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If you’ve ever looked at a map of the United States, you may have noticed that Alaska, Hawaii, Utah, and Mississippi all stand out in their own unique way. These four states, despite being geographically distant from each other, share some fascinating similarities that aren’t immediately obvious.

They are Not Contiguous with the Rest of the Mainland U.S.

Alaska, Mississippi, Utah, and Hawaii may seem like an odd combination, but they share a common characteristic – they are not contiguous with the rest of the mainland United States. This means that they are physically separated from the other states, either by large bodies of water or by other states.

Alaska and Hawaii are separated by ocean from the contiguous U.S.

Alaska, the largest state in the United States, is located in the extreme northwest of North America. It is separated from the rest of the mainland United States by the Canadian province of British Columbia and the Gulf of Alaska. With its breathtaking landscapes, including glaciers, mountains, and wildlife, Alaska is a popular destination for outdoor enthusiasts.

Hawaii, on the other hand, is a group of islands located in the Pacific Ocean. It is situated about 2,400 miles southwest of California. The state consists of eight main islands, with the most populous being Oahu, where the capital city of Honolulu is located. Known for its stunning beaches, lush tropical landscapes, and unique culture, Hawaii is a popular tourist destination.

Utah is separated by ‘corner states’

Utah, a landlocked state in the western part of the United States, is not directly connected to any of the other 48 contiguous states. It is bordered by Idaho and Wyoming to the north, Colorado to the east, Arizona to the south, and Nevada to the west. These states, known as the “corner states,” form a buffer zone between Utah and the rest of the mainland United States.

Mississippi is separated by the Mississippi River

Mississippi, located in the southern part of the United States, is separated from the rest of the mainland by the Mississippi River. The river runs along the western border of the state, acting as a natural boundary. The Mississippi River is one of the longest rivers in North America and has played a significant role in the history and culture of the region.

While these four states may be geographically separated from the rest of the mainland United States, they each have their own unique characteristics and contributions to the country. From the stunning landscapes of Alaska and Hawaii to the vibrant culture of Mississippi and the natural beauty of Utah, these states offer a diverse range of experiences for visitors and residents alike.

They Have Unique Geography and Topography

Alaska, Mississippi, Utah, and Hawaii may seem like completely different places, but they actually share a common thread when it comes to their geography and topography. Each state boasts unique natural features that make them stand out.

Alaska – Tundra, Glaciers, and Volcanoes

Alaska is known for its vast wilderness and extreme climate. The state is home to the largest tundra region in the United States, which is characterized by a treeless landscape and permafrost. Additionally, Alaska is home to numerous glaciers, including the famous Mendenhall Glacier near Juneau. The state also boasts several active volcanoes, such as Mount Redoubt and Mount Spurr, reminding us of the powerful forces shaping the Earth’s crust.

Hawaii – Volcanic Islands

Hawaii is a tropical paradise made up of a chain of volcanic islands. The islands were formed by volcanic activity over millions of years, and they continue to be shaped by the eruptions of active volcanoes like Kilauea. The unique combination of lush rainforests, black sand beaches, and volcanic peaks make Hawaii a truly breathtaking destination.

Utah – Red Rock, Arches, and Salt Flats

Utah is famous for its striking red rock formations, which are the result of iron oxide staining the sandstone. The state is also home to stunning natural arches, such as the Delicate Arch in Arches National Park. Additionally, Utah boasts the Bonneville Salt Flats, a unique natural wonder where the land is covered in a thick layer of salt, creating a surreal and otherworldly landscape.

Mississippi – River, Delta, and Bayou

Mississippi is defined by its relationship with water. The state is bisected by the mighty Mississippi River, which has shaped its history and culture. The river has created a vast delta region, rich in biodiversity and home to unique wetland ecosystems. Mississippi is also known for its bayous, which are slow-moving, swampy waterways that are teeming with wildlife.

While Alaska, Mississippi, Utah, and Hawaii may be geographically and topographically distinct, they all offer their own unique natural wonders. Whether you’re exploring the tundra and glaciers of Alaska, the volcanic islands of Hawaii, the red rock formations of Utah, or the river delta of Mississippi, each state has something special to offer.

They Have Unique History and Culture

Alaska, Mississippi, Utah, and Hawaii may seem like vastly different places, but they actually share some fascinating similarities when it comes to their history and culture. Let’s explore what makes these states so unique.

Native American history

One common thread among these states is their rich Native American history. Each state is home to various indigenous tribes that have shaped the region for thousands of years. In Alaska, for example, the Native Alaskan peoples have a deep connection to the land and sea, relying on hunting, fishing, and gathering for their livelihoods. Similarly, Mississippi is known for its diverse Native American tribes, such as the Choctaw, Chickasaw, and Natchez, who have left their mark on the state’s culture and traditions. Utah is rich in Native American heritage as well, with tribes like the Navajo, Ute, and Paiute playing a significant role in the state’s history. And in Hawaii, the Native Hawaiian people have a unique culture and language that sets them apart.

Early exploration

Another common aspect of these states’ history is the early exploration by European settlers. Alaska, for instance, was first explored by Russian fur traders in the 18th century, who established trading posts and brought new influences to the region. Mississippi, on the other hand, was initially explored by Spanish conquistadors in the 16th century, followed by French and British settlers. Utah saw the arrival of Spanish explorers in the 16th century, followed by the famous Mormon pioneers in the 19th century, who played a significant role in shaping the state’s culture and society. And in Hawaii, Captain James Cook’s arrival in 1778 marked the beginning of Western contact with the islands, leading to significant changes in Hawaiian society.

