Difference between revisions of "Southwest (United States of America)"
Revision as of 08:14, 12 March 2007
The American Southwest contains more than its fair share of natural wonders: The Grand Canyon, Arches National Park, and Carlsbad Caverns National Park are only three of the most famous natural attractions that draw people from all over the world.
Despite the Southwest's image as a sprawling flatland desert, it is one of the most <geographically> diverse regions in The United States. <Geographically>, the Southwest starts high in the Wasatch and Rocky Mountains and descends into the dramatic bluffs and mesas before emptying out on the flatlands of the Rio Grande. The region's dry climate and dramatic red rock landscapes help tie the region together despite the drastic elevation differences.
Human settlement in the Southwest dates back over 12,000 years, and is preserved today by the rock art, cliff dwellings, and other archaeological remains found throughout the region. The Anasazi people inhabited the region as early as 1200 BC to 450 AD, but disappeared during the 12th or 13th century AD. The Athabascan people (Navajo and Apache) began arriving as early as 1000 AD, and remain the largest indigenous group in the area to this day. In the 1500's Spanish explorers arrived and remained a dominant military force for nearly three hundred years. By the mid-1800's the expanding United States established a presence, and in 1848, after a war with Mexico, much of the area became United States territory.
The region experiences the full range of climate extremes from 100-125 °F (38-52 °C) in the summer down to sub zero in the northernmost regions in the winter. The dry, cold conditions in the northern mountainous regions make for excellent skiing, while the desert heat is perfect for those looking to escape winter's bite.
Although English is the predominant language spoken throughout the Southwest, Spanish is historically common in hispanic regions of New Mexico and smaller localities such as Tucson. Numerous indigenous tribes throughout the region speak a myriad of languages; however, this is a trait most particularly observed within reservation boundaries. Linguistic diversity is more prevalent in larger metropolitan areas such as (Phoenix, Las Vegas, Salt Lake City, Tucson, and Albuquerque). The larger national parks and museums in the region provide signage and reading materials in languages such as German and Japanese.
The region's primary airports are in:
Entry from Mexico (at least legal entry) is surprisingly limited given the length of the region's Mexican border. The small town of Columbus is the only regular port of entry in New Mexico; most traffic entering this state from Mexico arrives via the border crossing at El Paso, Texas, just outside the state. Arizona has border crossings at Douglas, Nogales and (outside) Yuma, with a few others that may or may not be open at any given time.
Major highways entering the region from other parts of the United States all have their western entries to the region from California (note that produce brought into California from Arizona is subject to inspection). East- and north-side entry points are:
I-25 (north end), I-70 (east end) and I-80 (east end) are all subject to occasional delays or closures in the winter owing to snowfall, as they go over mountainous country en route to (and within) the Southwest.
The southwestern United States is the original home territory of Southwest Airlines, a "regional," low-cost (and low-frills) carrier notable for its widely distributed network of minor hubs in contrast to the hub-and-spokes approach used by most airlines in the United States. Not only as a result of Southwest's approach, but also because its competitors in the region have adopted its ways to some extent, the major cities of the region (Phoenix, Tucson, Albuquerque, Salt Lake City, Las Vegas) tend to be connected very well by air, and fares are relatively low. Intra-regional air service to the lesser cities can be much more expensive, due in part to the fact that Southwest has no agreements with commuter airlines that service the smaller airports.
The imposing obstacle of the Grand Canyon limits road and rail traffic within the region. South of the Grand Canyon, Interstate highways 40 and 10 connect New Mexico and Arizona cities reasonably conveniently. I-40 basically follows the route of historic Route 66 in the region. I-15 and I-80 serve a similar function for Nevada and Utah. However, getting from north to south, or vice versa, by road is a more challenging proposition. No railroads make this connection (the only one in the region is the Amtrak line that mainly parallels I-40 west of Albuquerque), and the few highways connecting Arizona to Utah or eastern Nevada are minor, generally two-lane, lightly traveled, and frequently far from traveler services. If you're driving north-south in this region, pay careful attention to your fuel level, and make sure your vehicle is in good mechanical condition.
Be warned that alcoholic beverages are forbidden in the Navajo Nation and in many other American Indian pueblos and reservations. Drinking laws are also strict in Utah due to religious beliefs of the state's many Mormon residents.