US Lowpoint Guide

“[low baritone] Swing low … [kid’s voice] Happy feet” – okay it doesn’t quite work. It’s all downhill from the highpoint to the lowpoint – so to speak.

While visiting a state for its highpoint, you might consider visiting other geographic extremities like its lowpoint. The USGS publishes the “Elevations and Distances in the United States” which is nicely summarized in Wikipedia’s “List of U.S. states by elevation“.

You will see many lowpoints are defined by water (river, ocean, lake). Where do you define the lowest point for North Carolina when its the Atlantic Ocean? This guide arbitrary chooses the closest point (as the crow flies) to the respective highpoint. In some cases it also lists an alternate closer equivalent point (eg, Puget Sound and Pacific Ocean for Washington state).

Before we get to the table, here are some trivia questions (answers at the bottom):
Q1: How many states do not have their lowpoint defined by water (river, lake, ocean)?
Q2: How many states have their lowpoint below sea level?
Q3: Which state has the highest lowpoint?
Q4: Which state has the shortest distance between its highpoint and lowpoint?
Q5: Which state has the longest distance between its highpoing and lowpoint?
Q6: [Extra Credit] Which states have the lowest and highest mean elevations?

/ – Highpoints : – Lowpoints

[You may re-sort this table by clicking the small arrows found in the column headers.]

State Location Low Elev High Elev Hi-Low Span Hi-Low Distance (miles)
Alabama Gulf of Mexico 0 2407 2407 244
Alabama * Tensaw River 0 2407 2407 216
Alaska Pacific Ocean 0 20320 20320 125
Alaska * Nunavakanuk Lake -4 20320 20324 436
Arizona Colorado River at Sonora border 70 12633 12563 267
Arkansas Ouachita River at Louisiana border 55 2753 2698 174
California Badwater Basin in Death Valley -282 14494 14776 84.9
Colorado Arikaree River at Kansas border 3315 14433 11118 242
Connecticut Long Island Sound 0 2380 2380 59.8
Delaware Atlantic Ocean 0 448 448 74.8
Delaware * Delaware River 0 448 448 4.41
Florida Atlantic Ocean 0 345 345 34.5
Georgia Atlantic Ocean 0 4784 4784 257
Hawaii Pacific Ocean 0 13796 13796 17.4
Idaho Confluence of Snake River and Clearwater River 710 12662 11952 224
Illinois Confluence of Mississippi River and Ohio River 279 1235 956 386
Indiana Confluence of Ohio River and Wabash River 320 1257 937 229
Iowa Confluence of Mississippi River and Des Moines River 480 1670 1190 307
Kansas Verdigris River at Oklahoma border 679 4039 3360 378
Kentucky Mississippi River at Kentucky Bend 257 4139 3882 362
Louisiana New Orleans -8 535 543 233
Maine Atlantic Ocean 0 5268 5268 113
Maine * Penobscot Bay 0 5268 5268 96.7
Maryland Atlantic Ocean 0 3360 3360 248
Maryland * Potomac River 0 3360 3360 147
Massachusetts Atlantic Ocean 0 3491 3491 113
Massachusetts * Charles River 0 3491 3491 107
Michigan Lake Erie 571 1979 1408 404
Minnesota Lake Superior 601 2301 1700 12.8
Mississippi Gulf of Mexico 0 806 806 303
Missouri Saint Francis River at southern Arkansas border 230 1772 1542 111
Montana Kootenai River at Idaho border 1800 12799 10999 379
Nebraska Missouri River at Kansas border 840 5424 4584 464
Nevada Colorado River at California border 479 13140 12661 285
New Hampshire Atlantic Ocean 0 6288 6288 89.1
New Hampshire * Salmon Falls River 0 6288 6288 76.3
New Jersey Atlantic Ocean 0 1803 1803 67.5
New Jersey * Hudson River 0 1803 1803 45.4
New Mexico Red Bluff Reservoir on Texas border 2842 13161 10319 326
New York Atlantic Ocean 0 5344 5344 244
New York * Hudson River 0 5344 5344 109
North Carolina Atlantic Ocean 0 6684 6684 250
North Dakota Red River of the North at Manitoba border 750 3506 2756 335
Ohio Ohio River at Indiana border 455 1550 1095 105
Oklahoma Little River at Arkansas border 289 4973 4684 523
Oregon Pacific Ocean 0 11239 11239 110
Pennslyvania Delaware River at Delaware border 0 3213 3213 199
Rhode Island Atlantic Ocean 0 812 812 33.1
Rhode Island * Providence River 0 812 812 19.6
South Carolina Atlantic Ocean 0 3560 3560 231
South Carolina * Cooper River 0 3560 3560 220
South Dakota Big Stone Lake on Minnesota border 966 7242 6276 351
Tennessee Mississippi River at Mississippi border 178 6643 6465 386
Texas Gulf of Mexico 0 8749 8749 546
Utah Beaverdam Wash at Arizona border 2000 13528 11528 326
Vermont Lake Champlain 95 4393 4298 18.4
Virginia Atlantic Ocean 0 5729 5729 308
Virginia * James River 0 5729 5729 239
Washington Pacific Ocean 0 14411 14411 111
Washington * Puget Sound 0 14411 14411 42.7
West Virginia Potomac River at Virginia border 240 4863 4623 107
Wisconsin Lake Michigan 579 1951 1372 128
Wyoming Bell Forche River at South Dakota border 3099 13804 10705 299
District of Columbia Potomac River at eastern Maryland border 1 410 409 10.7
District of Columbia * Potomac River 1 410 409 2.59
American Samoa Pacific Ocean 0 3160 3160 1.03
Guam Pacific Ocean 0 1332 1332 1.20
Northern Marianas Pacific Ocean 0 3166 3166 1.78
Puerto Rico Atlantic Ocean 0 4390 4390 13.4
US Virgin Is Atlantic Ocean 0 1556 1556 0.87

Please contact us at guides@highpointers.org if you have any suggestions or trip reports/updates you would like to share.


This graph shows shows the highpoint and lowpoint elevation along with the mean elevation of each state/populated-territory.

The answers to the trivia questions are:
A1: 2.5 – California, Louisiana and seasonally Utah
A2: 2-3 – California (-282 ft) and Louisiana (-8 ft) and Alaska* (-4 ft)
A3: Colorado at 3315 feet
A4: Minnesota at 12.8 miles (US Virgin Islands at 0.87 miles if you include the territories)
A5: Texas at 546 miles
A6: Delaware has the lowest mean elevation (60 ft) while Colorado has the highest mean elevation (6800 ft)

Back in 2003 you may remember that some scientists determined that Kansas is flatter than a pancake. But is Kansas the flattest state? Looking at the span (highpoint elevation – lowpoint elevation) we see that Florida is the flattest state at 345 feet (with Alaska the least flat at 20320 feet). Alternatively, we could look at the slope between the highpoint and lowpoint. In this case Illinois is the flattest with a slope of 0.027 degrees (with Hawaii the least flat at a whopping 8.54 degrees – although American Samoa blows the competition away at 30.16 degrees). In 2014, University of Kansas researchers did a far more rigorous analysis and confirmed that Florida is the flattest state, while Kansas was only the seventh flattest state.