It’s called “America the Beautiful” for a reason. In the US, geography and climate fluctuate drastically from state to state, resulting in a landscape that is as varied as it is stunning.
In celebration of Earth Day, we set out to find the most beautiful natural attraction in each state, using input from folks who have lived in these places.
Can you guess which state the picture to the right is from? Follow along to find out. (They’re in alphabetical order if you want to find yours quickly.)
ALABAMA: The Heart of Dixie is home to a number of natural caves, like Russell Cave National Monument, a rocky cavern used as shelter during all prehistoric periods.
ALASKA: Our northernmost state is the only place in the U.S. where the Northern Lights are a common occurrence. Known as the aurora borealis, this natural light show is caused by the collision of solar wind with particles in our atmosphere.
ARIZONA: The Grand Canyon is Arizona's best-known natural beauty, but it isn't the only one. The Wave is a sandstone rock with thousands of linear carvings caused by time and erosion.
ARKANSAS: The Ozark region is breathtaking, with its steep-sloping plateaus, drastic drops in elevation, and as-far-as-the-eye-can-see wooded mountains.
DELAWARE: When you think of swamps, Delaware is probably not the first state that comes to mind, but Trap Pond State Park's 'Cypress Swamp' features the northernmost natural stand of bald cypress trees in the U.S.
GEORGIA: The quartz monzonite dome for which Stone Mountain Park is named stands nearly 1,700 feet tall. Today, Stone Mountain is known for the large three-figure relief carving on its side -- the largest in the world.
HAWAII: At the Kilauea volcano, magma comes flying out in solid chunks of ash rather than flowing out as lava, making it not only beautiful but also dangerous.
IDAHO: The 'fire rainbow' is a rare phenomenon that occurs only in certain areas, like Idaho, where the sun can get to more than 58 degrees above the horizon. Ice crystals in the atmosphere capture the light of the sun and refract all the colours of the rainbow.
ILLINOIS: Lake Michigan is the only one of the Great Lakes located entirely in the U.S. While it also shares waterfront with Michigan, Indiana, and Wisconsin, the lake provides drinking water for 8.5 million Illinoisans, making it an important natural resource for the state. It froze over this winter.
IOWA: Plains areas like Iowa are the best to spot the ominous Van Gogh-esque asperatus clouds. First photographed in Cedar Rapids in 2006, these clouds have more bark than bite, and usually dissipate within 15 minutes.
KANSAS: One of the largest salt deposits in the world makes its home right in Kansas, about 650 feet underground. The formation, which dates to 275 million years ago when the Permian Sea dried up, is an active salt mine today.
MASSACHUSETTS: The intrigue and beauty of Walden Pond are praised most notably by Henry David Thoreau in his book 'Walden,' which is based on his experiences living there.
MINNESOTA: A popular campsite and adventure sports destination, Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness spans over 1 million acres in the northern part of Minnesota. The area is mostly water interspersed with tiny islands formed as the glaciers of the last ice age retreated and deposited huge boulders.
MISSISSIPPI: The Mississippi River, which effectively splits the country in half, is both beautiful and dangerous; inclement weather can cause devastating flooding in nearby areas, especially around the Gulf.
MONTANA: The heart of the Crown of the Continent region, Glacier National Park earned its nickname for its rugged peaks, pristine forests, glacier-carved valleys, native prairie, and sparking waters. It's a hiker's paradise with more than 700 miles of trails.
NEBRASKA: Chimney Rock National Historic Site is a geological formation left over from the erosion of the bluffs at the edge of the North Platte Valley. The spire rises 325 feet from the case and is composed of layers of volcanic ash and brule clay.
NEW JERSEY: The Garden State's crown jewel remains its 130 miles of coastline, spanning from Sandy Hook to Cape May. The white-sand beaches draw hundreds of thousands of visitors each year.
NEW MEXICO: The White Sands National Monument is the world's largest gypsum sand dune field, engulfing 275 square miles of glistening white sands.
OKLAHOMA: The Great Salt Plains give evidence that seawater flooded the Sooner State millions of years ago. The water was eventually cut off from the oceans and evaporated, depositing thick layers of salt.
PENNSYLVANIA: Ricketts Glen harbours 22 named waterfalls, each cascading through rock-strewn clefts in the hillside. The highest, Ganoga Falls, drops 94 feet.
TENNESSEE: For two weeks every summer, a special species of fireflies congregate in Great Smoky Mountains National Park to find mates. Thousands gather to observe a naturally occurring phenomenon in which the fireflies blink in unison.
WYOMING: Yellowstone National Park's Grand Prismatic Spring is proof that 'bacteria can be beautiful.' Pigmented bacteria lives on the perimeter of the country's largest hot spring, producing a brilliant rainbow effect.
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