Top 10 Wildly Different Landscapes in the USA

Grand Prismatic Springs.
Grand Prismatic Spring, Yellowstone. Mineral deposits and heat tolerant bacteria give Yellowstone’s Grand Prismatic Spring its color. Photo by Flickr/Albert Bruijin

The United States is comprised of some of the world’s most beautiful and diverse landscapes. Because of its size, and its wide swath of latitude, the variations in the land are wild. When the non-contiguous states of Hawaii and Alaska are factored into its incredible places, the United States may house a larger collection of distinct landscapes than any other country on the planet.

Here are 10 of the most unique and distinctive places to visit in the United States:

Everglades National Park, Florida

An alligator in the Everglades.
Everglades National Park comes complete with alligators and panthers. Photo by Flickr/Sheila Sund

The Everglades marsh is actually a wide, slow-moving river created by the seasonal overflow of Lake Okeechobee. Despite inroads made by civilization, it covers two million acres – from Miami to Florida Bay. The water is so thick with grasses that transportation by “airboat” is easier than a traditional propeller in the water. A massive fan creates the force necessary to move the watercraft through a unique landscape of alligators, panthers and hundreds of species of birds.

Bryce Canyon National Park, Utah

Bryce Canyon.
The hoodoos of Bryce Canyon National Park stand at attention. Photo by Flickr/Orientalizing

In stark contrast to the Everglades stands Bryce Canyon, quite literally. Thousands of hoodoos stand like a stone army. Hoodoos are strangely shaped spires left upright despite the erosion of land around them. The sedimentary limestone was once a lake bed; differences in the rock layers density have caused the wild formations. Because the hoodoos are created by erosion, they don’t stick around very long. They decrease in height at a rate of about two feet a year. Catch them while you can, because in three million years they’re scheduled to be gone entirely.

Willamette National Forest, Oregon

Pacific Northwest forest.
Light breaks through the pines in the Pacific Northwest of the United States. Photo by Flickr/BLM Oregon

The moist Pacific Northwest of the United States is so thick with vegetation and life that some of its areas qualify as rainforest. Some places may receive over 10 feet of precipitation a year. The Siuslaw National Forest in Oregon is notable dense because of the rains and the stabilized temperatures created by its proximity to the Pacific Ocean. Trees grow out of trees. When a pine drops its seed into its own branch crook, it takes root in the arm of its parent. Moss covers everything; mildew is inevitable. In the Pacific Northwest, it seems mankind itself could be overgrown by the foliage, if not for willful effort.

Glacier Bay National Park, Alaska

Margerie Glacier at Glacier Bay.
Margerie Glacier at Glacier Bay. Photo by Flickr/Andrew Adams

The 1867 acquisition of Alaska from Russia increased the size and diversity of the United States. While glaciers are present in the Rocky Mountains of the lower 48 states, they’re on display in magnificent fashion here. Since the icepack diffracts light into its component wavelengths, the crystals within the glaciers often appear to be blue. Temperate rainforest vegetation, high peaks and Native American historical sites complete the experience. A glacier viewing is a good item for any bucket list – they’re melting all too quickly, and the glaciers in the park are receding more quickly than any others in the world.

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