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Southwest (United States of America)

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Southwest (United States of America)

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The southwestern United States contains more than its fair share of natural wonders: The Grand Canyon, Arches National Park, and Mesa Verde are only three of the most famous of dozens of red rock attractions that draw people from all over the world.

Grand Canyon scenery

Despite the Southwest's image as a sprawling flatland desert, it is one of the most geographically diverse regions in The United States. The Southwest starts high in the Wasatch and Rocky Mountains and descends into dramatic bluffs and mesas before opening up to the vast basin and range province of the Rio Grande and Colorado river watersheds. The region's dry climate and dramatic red rock landscapes tie the region together, despite the drastic differences in elevation.

The region experiences a wide spectrum of temperature extremes, ranging from 100-125 degrees Fahrenheit (38-52°C) in the summer, to below zero in the northernmost locales in the winter. The dry, cold conditions in the north make for what is arguably the best skiing in the world.



Other destinations



Although English is the predominant language spoken throughout the Southwest, Spanish is historically common in hispanic regions of New Mexico, West Texas 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.

Get in

  • This region's primary airports are in:
    • Albuquerque -- hub for Southwest Airlines, served by most majors, nominally an "international airport" but no nonstop international flights as of January 2006
    • Las Vegas -- another Southwest Airlines hub, some international service (on other airlines)
    • Phoenix -- home base and largest hub for Southwest Airlines and America West Airlines (US Airways); a major airport with service to a number of international destinations; Tucson also has limited international service
    • Salt Lake City -- major hub for Delta Airlines, service to many international destinations
  • Entry from Mexico 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:
    • Interstate 10: from Texas at Las Cruces, New Mexico
    • Interstate 15: from Idaho near Salt Lake City
    • Interstate 25: from Colorado near Raton, New Mexico
    • Interstate 40: from Texas in eastern New Mexico
    • Interstate 70: from Colorado in eastern Utah
    • Interstate 80: from Wyoming near Salt Lake City
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.

Get around

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.


  • Four Corners is the point where the states of Arizona, Utah, New Mexico and Colorado meet. Nothing special visually, but where else can you stand so that you're in four states at the same time?




Be warned that alcoholic beverages are forbidden in the Navajo Nation and in many other American Indian pueblos and reservations.

Stay safe

Get out

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