The country consists of 50 states and one capital federal district. Two major mountain ranges dominate in the relief of the USA: the Cordillera and the Appalachians. In the western foothills of the South Appalachians (in the state of Kentucky), is located the longest cave in the world – Mammoth Cave – about 250 km long. Apart from mountains, the diverse relief of the USA has also vast plains and lowlands, picturesque valleys and canyons, and also deserts are present. The USA is extremely rich in natural resources – fossil fuels, big ore deposits, abundant waters, thick forests, fertile lands, vast pastures, unique natural landmarks attracting millions of tourists.
Until the 16th c. in the present lands of the USA used to live about 400 Indian tribes, who spoke over 200 languages. Today the country is an incredible mixture of races, nationalities and cultures. The North American bald eagle is the national symbol of the USA.
The Eastern states include 13 states and the Capital federal district, differentiated in two regions: New England (Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont, Massachusetts, Rhode Island and Connecticut) and the MidAtlantic states (New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Delaware, Maryland, the Capital federal district Columbia, Virginia and West Virginia).
The ocean shoreline of the Eastern states is long and low, heavily indented by small bays and peninsulas at places. The Atlantic Coastal Plain is located along the shoreline, and to the west are located the mountains from the Appalachian mountain range. Part of the thick forests of the Appalachians were destroyed in order to build cities and towns.
By the end of 17th c. the Eastern states were a British colony. In the struggle for independence the state of New York played a decisive role. Here took place the decisive battle of 1777, which changed the course of the war in favour of the colonies.
The American Constitution – the basic law of the country – was concocted in the city of Philadelphia (Pennsylvania) in 1787.
The government of the country is divided among the 50 states and the central federal government. Each state has its own constitution, legislative conventions, state court and a governor, elected by the population of the state. The USA is a highly centralised country, with transparent autonomy of the states.
Washington is the capital of the country, located in District Columbia. The Congress meets in the building of the Capitol. It was built in 1793 on a high hill in the traditions of the ancient Roman times and is the tallest building in the American capital. A remarkable building in Washington is Lincoln’s Memorial. In its centre is erected an imposing statue of Abraham Lincoln. The building of the White House in Washington was designed by the American architect of Irish origin James Hoban in 1792 and since then it has been the President’s residence. The name of the state New England is connected with the first British settlers. Here are located some of the most renowned higher education institutes like the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, the Yale University in Connecticut, etc.
The capital city of the state of New York is New York. Founded in 1626, until 18th c. New York remained a settlement of skin traders and hunters. Today the city is USA’s megalopolis. The territory of the gigantic city, which is also called the City of the Towers, includes also 50 islands, the largest of which is Manhattan. The different parts of the cities are connected via 60 bridges.
The majestic Statue of Liberty, 93.5 m tall, has become a symbol of the USA. Erected on a small island in the New York harbour, it is a gift from the French people to commemorate the centennial of the USA declaration of independence. It was designed by the great sculptor Frederic Bartholdi and constructed by Alexandre Eiffel, who also built the celebrated tower in Paris.
New York is a world financial and business hub. The largest world market for trade in securities – the New York Stock Exchange, became operational in Wall Street in Manhattan in 1817.
The Midwest and the region around the Great Lakes are located in the central northern part of the USA.
The Midwest spreads from North to South between the Rocky Mountains and the Mississippi. It includes seven states – Montana, North and South Dakota, Wyoming, Nebraska, Colorado and Kansas.
The Midwest, also known as the Great Plains, was the vastest grassy region in the world before the settlement of the Europeans. Large bison herds roamed there. After a brief decline the fertile lands and the natural grazing grounds have been restored to a large extent. Almost 1/5 of the harvested wheat in the USA is grown in the state of Kansas.
In the granite rocks of Mount Rushmore in South Dakota are chiseled the faces of the four great presidents of the USA – Washington, Jefferson, Roosevelt and Lincoln. The height of the bas-relief is 18 m.
Also remarkable is the Badlands national park in South Dakota. Here the running water and the winds have shaped picturesque rock massifs and hills for millions of years.
The Missouri river springs from the Rocky Mountains and flows into the longest river in the USA – the Mississippi – north of the city of St. Lewis. The two rivers together constitute the longest river in North America. Big river ships and barges sail it to transport coal, oil products, sand, rubble, iron ore, etc.
The Great Lakes are tectonic formations that have been further shaped under the pressure of the continental glacier from the period of the Pleistocene glaciation. As a result the biggest lake-chain system on Earth formed. The Great Lakes consist of 5 large lakes: Lake Superior, Lake Michigan, Lake Huron, Lake Erie and Lake Ontario, as well as one small lake – Lake St. Clair. They represent a huge landlocked basin, which influences the climate significantly. On the territory around the Great Lakes is concentrated 1/5 of the USA population. The states on the Great Lakes are: Minnesota, Michigan, Wisconsin, Iowa, Missouri, Illinois, Indiana, Ohio, and Kentucky. The main branches of the heavy industry are concentrated here – ferrous metallurgy, car manufacturing, locomotive manufacturing, plant machinery production, chemical industry, etc.
In the city of St. Louis, Missouri, rises the 192-metre tall Gateway entrance arch, which symbolizes the historic location of the city.
