The U.S. Postal service going to feature highpoints in several of its new America Land of Superlatives series.
Wonders of America: Land of Superlatives
Forty natural and man-made wonders of the United States are depicted on this stamp pane. These remarkable places, plants, animals, and structures were selected from every region of the country.
On the front of each stamp, in large letters, are words that describe the superlative nature of a particular place or thing. Smaller type gives the name or location of the featured wonder. Text on the back of each stamp provides relevant statistics and other interesting information.
(Click each stamp title to view image.)
Largest Reptile: American Alligator
Most adult male alligators are about 11 feet long and weigh 450 to 600 pounds. The largest gator on record, however, measured more than 19 feet in length. Alligators are found in swamps, marshes, rivers and lakes from Texas to the Carolinas.
Highest Sea Cliffs: Moloka`i
The sea cliffs along the northeastern coast of Moloka`i, one of eight major islands in the state of Hawaii, are the highest in the world. The cliffs near Umilehi Point drop nearly 3,300 feet at an average slope of 58 degrees.
Tallest Cactus: Saguaro
The saguaro cactus, symbol of the American Southwest, can grow taller than a five-story building. One record-breaking specimen in Arizona reached a height of nearly 60 feet. A saguaro grows slowly; a ten-year-old plant may be less than six inches high.
Largest Glacier: Bering Glacier
Bering Glacier, near Cordova, Alaska, is the nation’s largest glacier. It is about 126 miles long and about 30 miles wide near its terminus. The glacier changes size with fluctuations in the weather and “calves” icebergs into Vitus Lake. (Editor’s note: calving is the process in which the edge of a glacier breaks-off to form an iceberg.)
Tallest Dunes: Great Sand Dunes
The Great Sand Dunes rise more than 750 feet above the floor of the San Luis Valley, at the base of the Sangre de Cristo Mountains in Colorado. Strong winds blow over the mountains toward the northeast, moving sand and constantly reshaping the dunes.
Largest Estuary: Chesapeake Bay
Chesapeake Bay cuts across Maryland and Virginia; it is almost 200 miles long and from 3 to roughly 30 miles wide. The surrounding area encompasses a range of environments, allowing a diverse assortment of plants and animals to flourish.
Largest Cliff Dwelling: Cliff Palace
The multistory pueblo known today as Cliff Palace, in Colorado, was a large complex containing many rooms. This mysterious archaeological wonder, built centuries ago in the shelter of a canyon wall, was constructed primarily of sandstone, mortar, and wooden beams.
Deepest Lake: Crater Lake
At its deepest, the bottom of Crater Lake, in Oregon, is 1,943 feet below the water’s surface; the lake’s maximum width is six miles. This beautiful body of water, known for its intense blue color, formed after the collapse of an ancient volcano.
Largest Land Mammal: American Bison
American bison typically reach 7 to 11 feet in length and weigh 900 to 2,200 pounds. They feed primarily on grasses and can run nearly 30 miles an hour. Full-grown bulls stand 6 feet or more at the shoulder.
Longest Reef: Off the Florida Keys
The Florida Keys, a chain of islands approximately 220 miles long, curve south and west of mainland Florida. Stretching along beside them, about six miles seaward, is a long barrier reef. Coral reefs are actually colonies of tiny animals called coral polyps.
Longest Hiking Trail: Pacific Crest Trail
The Pacific Crest Trail is the nation’s longest continuous designated hiking trail, running for 2,650 miles from Mexico to Canada, through California, Oregon, and Washington. It passes through various climate zones and types of terrain and is open to foot and horse travel only.
Tallest Man-made Monument: Gateway Arch
The Gateway Arch, in St. Louis, memorializes the national expansion that took place under President Thomas Jefferson. Completed in 1965, the arch spans 630 feet and rises to the same height; it was built to withstand earthquakes and high winds.
Oldest Mountains: Appalachians
The Appalachian Mountains stretch along the East Coast in a southwesterly direction from Canada to Alabama. Many geologists estimate that the birth of this mountain chain took place nearly half a billion years ago, when tectonic plates collided.
Largest Flower: American Lotus
Solitary and fragrant, the American lotus flower may reach 10 inches in diameter; its single round leaf can reach more than 2 feet in diameter. The lotus grows in ponds, lakes, and streams and was a source of food for American Indians.
Largest Lake: Lake Superior
The largest of the five Great Lakes, Superior shares waters with Canada and covers a surface area of about 31,700 square miles. Lake Superior is approximately 350 miles long; its maximum depth is 1,333 feet.
Fastest Land Animal: Pronghorn
The pronghorn can reach speeds around 60 miles per hour and can maintain a pace of 45 miles per hour for several minutes. The only faster land animal is the cheetah, reaching speeds of 70 miles per hour for short distances. (Editor’s note: Pronghorns resemble antelopes and have small forked horns. They are found on western North American plains.)
Oldest Trees: Bristlecone Pines
The oldest bristlecone pines, so named for the long, hooked spines on the scales of their cones, are more than 4,500 years old. Twisted and gnarled by the elements, they grow in rocky, arid regions of six western states.
Tallest Waterfall: Yosemite Falls
Yosemite Falls, in Yosemite National Park in California, is actually in three sections with a total drop of 2,425 feet. An upper waterfall (1,430 feet) and a lower one (320 feet) are separated by small plunges and rapids (675 feet).
Largest Desert: Great Basin
The Great Basin covers an area of roughly 190,000 square miles, mostly in Nevada. This desert region is actually a series of basins, sprinkled with sagebrush and mountain ranges. Increased precipitation at higher elevations supports numerous plant and animal species.
