How Much Do You Know About the Southwest?


By: Teresa McGlothlin

6 Min Quiz

Image: Ivan / Moment / Getty Images

About This Quiz

From mountains to plains to deserts, the American Southwest has a lot to offer! One of the most interesting geographical areas in the world, it's home to four deserts, the Rocky Mountains and many notable U.S. cities. Even if you've never taken a trip to see the saguaros, you'll enjoy finding out how much you know about its most famous features. 

Depending on who you ask, the Southwestern region is home to between four and six states. In fact, you can stand in four of them at the same time! Whether you're a native to the area or considering storming Nevada's Area 51 next time around, the area's history and its best features are worth knowing about.  Do you know as much about it as you really think you do, though? 

You might want to grab some water while we go through the semi-arid climate and travel to the Garden of the Gods. Several Southwestern states receive less than 10 inches of rain per year, and you're not a cactus! Hopefully, you'll be able to share your knowledge with us without sweating like you're standing in Death Valley or looking over the Grand Canyon's South Rim. Let's find out how well you'll do! 

The mountain range that runs through the Southwest is the highest in North America. Do you know its name?

Running from Alberta, Canada down to New Mexico, the Rocky Mountains are the longest and the highest mountains on the continent. The tallest peak is called Mount Elbert, and it towers 14,439 feet above the rest of the range.


How many states make up the region known as the American Southwest?

While some consider the Southwest to be a four-state territory, U.S. maps include six. The region is made up of Colorado, New Mexico, Arizona, and Nevada. However, portions of Texas and Utah are also included.


You probably won't see New Mexico's state bird being chased by a coyote like in the cartoons. Can you name it, though?

In 1949, the roadrunner, or El Correcaminos, was made the official state bird of New Mexico. These days, it's also a symbol for a game in the state's lottery. For only $1 per day, you can win over $25,000 playing Roadrunner Cash.


If you set out to find Area 51 in Nevada, which road would you drive?

The Extraterrestrial Highway is officially named Nevada State Route 375. It runs parallel to the Nevada Test and Training Range operated by Edwards Air Force Base, but you might call it Area 51.


What's the name of the official neckwear of the Southwestern states Arizona, New Mexico and Texas?

Bolo ties are easily recognized by their looped leather cords, metal tips and a silver clasp that holds the cords together. Adopted by all three states as official neckwear, they are a nod to the Native American silversmithing historically found throughout the region.


Which river will you find flowing through the Grand Canyon in Arizona?

Around six million years ago, the Grand Canyon was carved by the Colorado River. Running 1,450 miles from La Poudre Pass Lake to the Gulf of California, it's the main source of water for over 25 million Americans.


The monument placed where four Southwestern states meet is called by which of these names?

The Four Corners Monument rests at the quadripoint of Arizona, New Mexico, Nevada and Utah. If you want to visit, it will cost you $5 per person. Be warned, there are no running water or restroom facilities on the site!


What name is given to the town that sits right in the middle of Utah? Try spelling it backward for a hint.

If you spell Levan, Utah backward, it spells Navel, Utah. The town has a small marker noting its importance as the state's geographical center, and all 688 residents of the town are proud of its distinction.


One of these southwestern states is the country's biggest exporter of copper — which one?

Oil and gas are also major exports that come from the American Southwest, but Arizona leads the nation in copper. Every year, it produces over $5 billion worth of the native mineral.


All of them are located in the Southwest, but how many deserts are there in the U.S.?

Including the Chihuahuan, Mojave, Sonoran and Great Basin Deserts, there are a total of four in the United States. Covering around 140,000 square miles, the Chihuahuan Desert is the largest.


What climate term would you use to describe the southwestern weather?

Although you'll find a few forests and mountains in the Southwest, the mostly desert region is known for its arid climate. It gets the least rainfall of any other part of the country.


Do you know the name of the tall cactus that visitors love to see in the Sonoran Desert?

Visitors to Arizona's Sonoran desert or California's Imperial County are delighted by the sight of the Saguaro cactus. Growing up to 40 feet tall, it can take 100 years for one of the giant's arms to develop.


You can find the nation's first and biggest recreation area in the Southwest. What's it called?

When Lake Mead was created in 1936, the Colorado River was dammed to flood the region that sits in both Arizona and Nevada. Including the lake, the Lake Mead Recreation Area covers over 1.5 million acres of land.


Despite its dry landscape, one Southwestern state's name means "snow-capped." Do you know which one?

Nevada answers to the Sagebrush State and the Silver State, but its real name means "snow-capped mountains." A term given by Spanish settlers, it's an interesting juxtaposition against a state that gets the second least amount of rain in the country.


The famous river that runs the entire length of New Mexico is known by what name?

Running from Colorado to the Gulf of Mexico, the Rio Grande is an important source of water for the Southwest. Since 1848, it's served as the official border between the U.S. and Mexico.


Situated in Maricopa County, which of these Southwestern cities is home to golf courses designed by the great Jack Nicklaus?

Despite being situated in an arid climate, Phoenix is surrounded by lush outdoor areas. In fact, Smith Mountain Park and Preserve make up 16,500 acres of the city's landscape. It's the largest municipal park in the country.


