American Vistas

As Americans celebrate Independence Day this weekend, it’s a good time to ponder and admire the diverse habitats and picturesque vistas all contained in this one large country.

The western half of the country is dominated by the Rocky Mountains–the largest mountain system in North America–and the Pacific Ocean.

The west has far more tectonic plates at work underground than in the east, creating more rugged mountains and geologic features. West coast beaches in general tend to have more craggy rocks and chilly water currents.

Yellowstone National Park in Wyoming, America’s first national park, has over half of the world’s geysers and hydrothermal features.

The west is home to expansive deserts, too. Arid regions with minimal precipitation and unique landscapes.

Much of the country’s central section, the Midwest, is flat. Once a land of vast prairies, it now hosts over 127 million acres of agriculture and has some of the richest soil in the world.

Some U.S. prairies still exist, like this one in Texas.

Bisecting the near-center of the country is the Mississippi River, the second largest river in the nation (second to the Missouri). It drains all or parts of 31 states before emptying into the Gulf of Mexico.

The Gulf of Mexico, another of our nation’s coasts, is one of humid subtropical climate bordering five states.

America’s Great Lakes, in the center of the country and eastward, form the largest group of freshwater lakes on earth. They were formed via glacial activity.

All of the Great Lakes are huge, this is just a small section of Lake Michigan in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.

The eastern half of the country is dominated by the Appalachian Mountains and the Atlantic Ocean’s coast and coastal plain. Mountains on this side of the country are older and not as high as in the west. Warmer waters and long stretches of white sand beaches enrich the eastern seaboard.

In addition to the 48 contiguous states, America also has five major island territories; a tropical island state, Hawaii; and Alaska, our largest state, in northern, arctic regions.

Alaska is the state with the most islands, 171, and the country’s tallest mountain, Denali, with a peak reaching 20,310 feet (6,190 m.).

Lots of rivers in this country too — over 250,000.

Link: Map and List of U.S. Rivers

The Columbia River, pictured below, has the largest discharge into the Pacific Ocean in North or South America.

Wetlands in the U.S. are critical habitats for improved water quality, erosion control and flood protection to name a few. They are found in every state, but there are more in the east where glaciation created an abundance of aquatic habitat. The largest wetland system in the U.S. is in Florida, the Everglades.

This is the Horicon Marsh in Wisconsin, below. I was born in this region and visiting America’s marshes and swamps is always like going home to me.

Most of our eastern nation’s southern states fall into the humid subtropical climate zones, where warmer temperatures, bayous and swamps can be found.

Cities occupy much of our country. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, as of 2020 the United States has over 300 cities/towns with populations over 100,000.

It is no wonder that Americans like to flock to our 423 nationally protected parks, monuments and preserves for recreation. Our nation maintains more than 85 million acres of parks in all 50 states. Of those, there are 63 classified National Parks.

While many of America’s cities in the west are lovely…

…the cities in the east boast more national history.

The city where our Declaration of Independence was signed is Philadelphia. It served as the nation’s capital for one decade in the 1790s.

Today, Washington, D.C. is the capital city and federal district of the United States.

This week, the 2020 Census reflects a current U.S. population of 334,861,117.

Our country and its peoples have come a long way since the early days. So many different people and cultures have built this country, called it home.

We all have a lot to celebrate.

Happy Fourth!

Written by Jet Eliot.

Photos by Athena Alexander.

82 thoughts on “American Vistas

  1. In my head, I know that we live in an ecologically diverse nation, but seeing photos of all these places in the same post really emphasizes just how much diversity there is! It’s pretty incredible.

    • I really enjoyed your comment, Diana. You are a savvy and adventurous traveler of the U.S. and your mention of the diversity emphasizes my point in posting those many different regions. It is incredible, I agree, how different and vast our country is. Thank you.

  2. I greatly enjoyed your photographic paean to the diverse beauty of our nation, Jet. I’ve been all over the 48 continuous states and hope to keep traveling through them for many more years. Although most people are in cities, there are vast expanses without many people, for which I am profoundly thankful. πŸ™‚ Happy Independence Day weekend!!

    • I know you have avidly travelled the U.S., Janet, but I was delighted to hear you’ve been in all of the contiguous states. Thanks for your lovely comment today, much appreciated. And Happy Fourth to you, too!

  3. You sure do get around!!! ☺️

    HAPPY FOURTH to you and Athena! πŸŽ‰πŸ—½πŸ’₯β˜„οΈ
    (couldn’t find a fireworks emoji!) πŸ’ž

  4. Well done, Jet! You did a good job of capturing the diversity and glory of our country. Proud to have shared so much of it with you and Athena!!!

    • Thank you, Nan. I really appreciate your warm comment, because I was trying to capture the diversity and glory of our country, and I’m appreciative that you got that. It’s a lot to cover in a pithy post, but I had a good time doing it. How wonderful that you and I have seen so much of this country together. My warmest thanks.

  5. How beautiful is our Country! Lovely and unique places that I love. Thank you for your patriotic post, my friend. Have a very Happy 4th of July! πŸ™‚ πŸ‡ΊπŸ‡Έ

    • Thank you, HJ. I appreciated your kind comment and our mutual appreciation of this country and its beautiful places. My friend, you have yourself a Happy Fourth!

