Why do US States are Rectangular and Have Straight-line Borders?

A look at the map of United States of America leaves many people wondering as to why the states of Colorado and Wyoming are perfectly rectangular in shape. Many states in the US have at least one straight-line border. Countries and states, as we have seen on the world map, tend to have irregular, wavy, zigzag sort of borders — but then why do US states have perfectly straight borders? Several different factors form the answer to this puzzle. Let’s examine the issue.

1. Borders of Many US States are Straight-line Because Nobody Cared!

This is probably the most important factor in determining the borders of any piece of land. When boundaries are drawn through an area where people already live, the border tends to be zigzag. This is because people have their interests attached to the placement of border. Imagine a straight-line border passing right through the fields of a farmer. He would certainly not want his farm to be divided between two states or countries. Therefore, in such cases, the border takes the line that will satisfy all or most of the stakeholders.

US of America was inhabited by the white-folks from east coast towards the west coast. Central mainland states in the USA did not have human establishment when these borders were drawn — so using a straight-line was the easiest and most logical way of drawing the boundary. There was nobody to object to the placement of boundary or division of land.

map of the usa

2. Lack of Natural Borders

Natural features like rivers and mountains are often used as borders between landmasses. Although many big rivers exist in the USA, rivers do not form a stationary border as they change the route over the period of time — but mountains are reliable. However, if you’re dividing land which is pretty flat and has no natural feature to serve as boundary, then also using a straight-line makes a lot of sense.

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3. Allotment of Land Pieces

As the armies of white-folks advanced to win the north-American land during the American Revolution, the leaders did not have much cash to pay to the war veterans. In stead, army veterans were gifted land plots for their services. Such plot areas also tend to be squarish and when these are merged to create bigger land entities, the boundaries are likely to remain straight.