America – The Making Of A Nation :: From Sea To Shining Sea
When the first settlers arrived from Europe, they settled on the East Coast of America because it reminded them of home. But, if they thought everything in this new land would be familiar, they were very wrong. Once the new Americans had their independence, they set out to explore their great new land, and discovered natural wonders never seen in the Old World. Here are a few of those amazing sites.
The State of Alaska
The largest state in America (twice the size of Texas), Alaska covers a wide range of landscapes, from tundra roamed by caribou to snow-capped mountains inside the Arctic Circle.
The State of Hawaii
The gorgeous Hawaiian islands are volcanic. The group of eight main islands, plus many other smaller ones, stretch a total distance of 1,500 miles.
Old Faithful (WY)
This natural geyser in Wyoming’s Yellowstone Park sends a gush of scalding water up to 184 feet into the air every 90 minutes or so.
Death Valley (CA, NV)
140 miles long, this valley is the lowest, hottest and driest place in North America. The temperature at Furnace Creek once reached 134 F (almost 57 C) – the second-highest temperature ever recorded on Earth, next to 136 F (58 C) in Libya. The valley was named by some settlers who got lost in it while they were exploring in 1849. In fact, one of them died in the valley.
Bryce Canyon (UT)
The rock spires in this area of southwest Utah are called “hoodoos.” They’ve been worn away by millions of years of water and wind. The result are these breathtaking orange, white and red rock foundations.
Grand Canyon (AZ)
Over 270 miles long, up to 18 miles across and a mile deep, the Grand Canyon definitely deserves the title of world’s largest gorge. The oldest rocks in the canyon date back 2 BILLION years! Approximately 5 million people come to visit the canyon each year – and hundreds of hikers among those need to be rescued annually.
The majestic Rockies stretch more than 3,000 miles, all the way up north to Canada and through nine different American states: Arizona, Colorado, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico, Utah and Wyoming. The highest peak among these mountains belongs to Mt. Elbert, Colorado, at 14,440 feet (Mt. Everest – the highest in the world – measures in at 29,035 feet).
This monster of a river is 2,350 miles long – the fourth-longest in the world, following (No. 1) the Nile at 4,135 miles, the Amazon River at 3,980 miles, and the Yangtze at 3,917 miles. The great river rushes through a total of 10 different American states: Minnesota, Wisconsin, Iowa, Illinois, Missouri, Kentucky, Tennessee, Arkansas, Louisiana and, finally, Mississippi. The Mississippi’s width varies from 20 feet to four miles wide. And here’s a little-known fact: waterskiing was invented on the Mississippi.
This 7,000-year-old swamp covers 700 square miles in the states of Georgia and Florida. The murky water – stained a dark color by tannins, a type of plant acid – separates unstable islands of dark peat. Its name comes from a Choctaw Indian word, which means “land of the tembling earth.”
Niagara Falls (Ontario, Canada, NY)
The famous waterfalls of the Niagara River straddle the international border between Canada and America. The falls were formed when glaciers receded at the end of the last ice age, and water from the newly formed Great Lakes carved a path through the land on its way to the Atlantic Ocean. The falls’ drop ranges from 173 feet to 100 feet. Not only beautiful, the falls are an important source of hydroelectric power.
In October of 1829, Sam Patch, who called himself the Yankee Leapster, jumped from a high tower into a gorge below the falls and survived. In 1901, a 63-year-old school teacher named Annie Edson was the first person to go over the falls in a barrel. She too survived, though she warned that no one should ever try the stunt again. People didn’t listen; since her ride, 14 others have intentionally gone over the falls, even though it’s illegal.