US-2 Class Terminology Notes
Map Terminology Overview
ENGP9/A15 U.S. Institutions Survey (Hopkins)



(East-West Division)

(North-South Division)

(The 'Deep' South)

Basic Geographical References:
North-South-East-West

  • East-West uses the Mississippi River as a dividing line between Eastern and Western 'halves' of the U.S. While geographically inexact, it is the only prominent 'divider' in roughly the right location and is also significant from U.S. colonial history (see map). The East-West division has some official uses, for example in Federal Communications Commission assignment of 'call letters' for broadcast radio and television stations.

  • North-South based on the historic Civil War (1861-65) division between the northern Union States and the southern Confederate States. The region is essentially that from the Atlantic Ocean westward to the Mississippi River, divided by the Ohio River and the 'Mason-Dixon Line' (see also 'Dixie')

  • The middle image at right shows in dark gray an 'exact' geographical separation of the South as the territory south of the Ohio River and east of the Mississippi River. However, the area in light gray west of the Mississippi River (the southern half of Missouri and the states of Arkansas and Louisiana) had technically been part of the Confederate States via the 1820 Missouri Compromise and is often included in definitions of the 'South'. The red area of Texas, New Mexico and Arizona is generally considered to be the 'Southwest,' although part of Texas is sometimes included in definitions of the 'South' (see U.S. Regions and Belts).

  • The image at bottom right shows in red the classic 'Deep South' states of Mississippi, Alabama, Georgia and South Carolina, the predominately subtropical 'flatland' region of stereotypical Gone With the Wind-type cotton farming and plantation life. Some have expanded the Deep South definition to also include the gold-colored states of Louisiana, Arkansas, Tennessee, North Carolina and Florida.


(North-South-Midwest-West Division)

(Northeast-South-Midwest-West Division)

(Northeast-South-Midwest-West #2 Division)

(The Mountain and Great Plains States)

(The Four Standard U.S. Time Zones)

North[east]-South-Midwest-West

  • More exact and more commonly-used as basic geographic regions are North, South, Midwest and West, and more commonly yet Northeast, South, Midwest and West.

    The Midwestern and Western regions have both a geographical coherency and distinct identities which originated in the 19th-century westward immigration movement.

  • The image at top right shows a North-South-Midwest-West division. In this the North and South are the same as in the North-South division described above; the 'West', however, has been divided into Midwest (the states west of the Mississippi River to the edge of the Rocky Mountains) and West (the Rocky Mountain states west to the Pacific Ocean).

  • More common is the usage of Northeast (the Applachian Mountain [range] states of the North eastward to the Atlantic Ocean), the South (basically as described above, but here (center-right image) extended to include Texas and Oklahoma), Midwest (all the territory between the western edge of the Appalachian Mountains to the eastern edge of the Rocky Mountains) and West (the Rocky Mountain states westward to the Pacific Ocean).

  • The third image shows the basic Northeast, South, Midwest and West divided into sub-regions (New England and Middle Atlantic for the Northeast; East and West North-Central for the Midwest; South Atlantic, East South-Central and West South-Central for the South; and Mountain and Pacific States for the West.

  • The Northeast, South, Midwest and West regions in the second image and their subdivisions as shown in the third image are both 'official' regional definitions used by the U.S. Census Bureau, among other institutions.

  • The fourth image shows at right further regional subdivision into the blue Pacific Northwest; yellow Mountain States (exactly the same as in the image above); green Great Plains states, also known as the 'Wheat Belt'; red Upper Midwest, also known as the North-Central states (slightly different than in the image above); and the yellow Southeastern states.

  • The states of Alaska and Hawaii are always referred to separately, not as part of the 48 'contiguous' states, even if the first three images above technically show them as part of the 'West'. As a point of trivia, Alaska is technically the state which is furthest North, West, and East, since its islands would extend across the International Date Line (if it had not been modified).

  • The bottom map shows another 'regional' distinction, the four standard 'time zones' of the 48 contiguous states (Eastern, Central, Moutain and Pacific). Note the abbreviations for standard time (EST=Eastern Standard Time) vs daylight savings time (EDT=Eastern Daylight Time), and also that most of Arizona does not observe Daylight Time.


