The Most Extreme Places in America

Death ValleyRocksCanoe
LighthouseDenali NPDenali NP in Autumn
Denali NPRoadDeath Valley
Lake HavasuRoadLondon Bridge
Sled DogsHouseLights
St CroixResortBeach
Sky CityLadderTimes Square
NYC SkylineRockefeller CenterBuford
Governors PalaceState CapitolMemphis
Mississippi River
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We've always been a land of extremes, from the South Pacific to the Caribbean, from Alaska to Key West. Check out America's highest high, lowest low, biggest lake, river, and city, and more.

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BIGGEST LAKE: Lake Superior was shaped by glaciers that cut through granite 10,000 years ago.

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Lake Superior's inlets offer some of the best canoeing in the U.S.

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With its own climate, similar to that of a coastal region, Lake Superior has had its share of legendary shipwrecks and is home to iconic lighthouses.

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HIGHEST POINT: Even if Denali National Park weren't home to the highest peak in the U.S., Mount McKinley, its pristine taiga and mountain lakes would be worth a visit.

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Denali National Park is open year-round, but most visitors see it before mid-September, when autumn arrives early here in the far north.

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Denali National Park has a Big Five all its own: Look for moose, caribou, wolves, grizzly bears, and Dall sheep.

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LOWEST POINT: Death Valley is where you'll find the lowest spot in the U.S.—Badwater Basin, at 282 feet below sea level.

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Summer temperatures in Death Valley are typically well into the 100s, the hottest in the U.S.

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HOTTEST COMMUNITY: Lake Havasu City, AZ, isn't always hotter than Death Valley, but more than 50,000 people actually live here, where the temperature frequently tops 100 degrees, making it the hottest community in the U.S.

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Lake Havasu is about 150 miles from Las Vegas, and its 45 miles of lakefront attract boaters, anglers, and hikers.

The founder of Lake Havasu City bought London Bridge in 1968 and had it shipped more than 5,000 miles to be reassembled in Arizona.

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COLDEST COMMUNITY: Faribanks, AK, is the coldest town in the U.S., which is good news for intrepid travelers who want to try their hand at dogsledding.

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Temperatures in Fairbanks are routinely below -5, and sometimes dip into the negative 40s.

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The Northern Lights draw thousands of visitors to Fairbanks. If you stay three nights between August and April, you have an 80 percent chance of a clear view of the aurora, which is reaching a peak in 2013 due to sunspot activity.

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EASTERNMOST POINT: Surprise, it's not the Maine Coast (good guess), but St. Croix, in the U.S. Virgin Islands, currently recovering from September's devastating hurricanes.

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Visitors to St. Croix have always enjoyed the beach, resort comfort, and old-world architecture.

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WESTERNMOST POINT: American Samoa, which is west of French Polynesia in the South Pacific, is a good place to find empty white sand beaches.

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OLDEST COMMUNITY: Think your town has pedigree? Sky City, NM (formerly Acoma), has had a Native American community here since 1150.

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Visitors to Sky City, NM, can explore its pueblo past with guided tours.

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BIGGEST COMMUNITY: Times Square earned its nickname "The Crossroads of the World" because of New York City's position as the biggest American city, with more than 8 million residents.

New York wasn't always the nation's biggest city. The construction of the Erie Canal in the 19th century helped rocket the city to the economic preeminence it enjoys to this day.

This time of year, there's no better way to enjoy the Big Apple than to lace up at one of its many public skating rinks, like the one at Rockefeller Center.

SMALLEST COMMUNITY: It doesn't get any smaller than Buford, WY. Literally. Buford is home to one man, who operates a gas station and convenience store off Interstate 80 between Laramie and Cheyenne. (If you become as fascinated with Buford as we have, you'll soon learn that the official name of the town was changed to PhinDeli Town Buford a few years back, when the entire town was purchased and renamed to help promote a Vietnamese coffee brand that is sold at the convenience store.)

BIRTHPLACE OF THE MOST PRESIDENTS: Virginia is the birthplace of more presidents—eight—than any other state. Its place in American history is secure, with destinations like Colonial Williamsburg drawing visitors from around the world.

Historic Richmond, home to the state capitol, is just one of Virginia's dozens of noteworthy sites.

BIGGEST RIVER: Memphis, TN, is just one of the sights along the north-to-south route of the mighty Mississippi River.

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The Mississippi originates in Minnesota, above, and travels more than 2,000 miles to the Gulf of Mexico.

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