The Continental United States, from Life in the USA: The Complete Guide for Immigrants and Americans

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Life in the USA
Land, History and Language
The American Land

The Continental United States
The Continental United States (the 48 states other than Alaska and Hawaii) has several major topographical regions, and covers four time zones: Eastern, Central, Mountain and Pacific.

The Atlantic coast varies from flat barrier reefs to hilly coastline. The northeastern coast functions as a vast megalopolis with cities like Washington DC, Baltimore, Philadelphia, New York, Boston and many others. The southeast has growing cities like Charlotte, Atlanta, and Miami.

The Appalachian Mountains begin fairly close to the Atlantic coast, stretching north-south from Maine to north Georgia. Within the Appalachian Mountain chain are smaller mountain chains, such as the Adirondacks and Catskills in New York, the Alleghenies in Pennsylvania and the Smokies in Tennessee and North Carolina.

West of the Appalachians in the center of the continent, the land flattens out. The Mississippi River with its tributaries the Ohio and Missouri drains this vast central region into the Gulf of Mexico. The Great Lakes to the north support industrial cities like Cleveland, Chicago, Detroit and Buffalo. The Mississippi itself showcases the great cities of Minneapolis/St. Paul, St. Louis, Memphis and New Orleans. Kansas City, Missouri is the great trading city of the center of the continent.

In the southern plains, Texas takes up a large land mass and includes the great cities of Houston, Dallas and San Antonio. North of Texas, Oklahoma, Kansas, Nebraska and the Dakotas form the Great Plains, the nation's grain-growing heartland.

The southwest encompasses the largely arid states of New Mexico, Arizona and Nevada, with cities like Albuquerque, Phoenix, Tucson and the ever-growing Las Vegas. North of this area, the great Rocky Mountain city is Denver, Colorado; another is Salt Lake City, Utah. States like Wyoming, Montana and Idaho are also part of the Intermountain West.

On the far west coast, California, with its great cities of Los Angeles, San Diego, San Jose and San Francisco, exists almost as a nation in itself. The Pacific Northwestern states of Washington and Oregon with their cities of Seattle and Portland have their own unique heritage.


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