State of the States
Evanston RoundTable, Dec. 29, 2021
Think you know your U.S. geography? Current on your cities? Confident of your counties? Up to speed on your states? Well, maybe. In the spirit of advancing our knowledge while passing the time during the holiday season and our long COVID confinement, I propose a quiz on American states. Sure, you know there are 50, and maybe you can name them all and even their capitals. But do you know which state shares the most borders with other states or which have the longest coastlines?
Let’s just see how much you know, Smarty Pants! Try guessing the answers to the following questions. Correct answers follow at the end. There’s a total of 80 points. Any score 70 or over is State of the Art!
And hold it there, buster—no peeking below or at a map.
- Which states lie on the west coast? (Hint: if you name three, you missed one!)
- Which state of the continental 48 states contains the geographic center of the country?
- How many and which states touch on the Gulf coast?
- Which are the lowest-lying states as measured by 1) the lowest low point, 2) the lowest high point and 3) the lowest average elevation?
- How many and which states lie on the east coast?
- Roughly what percent of Americans live in the east coast states? The west coast states?
- Which state capitals are on the Mississippi River?
- Which state has the tallest building?
- What was the last colony to become a state? (Hint: it’s also the smallest state in size.)
- How many and which states share a border with Canada?
- Which state shares the most borders with other states?
- Which two states have the longest coastlines?
- In what state is America’s first state park?
- Bonus question for big point totals! Looking at a U.S. map (but not now!), you may have noticed that certain states in the middle and western part of the country seem to have been stacked on top of each other, like Lego pieces. Not counting the west coast states (too irregular), name the four columns of states in question.
- California, Oregon, Washington and Alaska. For census purposes Hawaii counts as a west coast state too, but since it’s 2,500 miles away from the actual coast, not on this quiz. (One point each for a possible total of four points.)
- Kansas. The exact “Geographic Center” is located about two miles northwest of Lebanon, Kansas, and 12 miles south of the Nebraska border. (One point.)
- There are five: Florida, Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana and Texas. (One point for knowing how many and half a point each for each correct answer for a possible total of 3½ points.)
- California has the lowest elevation, Badwater Basin in Death Valley, 279 feet below sea level. Florida has the lowest high point, Britton Hill, 345 feet above sea level. Delaware has the lowest average elevation at 60 feet. (Two points for each right answer, for a possible total of six points.)
- Fourteen states line the east coast. From south to north they are: Florida, Georgia, South Carolina, North Carolina, Virginia, Maryland, Delaware, New Jersey, New York, Connecticut, Rhode Island, Massachusetts, New Hampshire and Maine. (Two points for knowing how many, and half a point for every right answer, for a possible total of nine points.)
- The U.S. population at the 2020 census was 331.4 million. The east coast states had a population total of 107.5 million people for 32.4% and the west coast had 52.1 million people for 15.7%. This was a tough one so answers within four percentage points above or below count as correct. (Four points for each correct answer for a total of eight points.)
- Minnesota (St. Paul) and Louisiana (New Orleans). (Three points for each correct answer for a possible total of six.)
- New York’s One World Trade Center, with a total height of 1,776 feet. Chicago’s Willis Tower is third at 1,451 feet. Interestingly, the 13 tallest buildings in the U.S. are all located in New York City and Chicago. (One point.)
- Rhode Island. (One point.)
- Thirteen states share a land or water border with Canada. They are (from west to east) Alaska, Washington, Idaho, Montana, North Dakota, Minnesota, Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania, New York, Vermont, New Hampshire and Maine. According to Wikipedia, “Indiana, Illinois and Wisconsin do not share a direct geographic border with Canada. They do, however, possess customs facilities due to their place along the Great Lakes, which leads to the Canadian border.”
As a point of curiosity, Ohio and Pennsylvania’s Canadian borders are maritime, not land: they both share Lake Erie with Canada. I’m wondering if that’s not misleading, however, as if Illinois can claim to border Michigan because they’re both on Lake Michigan. But if you Google the question, the answer always comes up 13. So who am I to argue? (Three points for knowing the total and half a point for each correct answer for a possible total of 9½.)
- Tennessee and Missouri both touch eight other states. Tennessee shares a border with Kentucky, Virginia, North Carolina, Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi, Arkansas and Missouri. Missouri shares a border with Iowa, Illinois, Kentucky, Arkansas, Oklahoma, Kansas, Nebraska and, of course, Tennessee. (Three points for each state, i.e. Tennessee and Missouri, for a possible total of six.)
- Alaska with 6,640 miles and Florida with 1,350. (Two points each for a possible total of four.)
- New York: Niagara Falls State Park, established in 1885. Nice try if you guessed Wyoming for Yellowstone, but that was the first national park. (Three points.)
- From east to west and south to north: Louisiana, Arkansas, Missouri, Iowa and Minnesota; Texas, Oklahoma, Kansas, Nebraska, South Dakota and North Dakota; New Mexico, Colorado, Wyoming and Montana; and Arizona, Utah and Idaho. (One point for each state for a possible total of 18.)
Amassing a lot of points is cool, and winning brings bragging rights, but the real point is to enlighten yourself. Get a map of the U.S. and challenge the folks around to quiz each other. It’s fun and educational.
Next up, some time in 2022: U.S. cities!
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