Which States Have No Natural Borders? | Why Are Some States Rectangles?

If you’ve ever looked into borders before, you know that many state (and country borders, honestly) are based on natural formations. It’s pretty easy to draw your borders when you have mountains and stuff. Not really easy to fight over who’s stuff goes where when there’s a giant mountain separating all of it. That brings us to the question of the day; which states have no natural borders?

What Is a Border if it Isn’t Natural?

Well it’s a pretty simple answer. If a border is not a natural border, then it’s probably a surveyed border. That means a boundary survey was used to figure out who gets to draw their border where. You may have had this done on a small scale with like… your house or something. Sometimes boundary surveys are needed to settle more petty disputes, like whether or not it’s actually your tree that’s dropping leaves into your neighbors yard–or whether or not your neighbor is justified in not letting you build a new fence. 

But sometimes they handle more large-scale issues, especially with international territorial disputes. Boundary surveys can be used as a locus for negotiations, something you’ve probably heard about when it comes to the US-Mexico boundary survey. The vast majority of states have some portion of their borders surveyed, that’s why most states have at least one straight edge for a border. 

There’s just one exception, though. Hawaii. Because Hawaii is an island so by default all its borders are natural.

Anyway we’re looking for states with all of their borders as surveyed borders. Which is pretty easy. In fact, you probably thought of these 3 states when we mentioned straight edges.

States With No Natural Borders

  • Colorado
  • Utah
  • Wyoming

Is Colorado a Rectangle?

You probably thought of at least Colorado and Wyoming because they’re the “rectangle states.” Maybe you thought of Kansas for a hot second, if you forgot about the little nubbin Kansas has in its northeast corner where it uses the Missouri River as a border.

But now you’re probably wondering if the rectangle states are even rectangles. Let’s just remove Utah from the conversation, since it has a little corner eaten by the southwestern corner of Wyoming. 

But Colorado and Wyoming?

Unfortunately they’re immediately disqualified from being rectangles by the single fact that the Earth is round. The straight lines on a map kind of “unfurl” if you were to try flattening the Earth out. Plus, Colorado’s north border is just 22 miles shorter than the southern one opposite of it. Which would throw Colorado into the kind of trapezoid-ish area. 

See if you can draw state borders here.