Later settlement patterns

While the early exploration brought new influences to these states, it was the later settlement patterns that truly shaped their culture. Alaska, for example, experienced a gold rush in the late 19th century, attracting people from all over the world and creating a vibrant and diverse population. Mississippi, known for its rich agricultural resources, saw an influx of African American workers during the era of slavery, leading to a unique blend of cultures and traditions. Utah’s settlement was primarily driven by Mormon pioneers seeking religious freedom, which greatly influenced the state’s culture and governance. And Hawaii, with its diverse immigrant population from China, Japan, Portugal, and the Philippines, has a rich multicultural heritage that is celebrated today.

So, while Alaska, Mississippi, Utah, and Hawaii may be geographically distant and have different landscapes, their shared history and culture bring them together in more ways than one. Exploring the unique aspects of each state can provide a deeper understanding of the diverse tapestry that makes up the United States.

They Joined the United States Later Than the Original 13 Colonies

Alaska and Hawaii – late 19th/20th century

While the original 13 colonies formed the foundation of the United States, Alaska and Hawaii came along much later. Alaska, the largest state in the country, joined the United States in 1959, making it the 49th state. Its acquisition was a result of the Alaska Purchase in 1867, when the United States bought the territory from Russia for $7.2 million. This purchase was met with skepticism at the time, with critics calling it “Seward’s Folly” after Secretary of State William H. Seward who negotiated the deal. However, Alaska’s rich natural resources, breathtaking landscapes, and unique wildlife have proven to be valuable assets to the nation.

On the other hand, Hawaii, the only state composed entirely of islands, became the 50th state in 1959 as well. Its path to statehood was different from Alaska’s, as Hawaii was a sovereign nation before being annexed by the United States. The annexation took place in 1898, following the Spanish-American War. Hawaii’s strategic location in the Pacific Ocean played a significant role in its acquisition, as it provided a vital naval base for the United States. Today, Hawaii is known for its beautiful beaches, vibrant culture, and thriving tourism industry.

Utah and Mississippi – mid 19th century

Utah, located in the western part of the United States, became a state in 1896. However, its path to statehood was not without controversy. The issue of polygamy, which was practiced by some members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Mormons), delayed Utah’s acceptance into the Union. Polygamy was seen as a violation of traditional marriage norms, and it took several decades for the practice to be abandoned before Utah could become a state. Today, Utah is known for its stunning national parks, world-class skiing, and thriving tech industry in Salt Lake City.

Mississippi, located in the southeastern part of the United States, became a state in 1817, making it the 20th state to join the Union. It was the second state to be admitted from the territory acquired in the Louisiana Purchase. Mississippi played a significant role in the history of the United States, particularly during the Civil Rights Movement in the 1960s. The state has a rich cultural heritage, including its blues music roots and Southern hospitality. Mississippi is also known for its agricultural industry, with cotton being a major crop in the state.

They Have Diverse Wildlife and Ecosystems

Unique flora and fauna

Alaska, Mississippi, Utah, and Hawaii may be geographically distinct, but they all boast rich and diverse wildlife and ecosystems. Each state is home to a unique combination of flora and fauna that can be found nowhere else in the world.

Alaska, known for its vast wilderness, is home to iconic species such as grizzly bears, moose, and bald eagles. It also has a thriving marine ecosystem with whales, seals, and sea otters. The state’s diverse range of habitats, from tundra to rainforests, supports a wide variety of plant and animal life.

Mississippi, on the other hand, is known for its lush wetlands and forests. The state is a haven for birdwatchers, with over 400 species of birds making it a popular destination for birding enthusiasts. It is also home to the endangered Mississippi sandhill crane and the rare gopher tortoise.

Utah, with its unique landscapes ranging from deserts to mountains, is home to a variety of wildlife. The state is known for its population of bighorn sheep, pronghorn antelope, and mule deer. It also boasts a diverse array of plant life, including the famous bristlecone pine, one of the world’s oldest living organisms.

Hawaii, with its isolated location in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, has developed a unique ecosystem with many endemic species. The islands are home to numerous endangered birds, such as the Hawaiian honeycreeper and the Hawaiian goose. The lush rainforests and coral reefs surrounding the islands support a wide variety of plant and marine life.

Varied climates and habitats

One of the reasons these states have such diverse wildlife is their varied climates and habitats. Alaska, with its extreme cold temperatures and long winters, is known for its Arctic and subarctic ecosystems. On the other hand, Hawaii’s tropical climate and volcanic activity provide a fertile ground for a wide variety of species.

Mississippi’s wetlands, rivers, and coastal areas create a unique habitat that supports a diverse range of species, including alligators, turtles, and various fish species. Utah’s diverse geography, with its mountains, deserts, and canyons, creates a mosaic of habitats that support a wide range of wildlife.

It is important to note that the conservation efforts in these states are crucial in preserving their unique flora and fauna. Organizations such as the Alaska Department of Fish and Game, the Mississippi Department of Wildlife, Fisheries, and Parks, the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources, and the Hawaii Department of Land and Natural Resources work tirelessly to protect and manage the wildlife and ecosystems in these states.

If you want to learn more about the wildlife and ecosystems of these states, you can visit the official websites of these organizations:Alaska Department of Fish and Game,Mississippi Department of Wildlife, Fisheries, and Parks,Utah Division of Wildlife Resources, andHawaii Department of Land and Natural Resources.


In conclusion, at first glance Alaska, Hawaii, Utah, and Mississippi may seem to have little in common. However, their geographical isolation from the continental U.S., unique landscapes, cultural histories, and ecological diversity unite them in making these states distinctly different from the rest of the country.

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