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USA, Geography

largest states, smallest state, largest country, populous state, Potomac River

Study of the land, physical features, and climate of the United States of America, and the interaction between these natural features and the plants, animals, and people that live in the country.

The United States of America is a federal republic on the continent of North America. It has an area of 9,629,047 sq km (3,717,796 sq mi) and is the third largest country in the world after Russia and Canada. The estimated U.S. population for the year 2002 is 280,562,490, third in the world behind China and India.

The United States consists of 48 contiguous states and the noncontiguous states of Alaska and Hawaii. In addition, the United States includes a number of outlying areas, such as the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands of the United States, which are located on the Caribbean Sea, and the islands of American Samoa and Guam, located in the Pacific Ocean. The national capital is Washington, D.C., located along the banks of the Potomac River between the states of Maryland and Virginia.

The 50 U.S. states vary widely in size and population. The largest states in area are Alaska at 1,593,438 sq km (615,230 sq mi), followed by Texas, and California. The smallest state is Rhode Island, with an area of 3,188 sq km (1,231 sq mi). The state with the largest population is California (34,501,130, 2001 estimate), followed by Texas, and New York. Only 494,423 people (2001 estimate) live on the plateaus and rugged mountains of Wyoming, the least populous state.

Each state is subdivided into counties, with the exception of Louisiana, where comparable political units are called parishes. Within these counties and parishes, there are communities that range in size from small villages to towns to cities. Extensive areas of urban sprawl exist in larger metropolitan areas such as Los Angeles, California; Chicago, Illinois; and New York City.

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