Chicago, Illinois, is the third largest city in the USA after New York and Los Angeles. It is an important hub for the air, water and road transport.
The Southern states include New Mexico, Oklahoma, Arkansas, Tennessee, Florida, Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, Georgia, South and North Carolina.
Plain relief dominates in the Southern states. The vast Mississippi plain is located here, which is one of the most fertile on the continent. The relief in New Mexico is mostly mountainous. Here is the Southern inaccessible chain of the Rocky Mountains. A typical phenomenon for the states by the Gulf of Mexico are the frequent destructive storms – tornados. Cotton, tobacco, rice and sugar cane were the main crops grown in the Southern states by the first European settlers. Because of the need for working hands, Negroes were brought forcefully to North America from Africa and sold on the slave markets. In 1790 the number of African salves increased and reached 1/3 of the Southern states population. The hard line of the Northern states against slavery led to the separation of the USA. In 1860-1861 11 Southern states, supporters of the slavery, separated and created the Confederate States of America. This set the beginning of the Civil War in the USA of 1861-1865 between the North and the South. The Southern states lost the war and their economy declined. However, through the reorientation to a multi-branch development of the agriculture and the industry, the economy stabilised. Cotton, soy, peanuts, etc. were grown. The chemical industry was developed on the basis of rich oil fields. Owing to the American military bases and these of NASA in the entire Southern region, machine building and power engineering quickly developed. The state of Florida is visited by millions of tourists from the USA and abroad because of the beautiful beach resorts and natural landmarks.
The US West consists of seven states: Washington, Idaho, Oregon, California, Nevada, Utah and Arizona. The most diverse is the relief of California – the largest Western state. It is also the most populated state in the USA with almost 34 mln population.
In California is located one of the largest hi-tech regions in the world, known as the Silicon Valley. This is a big narrow strip of land with a length of over 40 km, where the offices, research divisions and the production facilities of a number of leading computer companies are located. California is the leading producer of foods. The biggest wine producing company in the USA has established its seat in the state – “Ernest Gallo”, whose daily production exceeds 2 mln bottles. More than 200 sorts of agricultural crops are grown here due to the favourable soils and climate.
San Fransisco and Los Angeles are the largest cities in California. One of the landmarks in San Fransisco is the Golden Gate suspension bridge, inaugurated in 1937. it is suspended on two metal ropes with diameter of 94 cm, which are fastened to two supporting pillars – 227-metre high towers. For les than a century Los Angeles grew from a 50-thousand town into an enormous megalopolis. In the beautiful suburbia of the city, 30 km from the ocean shore, is located Hollywood – the world famous centre of the American film industry.
The Organ Pipe Cactus national park in Arizona is one of the numerous national parks in which parts of the Sonora desert are preserved. The Grand Canyon in the same state is dug out by the Colorado River in the thick horizontal rock layers and is one of the most famous geological landmarks in the world.
The Golden Eagle can be seen in the entire Pacific Ocean shoreline of USA and Mexico, where it has become a national symbol. Its wingspan reaches 2.3 m.
Alaska is the largest state in the USA. In 1867 the USA bought this land from Russia. It is surrounded by water basins and its only land border is with Canada to the east. The state also includes the Aleutian Islands, the Kodiak Island, the St. Lawrence Island – in the Bering Sea, as well as other smaller off-shore islands. The relief is mountainous. Alaska is the coldest state in the USA – about 1/3 of its area is located in the Polar region of the Arctic. Approximately 30 thousand years ago the Bering Strait was frozen in ice and the first settlers from Asia to North America came upon it. Despite the harsh conditions Alaska is abundant in natural resources – ores and minerals (oil, natural gas, black coal, gold, platinum, and tungsten), water, thick forests, diverse wildlife.
Alaska is the sanctuary of the biggest population of the gray wolf in the world. Mount McKinley (6,194 m) is the highest peak in North America. The longest and deepest of the rivers is the Yukon. In winter it freezes for about 7 months and navigation is suspended.
The TransAlaskan Oil Pipeline, 1,287 km long, was built in the 70s of 20th c. It transports crude oil from the northern shoreline of Alaska southwards to the town of Valdez on the southern Pacific coastline.
In the recent years Alaska has been attracting tourists from all over the world with its harsh nature and numerous parks populated by diverse wildlife.
The Hawaii archipelago became USA’s 50th state in 1959. It represents a long island arch (3,800 km) in the northern part of the Pacific Ocean. It is comprised of 132 islands. Most of the small islands are coral atolls, and the larger islands are the tops of enormous underwater volcanoes, with a height of over 9 km from the ocean bottom, which protrude above the water. Mauna Loa (4,169 m) – the Earth’s largest active volcano, is located on the Hawaii Island.
The climate on the islands is hot – with abundant precipitation. The larger part of them is covered with tropical vegetation. On the Oahu Island, which is smaller than the Hawaii, live 2/3 of the population of the entire archipelago. The most populated city – Honolulu, is located here, which is also the capital of the state. The lovely weather, sandy beaches and excellent surfing conditions in the water of the Pacific Ocean attract millions of tourists from all over the world to the Hawaii islands.