Geography of the Territories of the United States

Geography of the 14 U.S. Territories

Guam, Agana, Agana Heights and harbour
Toyohiro Yamada / 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 are lands that are administered by the United States but are not officially claimed by any of the 50 states or any other world nation. Typically, most of these territories depend on the United States for defense as well as economic and social support.

The following is an alphabetical list of the territories of the United States. For reference, their 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 August hurricanes in 2017, the Puerto Rico and Virgin Islands populations may be different, because a large number of people fled to the mainland.

1) American Samoa
• 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.

2) Baker Island
• 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.

3) Guam
• 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.

4) Howland Island
• 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.

5) Jarvis Island
• 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.

6) Johnston Atoll
• 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.

7) Kingman Reef
• 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.

8) Midway Islands
• Total Area: 2.4 square miles (6.2 sq km)
• Population: There are no permanent inhabitants on the islands but caretakers periodically live on the islands.

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.

9) Navassa Island
• 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 but is closed to the public.

10) Northern Mariana Islands
• 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 to examine a World War II shipwreck. History buffs will recognize the island name of Saipan.

11) Palmyra Atoll
• 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.

12) Puerto Rico
• 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) occur nearby daily. 

13) U.S. Virgin Islands
• 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. 

14) Wake Island
• 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.