Longest Span: Verrazano-Narrows Bridge
The Verrazano-Narrows Bridge, connecting Brooklyn and Staten Island, is named after Giovanni da Verrazano, a European explorer who sailed into the area in 1524. Two towers, each 693 feet tall, stand 4,260 feet apart; the bridge’s total length is 13,700 feet.
Windiest Place: Mount Washington
The summit of Mount Washington, in New Hampshire, holds the official record for the maximum wind gust ever recorded on land-and not associated with a tornado or hurricane. On April 12, 1934, an anemometer recorded a wind gust of 231 mph.
Largest Canyon: Grand Canyon
The Grand Canyon is 277 miles long. At its widest point, it is more than 15 miles across; at its deepest, it reaches down more than a mile. The Grand Canyon is one of the “Seven Natural Wonders of the World.”
Largest Frog: American Bullfrog
American bullfrogs can reach more than six inches in length; males weigh up to one pound and their calls can be heard from a quarter mile away. Adults are predatory and will consume snakes, birds, fish, insects and even other frogs.
Tallest Dam: Oroville Dam
The Oroville Dam, on the Feather River in northern California, stands 770 feet tall and is 6,920 feet long at its crest. Construction of the dam, located in the Sierra Nevada foothills north of Sacramento, was completed in 1967.
Fastest Bird: Peregrine Falcon
When diving after prey, the peregrine falcon is the world’s fastest bird, reaching speeds of 200 miles an hour or more. Its horizontal cruising speed is considerably slower. Other birds, such as pigeons and ducks, are the falcon’s usual prey.
Largest Delta: Mississippi River Delta
The Mississippi River delta, where the mouth of the river meets the Gulf of Mexico, covers approximately 11,000 square miles, roughly a quarter of the state of Louisiana. The delta gradually changes form as sediment deposited by the river builds up.
Tallest Geyser: Steamboat
Steamboat, a popular attraction in Yellowstone National Park, is the world’s tallest active geyser. At unscheduled intervals, it sends rockets of water soaring as high as 300 feet or more, though minor eruptions of 10 to 40 feet are more common.
Largest Natural Bridge: Rainbow Bridge
The world’s largest natural bridge, Rainbow Bridge, is in southern Utah; it is 275 feet across and 290 feet tall. This sandstone wonder holds spiritual significance for various American Indian groups and was designated a national monument in 1910 by President Taft.
Largest Freshwater Fish: White Sturgeon
The white sturgeon is the largest freshwater fish in North America. One record-setting specimen, from the Snake River in Idaho in the 19th century, reportedly weighed 1,500 pounds. The white sturgeon typically reaches about 12 feet in length.
Longest Mountain Chain: Rocky Mountains
The Rocky Mountains stretch more than 2,000 miles through several western states. Among the most spectacular ranges in the chain are the Sawatch of Colorado-home to Mount Elbert, the highest peak in the Rockies at 14,433 feet-and the Tetons of Wyoming.
Tallest Trees: Coast Redwoods
Coast redwoods, the tallest trees in the world today, range from central California to southern Oregon. Most of these giants stand between 200 and 300 feet tall, though they can reach more than 350 feet; they can live 2,000 years or longer.
Largest Rodent: American Beaver
The average adult beaver weighs between 35 and 40 pounds; the largest can weigh more than 60 pounds and be three feet tall when standing on its hind legs. Though their long front teeth look menacing, beavers are peaceful creatures.
Longest River System: Mississippi-Missouri
From the headwaters of the Missouri River, in the Rocky Mountains, to the great delta where the Mississippi River empties into the Gulf of Mexico, the Mississippi-Missouri river system stretches more than 3,700 miles. Exact measurements are difficult to pinpoint.
Rainiest Spot: Mount Wai`ale`ale
Mount Wai`ale`ale, on the island of Kaua`i in Hawaii, has an average annual rainfall of about 400 inches. Its elevation is greater than 5,000 feet. The name, Wai`ale`ale, may be roughly rendered in English as “overflowing waters” or “rippling waters.”
Most Active Volcano: Kilauea
Fiery eruptions are common at Kilauea, a volcano on the southeastern edge of the Big Island of Hawaii. Kilauea has had 55 eruptive episodes since 1983; it typically produces more than 10 million cubic feet of lava every day.
Longest Cave: Mammoth Cave
More than 365 miles of passages have been explored and mapped in Mammoth Cave, in Kentucky. This is the longest known cave in the world; according to tradition, it was discovered in the 1790s by a hunter chasing a bear.
Loudest Animal: Blue Whale
Blue whales, found in all the world’s oceans, including U.S. waters, are the biggest and loudest animals on Earth. They can emit sounds at a volume greater than 180 decibels in water, but pitched too low for humans to detect without sensitive equipment.
Hottest Spot: Death Valley
In Death Valley, one of the hottest places on Earth, summer temperatures average more than 100 degrees Fahrenheit. A record high of 134 degrees was measured there in July 1913. The valley floor is even hotter than the surrounding air.
Longest Covered Bridge: Cornish-Windsor Bridge
This landmark bridge accommodating two-way vehicular traffic between the towns of Cornish, New Hampshire, and Windsor, Vermont, is about 450 feet long. It was constructed in 1866, at a cost of $9,000, and was a toll bridge until 1943.
Largest Plant: Quaking Aspen
The root system of a quaking aspen tree can produce a clone that appears to be an entire grove. A clone in Utah named Pando (Latin for “I spread”) weighs an estimated 6,600 tons, making it one of the most massive living organisms known.