Only State… Geography Facts

Caitlin Dempsey

Updated:

Here are some interesting geography facts that are unique to individual U.S. states and do not occur in any other state.

Alabama

Alabama is the only state with all major natural resources needed to make iron and steel.

Alaska

Alaska is only state that extends into the Arctic Circle, boasting the highest peak in North America, Mount McKinley.

Alaska is the only U.S. state that is both the northernmost and the westernmost.


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Alaska is the only state in the U.S. to have coastlines on two different oceans: the Arctic Ocean, and the Pacific Ocean.

Cropped Equal Earth map showing the location of the state of Alaska. Source: Equal Earth Political Map, public domain.
Map showing the state of Alaska. Source: Equal Earth Political Map, public domain.

Arizona

Arizona is the only U.S. state that contains a segment of all four North American deserts: the Great Basin, Sonoran, Chihuahuan, and Mojave deserts. This convergence of desert ecosystems does not occur in any other state.

Satellite image with the boundary of Saguaro National Park in Arizona outlined.
Saguaro National Park is located just west of the city of Tucson, Arizona. Image: Landsat 8, NASA.

Arkansas

Craters of Diamonds State Park in Arkansas is the only park in the United States where visitors can mine for diamonds and keep them.

California

California is the only state that hosts both the highest (Mount Whitney) and lowest (Death Valley) points in the contiguous United States.

California is the only state that has hosted both the Summer and Winter Olympics. The state has hosted three olympics: Summer Olympics in Los Angeles in 1932, Summer Olympics in Los Angeles in 1984, and the Winter Olympics in Squaw Valley in 1960.

Connecticut

Connecticut is the only state in the United States where counties have no independent government and are merely geographical regions on a map. Legislation passed in 1959 and 1961 removed the duties and functions of the state’s eight counties.

Colorado

Colorado is the only state in the U.S. where every part of its territory is above 1,000 meters (3,280 feet) in elevation.

Delaware

Delaware is the only state without any National Park System units such as a national park, or national monument.

Florida

Florida is the only state that has a tropical climate in parts of its territory and is the closest state to the equator in the continental U.S.

Florida is the only state in the continental United States where extensive shallow coral reef formations can be found near its coasts.

Georgia

Georgia is the only U.S. state that is home to the geographic region known as the Ridge-and-Valley Appalachians, where ridges and valleys run parallel to each other. This unique topographical feature, located in the northwestern part of the state, distinguishes Georgia from the other U.S. states.

Hawaii

Hawaii is the only state that is an archipelago, a chain of islands situated in the central Pacific Ocean. Consisting of 137 islands, including eight main islands, the Hawaiian archipelago spans over 1,500 miles. The formation of the Hawaiian Islands is attributed to volcanic activity, with several active volcanoes still present on the Big Island.

Hawaii is also the only U.S. state that does not share a land boundary with another state or country. As an archipelago, Hawaii is the only state entirely surrounded by an ocean, the Pacific Ocean.

Fact sheet with Landsat image for the state of Hawaii.

Idaho

Idaho has the only U.S. state seal designed by a woman, which was designed by Emma Edwards Green in 1891.

Illinois

Illinois is the only U.S. state that has a majority of its land covered by a specific type of soil, known as Drummer silty clay loam. It’s the state soil and represents the extensive prairie lands that once covered Illinois.

Categorized map with dark yellows, dark oranges, and dark greens to show historical grasslands in the United States.
Ecological provinces in the United States that historically contained tall, mixed, and short grass prairies (pre-European settlements). Map: Caitlin Dempsey with data from Ecoregion of the United States, USGS and USDA Forest Service.

Iowa

Iowa is the only state whose east and west borders are entirely formed by water (the Missouri and Mississippi Rivers).

Kansas

Kansas is the only state to have researchers scientifically prove that it’s “flatter than a pancake”. In a 2003 study by geographers at Texas State University and Arizona State University, a topographical analysis found that the flatness of the state is indeed greater in some areas than that of a pancake.

A field in Kansas with blooming sunflowers.
Kansas is home to very flat topography. Sunflowers are a ubiquitous sight in Kansas and were named the official state flower in 1903. Photo: Mark Vandever, USGS, public domain.

Kentucky

Kentucky is the only U.S. state with a cave system that extends longer than 400 miles. Kentucky has a unique geographical feature known as the Mammoth Cave System, which is the longest known cave system in the world. With more than 400 miles (640 kilometers) of explored passageways, this extensive cave system is located in the heart of Kentucky and is a World Heritage Site.

A yellowed map of Mammoth Cave from 1835.
A map of Mammoth Cave, the largest cave system in the United States. Map: 1835 via LOC.gov.

Louisiana

Louisiana is the only state in the U.S. with political subdivisions termed parishes, which are equivalent to counties.

Maine

Maine is the only state that shares its border with only one other U.S. state (New Hampshire) and has the easternmost point in the contiguous United States.

Maine is the only U.S. state with a one-syllable name.

Maryland

Maryland is the only state without a natural lake.

Michigan

Michigan is the only state that consists of two peninsulas, the Upper and Lower Peninsulas, separated by the Straits of Mackinac.

Michigan is the only state with a floating post office, the J.W. Westcott II.

Michigan is the only state with coastlines on four of the five Great Lakes—Michigan, Superior, Huron, and Erie— and has the longest freshwater coastline in the United States.

Shaded relief map showing the Great Lakes in blue and the surrounding areas in shades of green and yellow.
Michigan borders four of the five Great Lakes. Map: Caitlin Dempsey.

Montana

Montana is the only producer of palladium & platinum in the United States.  Palladium is a chemical element used for dental alloys and automobile catalytic converters. Platinum is also used for catalytic converters and is a favored metal for jewelry.   

South Carolina

South Carolina is the only state with a large-scale commercial tea plantation.

South Dakota

South Dakota is the only state that houses the geographic center of the entire U.S., near the town of Belle Fourche.

Map showing the locations of the U.S. geographic center of area, mean center of population, and median center of population, 2010 (U.S. Census Bureau).
Map showing the locations of the U.S. geographic center of area, mean center of population, and median center of population, 2010 (U.S. Census Bureau).

Tennessee

Tennessee is the only state that is bordered by eight other states, more than any other in the country.

Texas

Texas is the only state that was an independent nation, known as the Republic of Texas, before becoming part of the United States.

Vermont

Vermont is the only state without any buildings taller than 124 feet (38 meters).

Virginia

Virginia is the only state entirely within the area commonly defined as Appalachia, and it is almost entirely covered by mountainous terrain.

Washington

Washington is the only state named after a president, George Washingon who was the first president of the United States.

West Virginia

West Virginia is the only U.S. state that lies entirely within a mountain range.

West Virginia is the only state created by seceding from a Confederate state.

Fact sheet with Landsat image for the state of West Virginia.

Wisconsin

Wisconsin is the only state with an official state microbe, Lactococcus lactis, used in cheese making.

Wyoming

Wyoming is the only state in the U.S. with a population under 600,000 as of the 2020 census.

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About the author
Caitlin Dempsey
Caitlin Dempsey is the editor of Geography Realm and holds a master's degree in Geography from UCLA as well as a Master of Library and Information Science (MLIS) from SJSU.