Geography Trivia


Geography is where it's at

United States

The smallest state has the longest official name:  Rhode Island and Providence Plantations.

Hawaii is the only state with only natural borders (no straight lines).  Colorado, Utah, and Wyoming have only surveyed borders.

Three states were each once part of one of the original 13 colonies: Maine (Massachusetts), Delaware (Pennsylvania), and West Virginia (Virginia).

Florida is the flattest state. The highest elevation is Britton Hill, only 345 feet above sea level.

Tennessee adjoins eight other states.  Maine touches only one state, New Hampshire.  Alaska and Hawaii share borders with no other US states.

Detroit is the only city in the lower 48 states where you drive south to reach Canada.

At its nearest point, the United States is only two miles away from Russia.  The Little Diomede Island is part of Alaska while the Big Diomede Island belongs to Siberia.

Ten states were named for famous Europeans: Delaware, District of Columbia, Georgia, Louisiana, Maryland, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Virginia, West Virginia. Washington is the only state named for an American hero.


US Counties

Texas has 254 counties, more than any other state.  Delaware has the fewest, three.   Two states have no counties, at least technically.  Louisiana uses parishes instead.  Alaska has 16 boroughs and municipalities, though these political entities include only a small fraction of the state's landmass.

Geographically, the largest county in the US is California's San Bernardino County.  At 20,164 square miles it is bigger than nine states.

The smallest county in area is Hawaii's Kalawao County.  This former leper colony is only 13 square miles.  It has no state roads; the only land access is by mule trail.  It is closed to outsiders except by government permission.  It is also the second least populous county with about 100 residents.  Only Loving County in Texas has fewer people.

Some references lists Arlington, Virginia, as the smallest county in the US.  It is 26 square miles in size.  Arlington was ceded to the federal government by Virginia to form part of the 10 mile square District of Columbia, but it was returned to Virginia in 1847 as the federal government considered the land unnecessary.  Now it is home to the Pentagon, Arlington National Cemetary, and Washington National Airport.

Los Angeles County has the most people, more than 9 million.  New York City encompasses five counties.  New York County, more commonly known as Manhattan, has the greatest population density with more than 50,000 people per square mile.

Bullfrog County, Nevada, never had any residents.  The Nevada state legislature created the county in 1987 as a way for the state government to receive federal monies for storing nuclear wastes at Yucca Mountain.  It was a desolate 144 square mile enclave in the middle of Nye County.  After an unfavorable court ruling, Bullfrog County was dissolved in 1989.

Thirty-one states have a Washington County.  It's the most popular name for a county.


World

The Vatican City (formally, the Holy See) is the smallest country at 109 acres, or about 1/6 of a square mile.  Monaco is next with about 368 acres, a little over one half of a square mile.  It is the smallest member of the United Nations.

Italy completely surrounds two other countries:  the Vatican City and San Marino.

Perhaps the most redundant name of any place is Torpenhow Hill in Cumbria, England.  Each syllable of the name means "hill" in a different language, so its name could be translated as "Hill Hill Hill Hill".  According to tradition, as each new tribe settled in the area, they appended their own word for "hill" to the existing name.


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© 2003  Kermit Lancaster