States may be grouped in regions; there are endless variations and possible groupings, as most states are not defined by obvious geographic or cultural borders. For further discussion of regions of the U.S., see the list of regions of the United States.
The northern and southern borders of the Thirteen Colonies on the East Coast were largely determined by colonial charters and anchoring coastal settlements. The western boundaries were determined by the limits of transportation, the infeasibility of settling areas dominated by Native Americans and foreign powers, and the decision to create new states out of western territories.
River borders between states are common. At various times, national borders with territories formerly controlled by other countries (namely the British colonies of Canada, New France, New Spain including Spanish Florida, and Russian America) became institutionalized as the borders of U.S. states. Alaska was formerly the colony of Russian America.
Most borders beyond the Thirteen Colonies were created by Congress as it created territories, divided them, and turned them into states as they became more populated. Territorial and new state lines followed various geographic features, economic units, and the pattern of settlement. In the West, relatively arbitrary straight lines following latitude and longitude often prevail, due to the sparseness of settlement west of the Mississippi River.
Faster transportation also meant that larger states were more feasible to govern from a single capital. Vermont, California, and Texas were each briefly independent nations, as was Hawaii for a more extensive period of time. Some states were previously part of other states, including Maine, West Virginia, Kentucky, and Tennessee. Occasionally the United States Congress or the United States Supreme Court have settled state border disputes.
- Statistical area
U.S. state sections
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