The West comprises the Mountain and Desert States and the Pacific West. The Mountain and Desert States consist of Arizona, Colorado, Idaho, New Mexico, Montana, Utah, Nevada and Wyoming. The Pacific West includes California, Oregon, Washington, Alaska and Hawaii.
- Which western state would you like to visit and why? Compare with other students.
- California is often a destination of choice. Read the following quote and discuss possible meanings. "Tip the world over on its side and everything loose will land in Los Angeles." (Frank Lloyd Wright)
Historically, people from all over the world seeking free land, new opportunities and freedom found this in the West. Today these states are a mixture of cultures. The most famous of the groups of people who came are the cowboys and the cattle ranchers, together with the gold miners and the fortune hunters looking for riches and wealth.
The climate of this region is extremely varied, from rainy in the west to drier landscapes in the east. You can travel to mountainous areas, the sunny coast or even the deserts of Utah and Arizona.
Today, many people find their way here in search of better jobs. In the state of California, there is much immigration from Asia and Mexico, both legal and illegal. California is becoming increasingly overcrowded and polluted, and many industries have already moved away.
One important industry is tourism, which is one of the major sources of income in the West. One major tourism spot is the 24/7 city of Las Vegas. Known mostly for its casinos, gambling and entertainment, Las Vegas today is one of the fastest growing areas in the US. Who would have expected that a tiny valley nestled in the Mojave Desert would one day become the entertainment capital of the world!
It is in the West that we also find wilderness areas like the Grand Canyon and Yellowstone National Parks, and for those seeking more fame and fortune, let’s not forget the glittery industry of Hollywood.
Alaska and Hawaii
The only two states which are not found on the mainland are Hawaii and Alaska. Both these states were added to the US in 1959.
Alaska, purchased from the Russian Empire, became the 49th state. It is the largest of the US states in area and is more than twice the size of Texas. However it is also the least densely populated state with approximately 737,000 people. Anchorage is the largest city and the financial, cultural and medical center of the state. Alaska is a tourist attraction offering eco-tours, dog sled races, fishing and much more.
Hawaii, the 50th state, consists of six major volcanic islands. It is the birthplace of surfing and the hula, and is unique for its Aloha spirit: the warmth of the people and the islands. For most mainland Americans it is a favorite honeymoon spot, both exotic and romantic.The people of Hawaii are both Polynesian and from the Pacific Rim.
Tasks and Activities
Sit in pairs and take turns explaining the following expressions. Try to include them in a sentence as well.
- extremely varied climate
- mountainous areas
- sunny coast
- cattle ranchers
- the glittery industry of Hollywood
- densely populated
- dog sled races
- volcanic islands
- exotic and romantic
Choose between a national park in the West (there are several), Alaska or Hawaii and make a short PowerPoint presentation. Focus your presentation on tourism. See: How to Make a Mini Presentation.