    • Thank you, dear Bill, I’m glad you enjoyed the Independence Day post. It’s such a huge country and there are so many, many beautiful places, it was challenging to narrow down the photos to these. And what a lovely challenge that is! My warmest thanks, as always, for your visit.

  6. What a wonderful summary of our geographic diversity. There’s a reason I prefer traveling in the U.S., and it’s because there is no end to the incredible scenes and things to do.

    • You are right, Eilene, there is no end to the incredible scenes in this country; and I know you have seen many. I appreciate your lovely comment and visit, and wish you a Happy Fourth.

  7. Go over to see what my fellow blogger up to on the west coast and I see a picture of our Illinois cornfields ha! Great tour through the states Jet. Been to a number of those places on my various bird hunts (Harris Neck is where I almost lost a leg nearly stepping on a gator), Attwater looking for the chickens, Lake Michigan, Horicon running from the mosquitos, Rockies and of course our favorite home away from home Yellowstone. All beautiful moments in time we’ll never forget. Just don’t be too fooled by the “flats” of the Midwest, not to the same degree, but the big river bluff ultra marathons will put a good hurt on you from the nonstop ups and downs. Great summary of what this great country has to offer.

    • I SO enjoyed your comment, Brian. Your enthusiasm for life and this country and the outdoors all came out in your beautiful words and I soaked it all up. It was really fun putting this post together, summarizing this gigantic country and its diversity, and gathering up photos of all these delightful places. How wonderful that you and I have been to many of the same spots. Thanks so very much. Happy Fourth!

  8. Pingback: American Vistas β€” Jet Eliot – Echoes in the Mist

  9. You’ve created an apt pictorial paeanβ€”and verbal, tooβ€”to our oh-so-lovely land.

    As American as anyone (even to the point of getting myself born on the Fourth of July), I have to confess that the Canadian Rockies are more spectacular than our own.

  10. We’ve visited the US 20+ times and visited all 50 states. Athena’s photos and your text remind me why we kept going back, so thank you both for this nostalgic trip down memory lane. πŸ™‚

    • I loved hearing from you, Platypus Man, my UK friend, of your appreciation and vast exploration of our country. Thanks so much for your visit and comment, much appreciated.

    • I am glad you enjoyed the American tour, Brad, and glad to hear you have seen and enjoyed and appreciated much of this country’s landscapes. We are lucky, yes? Many thanks and Happy Fourth to you, too.

  11. You and Athena captured bits of my past (the cornfields) and my present (Attwater prairie). Who knows which of these will be in my future? We have such a grand country, and you’ve captured it’s variety wonderfully well, Jet. A Happy Independence Day to you and Athena!

    • I sure enjoyed your lovely comment, Linda, with the past and present references and the hope for the future. Sending a big thank you today, and best wishes for a Happy Fourth.

  12. Wonderful information and beautiful photos – as always! Thank you Jet and Athena, and Happy 4th of July!!πŸŽ†πŸŽ‰πŸŒ­πŸ€©πŸ‡ΊπŸ‡ΈπŸ‘πŸΌ

    • Oh so nice to hear from you, BS, and no doubt you have visited most or all of this country’s states and seen much of its beauty…lots to celebrate! Thanks so much for your visit.

  13. I don’t travel very much so reading your post and seeing Athena’s photographs was quite enjoyable. But I am pouting just bit as you missed New England. πŸ™‚ Happy Fourth, Jet and Athena!

    • I’m glad I could share the beauties of some of what I have seen of this country, Steve. I am a mostly western sort of person and have not yet had the honor of visiting the New England area. But rest assured, when I do have that adventure, I will share it. Thanks so much for your visit, always a joy.

  14. This is a very nice tribute to America. No other country has the incredible diversity of the American west, from the Grand Canyon to Yellowstone to Yosemite, plus lesser known places like Arches, Death Valley, and Olympic, it is loaded with incredible national parks.

    • I agree, Jeff, we are lucky to have so much of this great country preserved in parks for all to enjoy, and I have enjoyed your plethora of posts devoted to exploring them. Glad you enjoyed this American tour, thank you for your visit and comment.

    • Thank you, Frank, for your kind words and acknowledgement. Sometimes we, all of us, get consumed by the bad news and we forget what a spectacular country this is. So I thought a picturesque patriotic boost might be a good way to celebrate our nation’s birthday. Great to have you stop by, Frank, always a pleasure.

  15. Thank you for taking us along on a US adventure through your wonderful photos, Jet. I have been reminded that I have many more miles to travel. 😊

    • Hi Irene, it was a great pleasure to take you across the U.S. on this flying carpet tour. And yes, there’s always more to see in this world, and in this huge country. Thanks very much for stopping by.

    • Oh how nice you stopped by, Sue, and I am so very glad you enjoyed the American Vistas today. The pandemic-related curtailment of travel has been challenging, but there’s nothing like a few photographs and blog posts to help out with the gaps. I’m glad we could vicariously visit a few of the hotspots in America together. Thank you.

  16. What a wonderful celebration of our vast and diverse country, Jet. Athena’s photos capture it so well. When you look at our country from the perspective of beautiful and interesting places, there’s much to appreciate. πŸ˜‰ Hope you both are having a great summer.

    • Wonderful to have you join us for a look at some of the American Vistas, Jane. Such a big country and with an inordinate amount of beauty. Thanks very much for stopping by, always a joy to “see” you.

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