The Jacobsons: The State of the States


Think you know your American geography? Current in your cities? Confident of your counties? Are you aware of your conditions? Well, maybe. In the spirit of advancing our knowledge while passing the time during the holiday season and our long COVID lockdown, I offer you a quiz on the American states. Of course, 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 has the longest coastlines?

Let’s see what you know, Smarty Pants! Try to guess the answers to the following questions. Correct answers follow at the end. There are a total of 80 points. Any score of 70 or more is state of the art!

And hold it there, buster – no peek below or on a map.

1. Which states are on the west coast? (Hint: if you name three, you missed one!)

2. In which state of the 48 continental states is the geographic center of the country located?

3. How many and which states are on the Gulf Coast?

4. What are the lowest states measured by 1) lowest low point, 2) lowest high point, and 3) lowest average altitude?

5. How many and which states are on the east coast?

6. Approximately what percentage of Americans live in the east coast states? West Coast States?

7. What state capitals are on the Mississippi River?

8. Which state has the tallest building?

9. What was the last colony to become a state? (Hint: it’s also the smallest state in size.)

10. How many and which states share a border with Canada?

11. Which state shares the most borders with other states?

12. Which two states have the longest coastlines?

13. What state is the first state park in the United States?

14. Bonus question for big point totals! Looking at a map of the United States (but not now!), You may have noticed that some states in the middle and west of the country appear to have been stacked on top of each other, like Lego pieces. Without counting the states on the west coast (too irregular), name the four columns of states in question.


1. California, Oregon, Washington and Alaska. For census purposes, Hawaii also counts as a West Coast state, but since it is 2,500 miles from the actual coast, it’s not in this quiz. (One point each for a possible total of four points.)

2. Kansas. The exact “geographic center” is located approximately two miles northwest of Lebanon, Kansas, and 12 miles south of the Nebraska border. (A point.)

3. There are five: Florida, Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana, and Texas. (One point to know how many points and a half each for each correct answer for a possible total of 3½ points.)

4. California has the lowest elevation, Badwater Basin in Death Valley, at 279 feet below sea level. Florida has the lowest highest point, Britton Hill, at 345 feet above sea level. above sea level. Delaware has the lowest average elevation at 60 feet. (Two points for each correct answer, for a possible total of six points.)

5. 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 how much, and half a point for each correct answer, for a possible total of nine points.)

6. The US population at the 2020 census was 331.4 million. The east coast states had a total population of 107.5 million people for 32.4% and the west coast had 52.1 million people for 15.7%. This was a difficult question, so answers less than four percentage points above or below count as correct. (Four points for each correct answer for a total of eight points.)

7. Minnesota (St. Paul) and Louisiana (New Orleans). (Three points for each correct answer for a possible total of six.)

8. The One World Trade Center in New York, 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 United States are all located in New York City and Chicago. (A point.)

9. Rhode Island. (A point.)

10. Thirteen states share a land or sea border with Canada. These 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, have customs facilities due to their location along the Great Lakes, which leads to the Canadian border.

As a curiosity, the Canadian borders of Ohio and Pennsylvania are maritime and not land: they both share Lake Erie with Canada. I wonder if that’s not misleading, though, as if Illinois can claim to border Michigan because they’re both on Lake Michigan. But if you google the question, the answer always appears 13. So who am I to argue? (Three points for the total and half a point for each correct answer for a possible total of 9½.)

11. Tennessee and Missouri both affect 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, that is, Tennessee and Missouri, for a possible total of six.)

12. Alaska with 6,640 miles and Florida with 1,350. (Two points each for a possible total of four.)

13. New York: Niagara Falls State Park, established in 1885. Nice try if you guessed Wyoming for Yellowstone, but this was the first national to park. (Three points.)

14. 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.)

Accumulating a lot of points is cool, and winning brings bragging rights, but the real goal is to be enlightened. Get a map of the United States and challenge people around to ask questions. It’s fun and educational.

Then, in 2022: American cities!

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