Geography of the Territories of the United States

Futi Rock
Futi Rock in the ocean near Fatumafuti on Tutuila Island, a part of American Samoa. Christopher Biggs / Getty Images

The United States is the world's third-largest country based on population and land area. It is divided into 50 states, but also claims 14 territories around the world.

The definition of a territory, as it applies to those claimed by the United States, is any land that is administered by the United States but is not officially claimed by any of the 50 states or any other world nation.

In this alphabetical list of the territories of the United States, land area and population (where applicable) appear courtesy of the CIA World Factbook. Area figures for islands do not include submerged land area. Population numbers are as of July 2017. (Due to the hurricanes in August 2017, the Puerto Rico and Virgin Islands populations may be different, because a large number of people fled to the mainland, though some may return.)

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American Samoa

National Park of American Samoa, Tutuila Island, American Samoa, South Pacific, Pacific

Michael Runkel / robertharding/Getty Images 

Total area: 77 square miles (199 sq km)

Population: 51,504 

Nearly all 12 of the islands of American Samoa are volcanic in origin and have coral reefs around them.

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Baker Island

Wreckage on Baker Island Coast

joann94024/Wikimedia Commons 

Total area: .81 square miles (2.1 sq km)

Population: Uninhabited

An unpopulated coral atoll, Baker Island is a U.S. National Wildlife Refuge and visited by more than a dozen varieties of birds as well as endangered and threatened sea turtles.

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settings 'Guam' written in the sand

Sergio Amiti/Getty Images 

Total area: 210 square miles (544 sq km)

Population: 167,358

The largest island in Micronesia, Guam doesn't have large cities but does have some large villages on the island.

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Howland Island

Howland Island National Wildlife Refuge sign

Wikimedia / CC BY-SA 3.0

Total area: 1 square mile (2.6 sq km)

Population: Uninhabited

About halfway between Australia and Hawaii, the uninhabited Howland Island is mostly submerged. It receives scant rainfall and has constant wind and sun.

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Jarvis Island

"No Trespassing" sign of USFWS on Jarvis Island in the Pacific Ocean.

Joann94024/Wikimedia Commons

Total area: 1.9 square miles (5 sq km)

Population: Uninhabited

Jarvis island has the same climate as Howland Island, and neither have any naturally occurring freshwater.

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Johnston Atoll

An aerial view of Johnston Atoll.

SSgt. Val Gempis, USAF/Wikimedia Commons 

Total area: 1 square mile (2.6 sq km)

Population: Uninhabited

Previously a wildlife refuge, Johnston Atoll was a site of nuclear testing during the 1950s and 1960s and remains under the jurisdiction of the U.S. Air Force. Until 2000 it was a storage and disposal site for chemical weapons.

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Kingman Reef

Kingman Reef

 Joann94024/Wikimedia Commons

Total area: 0.004 square miles (0.01 sq km)

Population: Uninhabited

Kingman Reef, with 756 square miles (1,958 sq km) of submerged area, has abundant marine species and is a U.S. Natural Wildlife Reserve. Its deep lagoon served as a respite area for U.S. flying boats going from Hawaii to American Samoa in the 1930s.

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Midway Islands

Midway Atoll, Hawaiian Monk Seal laying in sand w/ eyes closed, turquoise ocean bkgd

 Gaffney Rick/Getty Images

Total area: 2.4 square miles (6.2 sq km)

Population: There are no permanent inhabitants on the islands but caretakers periodically live there.

The site of a major turning-point battle during World War II, Midway Islands are a National Wildlife Refuge and home to the largest colony of Laysan albatross in the world.

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Navassa Island

Stream flowing through lush green landscape Unalaska Island Alaska Summer

Design Pics Inc/Getty Images

Total area: .19 square miles (5.4 sq km)

Population: Uninhabited

Results from US Geological Survey studies of the species on the island in 1998 and 1999 raised the number known living there from 150 to more than 650. As a result, it was made a U.S. National Wildlife Refuge. It is closed to the public.

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Northern Mariana Islands

Photo Taken In Northern Mariana Islands, Saipan

Hoiseung Jung / EyeEm/Getty Images 

Total area: 181 square miles (469 sq km), according to the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands

Population: 52,263

While visiting the Northern Mariana Islands northeast of Guam, you can go hiking, fishing, cliff jumping, or scuba diving—and can even examine a World War II shipwreck. 

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Palmyra Atoll

Palmyra Atoll National Wildlife Refuge

USFWS - Pacific Region/Wikimedia Commons 

Total area: 1.5 square miles (3.9 sq km)

Population: Uninhabited

The Palmyra Atoll Research Consortium studies climate change, invasive species, coral reefs, and marine restoration. The atoll is owned and protected by the Nature Conservancy, which purchased it in 2000 from private owners.

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Puerto Rico

Condado Beachfront

John and Tina Reid/Getty Images 

Total area: 3,151 square miles (8,959 sq km)

Population: 3,351,827 

Though Puerto Rico gets rain throughout the year, the wet season is May through October, with the start of hurricane season being August, also its wettest month. In addition to withstanding catastrophic hurricanes, measurable earthquakes (more than 1.5 in magnitude) occur nearby daily. 

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U.S. Virgin Islands

Sunny day and blue sky in an idyllic beach with emerald water at Magens Bay, USVI. Beach time and calm waters at one of the ten top beaches of the world in Caribbean Saint Thomas, US Virgin Islands.

Pola Damonte via Getty Images/Getty Images 

Total area: 134 square miles (346 sq km)

Population: 107,268 

Made up of three larger islands and 50 smaller ones, the U.S. Virgin Islands lie about 40 miles (64 km) east of Puerto Rico, next to the British Virgin Islands. 

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Wake Island

Wake Island

KC-135_Stratotanker_boom.JPG/Wikimedia Commons 

Total area: 2.51 square miles (6.5 sq km)

Population: 150 military and civilian contractors work on the base

Prized for its strategic location as a refueling and stopover site, Wake Island was the site of a major battle during World War II and was held by the Japanese until its surrender at the end of the war. 

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Briney, Amanda. "Geography of the Territories of the United States." ThoughtCo, Feb. 17, 2021, Briney, Amanda. (2021, February 17). Geography of the Territories of the United States. Retrieved from Briney, Amanda. "Geography of the Territories of the United States." ThoughtCo. (accessed June 2, 2023).