Thursday, August 1, 2013

A Brief Geography Lesson as We Go on Our Way

Time for a brief geography lesson as we drive across the plains. Four of the nine states we visited this trip, and three of the four new ones, were created in whole or in part from the Louisiana Purchase. Not all of what became the state of Louisiana was acquired with the purchase: Thomas Jefferson was largely concerned with acquiring the port city of New Orleans. The first map below shows the original Louisiana Purchase, and trades that were made between US, Britain and Spain that resulted in the borders and state lines we now have. The second map shows which states came from the Louisiana Purchase and adjacent acquired territory. As you can see, almost all of South Dakota and large portions of Wyoming, North Dakota, and Minnesota were acquired as part of the Louisiana Purchase. 

The Louisiana Purchase and adjacent territories

States created from the Louisiana Purchase

The eastern border of the Louisiana Purchase is the Mississippi River. Branching off the Mississippi along the Illinois -Missouri border is the Missouri River. I don’t remember the source, but I do remember reading something by Isaac Asimov stating that if the Missouri River and its continuation into the Mississippi were counted as one river, it would be the longest river in the world. When Lewis and Clark set out to explore and chart the newly acquired purchase, they travelled along the Missouri River from St. Louis north and west.

The four states on our trip that we hadn’t been to before were South Dakota, North Dakota, Minnesota, and Wisconsin. South Dakota is one of the High Plains states. According to Wikipedia:

Due to low moisture and high elevation, the High Plains commonly experiences wide ranges and extremes in temperature. The temperature range from day to night usually exceeds 40 °F (22 °C), and 24-hour temperature shifts in excess of 40 °C (72 °F) are possible . . .The region is known for the steady, and sometimes intense, winds that prevail from the west. The winds add a considerable wind chill factor in the winter. The development of wind farms in the High Plains is one of the newest areas of economic development.

We saw wind farms across Iowa but didn’t see more than a few windmills in South Dakota.The weather, however, turned out to be a factor in one of our other  disasters adventures.

Statue of Sakakawea, who guided Lewis and Clark, with her infant son Jean Baptiste Charbonneau. It is more common to see the name spelled Sacajawea, but Sakakawea and Sacagawea have become common as more is learned about her language.

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