North American Geography Facts Most People Don’t Know
Most people think of North America as being the United States, Canada and Mexico. But the continent also includes Central America (a sub-continent) and the Caribbean.
With this in mind, there is a wealth of fun, wacky and surprising facts that most people don't know about the continent.
Are you ready to win at trivia night? Here are 30 mind-blowing North American geography facts.
The Largest Pyramid Isn't in Egypt, but in Mexico
Egypt may have the most famous pyramids, but the largest pyramid in the world is actually in Cholula, Mexico.
Also called Tlachihualtepetl, the Great Pyramid of Cholula is thought to have been a temple to Quetzalcoatl, an important Aztec deity known as the feathered serpent.
There's a Hawaiian Island That's Invitation-Only
Hawaii is made up of eight large islands, six of which you can visit for tourism and two in which entry is completely or partially prohibited.
Kahoolawe was once a bomb testing site, so no one is allowed on it. Niihau is actually inhabited, but to protect native Hawaiian culture, locals have decided to shut entrance off to everyone — that is, unless you receive a direct invitation from someone who lives on it.
Canada Has Its Own Dead Sea
If you can't afford to travel to the Middle East to experience the Dead Sea, head to Canada's Little Manitou Lake.
Located in Saskatchewan, the lake is fed by underground springs that bring it high concentrations of mineral salt, which in turn makes it buoyant. Though it's not as buoyant as the Dead Sea, Little Manitou also makes it almost impossible for you to sink.
The Highest Mountain in the World Is in the U.S.
Are we saying Mt. Everest is in the U.S.? Nope. We're simply stating the fact that Mt. Everest is not the tallest mountain when measured from base to peak.
Because the base is often deep in the sea, what we see above ground is different. When using this measurement, the honor of the highest mountain goes to Mauna Kea, a volcano in Hawaii.
And So Is the Deepest Canyon
In addition to having the highest mountain (from base to peak), the U.S. can also boast having the deepest canyon in the world.
Most people would guess it's the Grand Canyon given its, ahem, grandness. But it's actually Hell's Canyon, which is located in Oregon and has a depth of up to 8,000 feet.
As Well as the Tallest Tree
The U.S. is a nation that really loves superlatives. It boasts having the tallest tree on Earth, a California redwood named Hyperion.
Believed to be between 700 and 800 years old, Hyperion stands 379-feet tall. You won't be able to see it, though. No one can since the tree is hidden for its protection.
A Costa Rican River Has the Most Density of Crocodiles
Who doesn't love crocodiles? They're basically dinosaurs that survived to grace us with their awesomeness.
Still, the deadly animals are something you'd want to encounter sparingly and in controlled environments, which is why you shouldn't go anywhere near Tarcoles River. An estimated 63 crocodiles lurk per every square mile, with the total river being home to about 2,000 of them.
The Florida Everglades Are Not a Swamp
Speaking of crocodiles, let's move to a different species they're usually confused with: alligators. While alligators exist in several states, they're most closely associated with the Florida Everglades.
This amazing national park is erroneously portrayed as a swamp. And though we have nothing against swamps, that is most definitely not what the Everglades are. Instead, the ecosystem is a very slow-moving river, whose movement is almost undetectable.
The Caribbean Has More Than 7,000 Islands
The paradisiacal region that is the Caribbean is known for its gorgeous beaches, colorful corals and pristine water.
There are 28 Caribbean countries and territories, but many of them have numerous islands. In total, there are more than 7,000 islands in the region, so you could spend an entire lifetime trying to visit all of them.
Dominica Has the Second-Largest Boiling Lake
Boiling lakes are a rare natural occurrence that can only be witnessed in a few places on Earth. One of these places is the small Caribbean island of Dominica.
The Boiling Lake, as it's called, is second in size only to Frying Pan Lake in New Zealand. You can see it with your own eyes by hiking in Morne Trois Pitons National Park.
The Deepest Lake on the Continent Is in Canada
If you visit Yellowknife, you'll see the majestic Great Slave Lake. But many people who spend time in it aren't aware that it is the deepest lake on the continent and the eighth deepest in the entire world.
At its deepest point, the lake is 2,015-feet deep. Because of its proximity to the Arctic Circle, the lake spends more than half the year frozen.
You Can Find Sharks in Lake Nicaragua
It sounds like the beginning of a bad movie where Samuel L. Jackson will curse that he's had enough of a dangerous animal in an unlikely place. But unlike "Snakes on a Plane," Lake Nicaragua really has had shark sightings. Someone in Hollywood get on this ASAP.
Freshwater sharks exist, but there are also species of marine sharks that can sometimes swim up rivers and end up in lakes. Such is the case in this lake, which has gotten visits from deadly bull sharks several times.
North America Boasts the Largest Freshwater Lake in the World
To continue with lakes, did you know Lake Superior is the largest freshwater lake on Earth?
The lake is divided between the U.S. and Canada and was certainly given an appropriate name.
You Can See the Sun Rise Over One Ocean and Set in Another in Panama
Because of its narrow shape, Panama is the only country in this beautiful world where you can watch the sunrise over the Atlantic Ocean and then see it set in the Pacific Ocean on the same day.
