the Colorado River in Arizona. It's 277 miles long and as much as 18 miles wide and over a mile deep. There you can find rocks from many millions of years ago, and hike down into a huge and dramatic landscape.

The Grand Canyon
The Grand Canyon

Prominent Human Places

The United States is home to about 319 million people as of 2014. While this is a small number compared to India and China, it's still a lot of people. You can't have 319 million people roaming the country and not affect the landscape. Most significant of these effects are cities and roads.

The most populated city in the United States is New York City, with an estimated 8.5 million people as of 2014. Called the 'Big Apple', or 'the city that never sleeps', it is by far the most famous American city worldwide. It's most famously home to the New York Stock Exchange, the Empire State Building, and the Statue of Liberty.

New York City
New York

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