(U.S. Land Elevation/Relief Map)

(Basic Mountains and Rivers)

(Major Rivers Highlight Map)

Major Mountains and Rivers

  • The three maps to the right show the mountain ranges and rivers used above as boundaries of the major U.S. regions.

  • The Land Elevation map at the top shows the Appalachian and Rocky Mountain ranges. In the middle (southern Missouri and northern Arkansas) the Ozark Mountains can also be seen.

  • Note the distinction between the 'Appalachian Mountain Range' and the 'Appalachia' Region, one of the poorest economic regions of the U.S., otherwise known in folk legend for its 'Hillbilly' population and legendary feud between the Hatfield and McCoy families [Wikipedia]. To a lesser extent the Ozark Mountains have also been known as the home of hillbillies, in large part due to a long-running TV series called the Beverly Hillbillies.

  • The rural population of Appalachia and the Ozarks are also known more positively in folklore via such Appalachian-based films as Songcatcher [Wikipedia] (see also audio clip [YouTube]) and Ozark-based oral history collections as Vance Randolph's classic Pissing in the Snow.

  • Also part of U.S. popular culture are the Catskill Mountains of southeastern New York State, especially the section of it known as the 'Borscht belt' (a.k.a. the 'Jewish Alps')

  • The bottom map shows the principal rivers of the U.S., the Missouri, Columbia, Colorado, St. Lawrence (and St. Lawrence Seaway) and Rio Grande, in addition to the Mississippi and Ohio rivers already discussed. In addition to these, minor rivers of note include the Potomac (which flows through Washington, D.C.) and Hudson (one of New York City's two major rivers, along with the East River).


(Original U.S. agricultural 'belts')

' Belts' and Other 'Regionalities'

  • Geographical regions which have become known for a particular agricultural, industrial, social or other 'specialty' are referred to as 'belts'. The original belts were agricultural in nature, including the Wheat, Corn, Cotton, Dairy, Tobacco and Sugar Belts shown at top right. Note that the 'Wheat belt' is the same as the 'Great Plains states' described above, and also the distinction between American and British English of the term 'corn'

  • More recent usages include the Sun Belt uses) and Snow or Snow/Frost Belt, as well as the Industrial Belt (Industrial Crescent), also often referred to nowadays as the "Rust Belt").

  • The 'belt' term also has more abstract uses, including the Bible Belt (an "informal term for an area (or areas) of the United States in which socially conservative evangelical Protestantism is a dominant part of the culture and Christian church attendance across the denominations is extremely high", see also The Real Boundaries of the Bible Belt) and Geriatric Belt (see also page 21 from Colin & Lester, by Bernard Michael O'Hanlon), not to mention such uses as the 'Jell-O belt' (or 'Mormon Corridor').


    ('Whom Do You Hang With?')


    'Where You'll Want to Live in 2032'


    'Racial Dot Map'

  • Often referred to in computer technology are Silicon Valley (San Francisco to San Jose), and its spinoff 'Silicon Alley' (NYC, cf. 'tin pan alley') and Route 128 ('ring' route around greater Boston)

  • Perhaps the most famous 'ring road' is Washington's 'Capital Beltway' (cf. 'inside/outside the Beltway')

  • Other specialized locations similar include Atlantic City (NJ) and Las Vegas (Nevada) [gambling], as well as Salt Lake City/Provo (Utah — Mormon influence)

  • New views on 'regional identities' are continually emerging via new analytical methods. Several examples of these are the 'Whom Do You Hang With', analyzing areas of the U.S. where the current population 'does things together'; and 'Where You'll Want to Live in 2032', which projects what the most (and least) 'livable' U.S. regions will be in 2032 tracking economic, workplace, community and personal choice factors.

    Also of interest is the Racial Dot Map, giving an exact portrayal of the racial geography U.S. via 2010 Census block data.

  • Finally, the term 'megalopolis' had an American origin and is frequently used. There are of course countless other 'localization' references that one will learn via regular reading of newspapers and periodicals, including such as flyover country; please ask about these in the student questions or otherwise as you encounter them.



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Last Updated 09 September 2013