If you're ever in the country, we highly encourage you to do this challenge.
Costa Rica Has No Military
Costa Rica disbanded its military in 1949 and has not reinstated it since. Not that there has been any need to, the country has not been involved in any war since, nor has any other country tried to invade it.
Many people praise this as the country's commitment to peace. That said, Costa Rica actually spends more on its police force than any other country in the world, with 2.5 percent of its total GDP going towards policing.
The United States Has No Official Language
No, English is not the official language of the United States. It's simply its most widely spoken one. Spanish and Chinese are the next two most spoken languages in the country.
Because the U.S. is a blend of many cultures, it actually has no official language.
Cacao Was Used as Currency in Central America
The Mayan Empire extended throughout Mexico, Guatemala, Belize, Honduras and El Salvador.
Cocoa beans, from which chocolate is made, were often used as currency in the Mayan Empire. The beans were used to make hot chocolate, which was the drink of the gods — obviously.
Many Countries in North America Still Have Royalty
The British Empire conquered much of the world and many countries are still indirectly under its clutches.
Case in point: 54 countries are still part of the British Commonwealth, a collection of nations that are supposed to work together toward common goals. But within this collection, there are 15 Commonwealth Realms. This group is made up of independent countries that still have Queen Elizabeth II as their head of state.
In North America, Commonwealth Realms include Antigua and Barbuda, The Bahamas, Belize, Canada, Grenada, Jamaica, Saint Kitts and Nevis, Saint Lucia, and Saint Vincent and the Grenadines.
Mexico City Has the Second Largest Number of Museums of Any City
With 170 museums, Mexico City is a cultural paradise. The most famous one is the National Museum of Anthropology, which is seriously one of the best museums you could ever visit. Other cultural institutions you should visit include the Museo del Palacio de Bellas Artes, the Museo Frida Kahlo, Casa Azul, the National Museum of Art and the Modern Art Museum.
The only other city with more museums is London, which boasts around 200 institutions.
Canada Has a Range of Hills That's Perpetually on Fire
In Northwest Territories lies a range of hills appropiately called Smoking Hills. They have been on fuming flames ever since recorded history.
The phenomenon is caused by the sulfur and brown coal that form the hills, which catch fire when they are exposed to the oxygen in the air.
Belize Has the Second Largest Barrier Reef in the World
Everyone knows the Great Barrier Reef reigns supreme, but the silver medal of corals goes to the Mesoamerican Barrier Reef.
As the second largest reef in the world, it makes Belize a prime destination for snorkeling and scuba diving. Famed marine conservationist Jacques Cousteau named Belize as one of his favorite diving spots in the world.
The Mississippi River Is Not the Longest in the U.S.
It may be the most important river, but it's not the longest.
That title actually goes to the lesser-known Missouri River, which is a whole 139-miles longer.
Mexico Invented Color TV
We can all thank Guillermo Gonzalez Camarena for the privilege of watching TV in color.
The Mexican national was born in Guadalajara and patented the first color transmission system when he was only 23 years old.
The Largest Cave System on Earth Is in Kentucky
Once again, the U.S. proves that it likes things bigger than big. The country has the largest cave system on the planet hidden in Mammoth Cave National Park.
The explored part of the cave is 400-miles long, though a lot of it has yet to be discovered.
The U.S. Has the Shortest River in the World
The U.S. doesn't just have the tallest, longest and deepest natural places, it also has the shortest river on the planet.
Roe River is located in Montana and is only 201-feet long.
Antigua Used to Be the Capital of Guatemala
The gorgeous historic city of Antigua was the capital of Guatemala for 200 years while under the grip of Spanish rule.
It lost its status thanks to the volcanos that surround it and that embellish its beauty. In 1773, seismic activity caused a devastating earthquake that forced most of the city to be evacuated and abandoned.
While the town was mostly restored and people live there once again, the country's capital is now Guatemala City.
Not All Caribbean Islands Are in the Hurricane Belt
Most people think that hurricanes affect all of the Caribbean. And while that's true for many islands, many others are also outside of the hurricane belt.
These include Aruba, Bonaire, Barbados, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Grenada, and Trinidad and Tobago. So, if you want a vacation without worrying about natural disasters, set your eyes on these islands.
The Deadly Dinosaur Meteorite Struck in Mexico
Sixty-five million years ago a meteorite struck Earth and wiped out the apex species of the time, the dinosaurs.
In 1981, the crater that the meteorite left was discovered in Mexico's Yucatan peninsula, near the village of Chicxulub Puerto.
People in Costa Rica Live Longer Than Average
Costa Rica is one of the countries where people live the longest. These so-called Blue Zones have found the secrets to the fountain of youth — and it's not a fountain at all.
The life expectancy in Costa Rica is 80.28 years.
You Can See the World's Largest Fish in Honduras
The whale shark is the largest fish in the world — hence its name. You can see it in its natural habitat in several places in the world, and Honduras is one of them.
Go to Utila from March to April or October to December, when whale shark-feeding season is happening, to see these beautiful creatures. Just make sure that you participate in a tour that's ethical and that doesn't feed them.