- There are a lot of geographical mysteries and curiosities around the United States.
- Beneath the town of Centralia, Pennsylvania, underground mine fires have been burning since 1962.
- Along the Oregon coast, in the town of Yachats, is a naturally formed hole that appears to be draining the sea.
- Alaska is simultaneously the northernmost, easternmost, and westernmost state in the US.
- Visit INSIDER’s homepage for more stories.
The world is a fascinating place and there are so many beautiful, natural wonders to see around the world. But you may not know that some of the most strange and wondrous geographical points of interest can be found within US borders. From naturally occurring optical illusions to magical, giant geodes, these incredibly unique places offer an experience you can’t have anywhere else.
Here are some mind-boggling things you didn’t know about the US and its geography.
Monowi, Nebraska, is the smallest incorporated town in the US and it has just one resident.
Located near the border of South Dakota, this small town in Nebraska has just one resident– Elsie Eiler.
When her husband died in 2004, Eiler became the town of Monowi’s sole resident. According to the BBC, she’s the town’s mayor, clerk, treasurer, librarian, and bartender.
She said she pays taxes to herself so the town can keep its lights on and its water running. She takes care of business in other ways, too.
“When I apply to the state for my liquor and tobacco licenses each year, they send them to the secretary of the village, which is me. So, I get them as the secretary, sign them as the clerk, and give them to myself as the bar owner,” Eiler told the BBC in 2018.
There’s a point in the US that is just 2.5 miles away from Russia.
The Diomede Islands – known in Russia as Ostrova Gvozdeva – are two islands in the Bering Strait.
According to the Encyclopedia Britannica, the islands are separated by both the US-Russian boundary and the International Date Line.
Although Big Diomede (part of Russia) and Little Diomede (part of Alaska) are located about 2.5 miles apart from one another, they are in entirely different time zones.
Along the Oregon coast, in the town of Yachats, is a naturally formed hole that appears to be draining the sea.
Thor’s Well, as the sight is called, is located near Cape Perpetua. Though it’s unclear how this hole formed (some researchers suspect it began as a sea cave that was dug out by waves but later collapsed), it’s certainly impressive to look at.
According to Atlas Obscura, it is “not actually bottomless; it is, however, very dangerous.” Researchers estimate the hole to only be around 20 feet deep – but the optical illusion of endlessness is truly astounding.
The country’s largest underground lake can be found in Sweetwater, Tennessee.
Designated a national natural landmark in 1974, the visible portion of the Lost Sea is about 800 feet long by 220 feet wide. The full extent of the lake is still unknown.
According to the US National Park Service, the Lost Sea is part of Craighead Caverns and this area “once yielded the bones and footprints of a giant Pleistocene jaguar,” a subspecies of jaguar that is now extinct.
If you’d like to visit the Lost Sea, tours are available year-round.
On a hill near Prosser, Washington, shifting your car into neutral will make it seem as though it’s rolling uphill.
People will continue to speculate about whether the road is haunted or not – but in any case, watching your car seemingly roll uphill is nothing short of weird, according to Only In Your State.
The reason you feel like you’re moving uphill as you move downhill is due to optical illusions. The horizon line and other landscape features cause your mind to feel as though you’re moving up, even as you’re going down a hill.
Per Atlas Obscura, mystery spots like this one aren’t common and they are often referred to as “gravity hills” or “magnetic hills.” There are at least 12 of these seemingly magical spots in the world that are well known.
Beneath the town of Centralia, Pennsylvania, underground mine fires have been burning since 1962.
- Wikimedia Commons/JohnDS
National Geographic called the Centralia Mine Fire the worst mine fire in US history. The fire began in May of 1962 and 2012 marked the 50th anniversary of the fire that still rages beneath the ghost town of Centralia.
By 1982, many of the town’s 1,500 residents had relocated voluntarily – but as of 2017, five homes, three families, and a single municipal building along with one business remain in the area, according to documentarian Joe Sapienza II, who released the film “Centralia: Pennsylvania’s Lost Town.”
As of June 2018, the fire is still burning.
Wyoming might be completely landlocked — but it has over 30 named islands anyway.
- Tony Hisgett from Birmingham, UK [CC BY 2.0]
When you think of Wyoming, you probably don’t think about bodies of water – it’s not near an ocean and it isn’t near any of the Great Lakes, either. But despite its inland location, Wyoming still has lakes and some of those lakes have named islands within them.
According to Only In Your State, the majority of Wyoming’s named islands are located in Jackson Lake and Yellowstone Lake though there are a few others located in additional rivers and Leigh Lake.
Some of these islands include Dot Island, Bush Island, Oxbow Bend, Boulder Island, and Elk Island.
Visit the Crystal Cave in Put-In-Bay, Ohio, to walk inside the world’s largest known geode.
- Jeffrey Greenberg/UIG via Getty
According to the winery, Crystal Cave is the main reason it stayed afloat financially during the US’s Prohibition, which lasted throughout the ’20s and early ’30s and banned the sale and manufacturing of intoxicating liquors.
When Heineman’s couldn’t sell wine, they sold cave tours and kept the business going until they could make wine again.
Read More: The highest point in every US state
Located in Kentucky, Mammoth Cave is the world’s longest known cave system.
According to Atlas Obscura, over 400 miles of these caves have already been mapped and surveyed and it is open for tours year-round.
The largest living organism on earth is an 80,000-year-old aspen grove called Pando, the Trembling Giant — and it lives in Utah.
- Wikimedia Commons/Public Domain
If you didn’t know better, you might think that the 47,000 or so quivering aspen trees standing in a grove in Richfield, Utah, was just your average forest. It’s actually Pando, “a forest of one,” as The New York Times described.
Pando is a series of trees that are all connected via a single root system. They all share the same DNA and are genetically male. Pando’s name comes from the Latin term for “I spread.”
Pando (and other aspens like him) is a clone that can reproduce asexually and it does so frequently, which is how it got to be so big.
However, both deer and humans are threatening its new growth, so ecologists in Utah are currently working out the best ways to save him and allow him to continue to thrive.
Alaska is simultaneously the northernmost, easternmost, and westernmost state in the US.
- Wikimedia Commons/Paxson Woelber/[C.C by 2.0]
Anyone who has ever looked at a map of the US can tell you that Alaska is the northernmost state – but how can it be both easternmost and westernmost as well?
When looking at a map with latitudes and longitudes clearly marked, the answer is Alaska’s Aleutian Islands.
According to World Atlas, the Aleutian Islands go right up to the 180-degree line of longitude – which makes Alaska the westernmost state. But since the Aleutian Islands also cross that line into the eastern hemisphere, Alaska is technically the easternmost state as well.
The state of California has more residents than the entire country of Canada.
As of 2016, California contains just over 39 million people, according to the Public Policy Institute of California.
Meanwhile, according to Statistics Canada, as of January 1, 2019, Canada’s entire population totaled 37,314,442 people.
But Canada could soon catch up or even pass California in terms of population. As Statistics Canada reported, Canada’s population is continuing to rapidly grow due to international immigration.
And, per a 2018 report from the Legislative Analyst’s Office, though people continue to move to this state, California has been losing residents for years as they move to different parts of the US.