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The United States (US) is made up of 50 states, the District of Columbia, five major territories, and several minor territories. It is the third largest country by area and population. Forty-eight states and the District of Columbia share a boundary with at least one other state and jointly make up the contiguous United States. Hawaii and Alaska are the two exceptions. Forty-nine states, the District of Columbia, and Alaska are located entirely within the North American continent and make up the continental United States while Hawaii is part of the continent of Oceania. The contiguous United States is also known as the Conterminous United States or the Lower 48.
The Contiguous United States
The furthest distance on the great circle within the conterminous states is 2,802 miles between the state of Washington in the northwest and Florida in the south. The furthest north-south distance is 1,650 miles. The 48 states and the District of Columbia occupy an area of 3.12 million square miles of which 2.96 million square miles is land while 161,000 square miles is water. As a country of its own, the contagious territory would be the fifth largest country on the planet. The region accounts for 99% of the entire country's population or an estimated 315 million people.
The Non-Contiguous United States
Alaska is located on the northwest corner of the continent. The United States purchased the territory from the Russian Empire on March 30th, 1867. Alaska was admitted to the Union on January 3rd, 1959 as the 49th state. It is separated from the contiguous United States by the Canadian province of British Columbia. Alaskans refer to the contagious territory as “the Lower 48” or “outside.”
Hawaii is located in the Pacific Ocean approximately 2,200 miles from the West Coast and halfway to Asia. It was admitted to the union as the 50th state on August 21, 1959. No other state has been admitted since. Hawaii and other overseas territories refer to the conterminous United States as "the mainland."
Territories of the United States
In addition to Alaska and Hawaii, the conterminous United States does not include the 14 US overseas territories. Of these, five are permanently inhabited and self-governing. These are the US Virgin Islands, American Samoa, Puerto Rico, Guam, and the Northern Mariana Islands.
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