Which of the region's states gets its name from the soil color found in its river basins?

Meaning "red" or "red-colored" in Spanish, Colorado gets its name from early explorers who were surprised by the reddish hue around the Colorado River. The soil and mud take their color from the state's sandstone.


You can spray paint cars in Amarillo, Texas when you visit which Southwestern art installation?

Erected in 1974 by an art group that called itself The Ant Farm, Cadillac Ranch is a popular attraction found on the iconic Route 66. Visitors to nearby Amarillo frequently join in the fun by spray painting a Cadillac or two of their own.


Do you have any idea how many caves are part of New Mexico's Carlsbad Caverns?

The sandstone caves at Carlsbad Cavern delight visitors with over 119 different rock formations to explore. Over the course of a 1.25-mile path, tourists descend nearly 75 stories into the earth.


Monument Valley sits on the Arizona/Utah border. Can you figure out which ancient civilization once lived there?

The petroglyphs that help make Monument Valley famous are over 700 years old, and they belong to the Anasazi people. Sometimes called Ancestral Puebloans, they seemed to disappear after a famine ravaged the region.


El Paso was once called Sun City, and it's the home of which military base?

The Southwest is home to many interesting military bases including the Edwards Air Force Base-run Area 51. If you want to see the country's second-biggest Army base, you'll head to Fort Bliss. It sits in both Texas and in New Mexico.


Paris is the City of Lights in Europe; what Southwestern city has the same nickname?

There's a good reason that they called Las Vegas the City of Lights! On any given night, there are over 12 million lights and LED fixtures working together to make its famous Strip sparkle.


Located in Colorado, this tunnel is the longest in the world. Which one?

The official name of the Eisenhower Tunnel outside Dillon, Colorado is the Eisenhower-Edwin C. Johnson Memorial Tunnel. At nearly 1.7 miles long, it's the longest and the busiest tunnel in the world.


Famous since 1947, what New Mexico city would you visit to see the UFO Museum and Research Center?

Since the remains from an alleged UFO crash were recovered in Roswell in 1947, curious visitors have flocked there hoping to catch a glimpse of alien life. Located in the southeastern part of the state, it's home to nearly 50,000 full-time residents.


What Utah park would you visit to see over 2,000 interesting sandstone bridges?

You can't walk on the sandstone arches found at Arches National Park, but you can explore a 36-mile drive through one of the country's most interesting natural areas. Formed by salt deposits over 300 million years ago, each arch is a picturesque formation.


One of these cities is considered the hottest in the country; do you know which one?

The desert can get quite cold at night, and the average December low is 48 degrees in Arizona. Tucson gets the title of America's hottest city, thought. During the summer months, temperatures can soar to 100 degrees Fahrenheit on any given day.


Skiing is legendary in the Southwest! What Colorado town is home to the largest ski slope in the state?

The Rocky Mountains provide the perfect conditions for skiing. Famous ski resorts exist in most of the states in the region, but Vail, Colorado has become quite well-known for its celebrity visitors and posh living.


Over 50 million people visit the Garden of the Gods found in which Southwestern state?

Resting outside Colorado Springs, the Garden of the Gods became a National Natural Landmark in 1974. Snow-capped mountains and lush green hills are the perfect backdrops for sandstone formations that tower up to 300 feet into the air.


Can you overlook the others and figure out which of these spots at the Grand Canyon is the most visited?

The Grand Canyon is visited by more than six million people every year, and most of them start at the Visitor Center. It's located near Mather Point Overlook on the South Rim, and it offers a stunning view.


Which nickname is the right one for the 45th state of Utah?

Utah isn't exactly known for its beekeeping, but early pioneers adopted the beehive as their symbol. Bees are industrious creatures, and the Utah settlers admired their ability to build from nothing. A beehive has been part of the state flag since becoming a state in 1896.


Do you know which one of these Native American tribes did not live in the Southwest?

Dating all the way back to the ancient Anasazi people, the Southwest has been home to several indigenous people including the Hopi, Navajo, Apache, Ute and Comanche tribes. You would have to travel further north to find the Inuit people.


Any idea which of these John Wayne movies was shot in Monument Valley?

1939's "Stagecoach" helped to put John Wayne on the map. The story of a group of travelers braving the Wild West, the film was given its unique feel by being shot on location in Arizona's Monument Valley.


What Southwestern desert is home to the area known as Death Valley?

Covering around 65,000 square miles throughout four Southwestern states, the Mojave Desert has quite the legendary status. It's home to the hottest temperature ever recorded on the planet.


The Pueblo people created unique Southwestern homes along mountains using what substance?

Using mud and straw to create adobe, the Pueblo people were the first Native American tribe to create permanent settlements. Nestled alongside sandstone mountains, they can still be found throughout Arizona, Utah and New Mexico.


The Southwest is known for its arid landscape, but which state has the lowest water-to-land ratio?

For a state that name means "snow-capped," Nevada doesn't get a lot of precipitation. Averaging less than 9.5 inches of rain per year, it's the driest state. New Mexico comes in second with only half an inch more every year.


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