Geography of the United States of America

Geography of the United States of America

One of the largest countries in the Western Hemisphere, there are 48 states on the mainland plus Alaska and Hawaii. There are also several US territories in the Caribbean and Pacific Ocean. Geographically, the USA includes continental USA, the Virgin Islands of the US, Guam, Puerto Rico, Hawaii, and Alaska.

The USA's neighbours include Canada and Mexico. It also has a water border between the Bahamas, Cuba, and Russia. It is also bound by the Atlantic Ocean, Gulf of Mexico, Pacific Ocean, Bering Strait, and the Arctic Ocean.


There are 8 distinct geographical divisions in the United States of America. Many of these are composed of smaller sub-divisions, however. These 8 main physiographic divisions are:

  • Atlantic Plain – coastal region of east and south USA which includes the Gulf Coast, Atlantic Coast, and continental shelf.
  • Appalachian Highlands – includes the Appalachian Mountains, Watchung Mountains, Adirondacks, and New England which originally was home to the Great Eastern Forest
  • Interior Highlands – an interior region of the mainland. The main geographical feature is the Ozark Plateau
  • Interior Plains – also an interior region of the mainland, it includes the Great Plains
  • Intermontane Plateaus - includes the Colorado Plateau, Columbia Plateau, plus the Basin and Range Province. The Intermontane Plateaus are a system of basins, ranges, gorges, and plateaus between the Pacific Mountain and Rocky Mountain systems. This area includes the Great Basin, Death Valley, and the Grand Canyon
  • Laurentian Upland – is around the Great Lakes area
  • Pacific Mountain System – coastal mountain ranges near the Pacific Ocean
  • Rocky Mountain System

Continental USA is also known as contiguous USA. There is diverse topography with rivers and mountains. The great mountains of the USA include the Appalachians, Ouachita and Ozark Mountains, and the Rocky Mountains. There are 5 Great Lakes which form part of the border with Canada. The main rivers and tributaries include the Mississippi River, Tennessee River, and the Ohio River.

Other than mountains, there are plains and deserts. The Great Plains are in-between the Mississippi River and the Rocky mountains. Most of the USA's agricultural produce is grown in this region. Other flatter areas include the Great Basin which has salt flats, smaller mountain ranges, and drainage basins.

Deserts are found in the southwest. Some of these arid regions are spectacular and have been made into national parks, such as the Grand Canyon, Mesa Verde National Park, Bryce Canyon, and Arches.

The tallest point in continental USA is Mount Whitney which has an altitude of 14,505 ft. This mountain is located in California and is actually just less than 85 miles away from Death Valley National Park which is one of the lowest points of the USA at 282 feet below sea level. Many of the national parks have spectacular scenery marked by major formations such as Yosemite, Sierra Nevada, and Mount Rainier.

Alaska is home to some of the most amazing scenery in the country. As it is a bit off the main tourist trail, some of this dramatic scenery is untapped by tourists. It is also home to the highest point in the USA which is Mount McKinley which has an altitude of over 20,320 feet. Hawaii is an archipelago of volcanic islands which are a popular tourist attraction.

Overall the USA has some fantastic geographical landmarks which create picturesque scenery perfect for that perfect holiday photograph.