Texas is the second largest U.S. state, behind Alaska, with an area of 268,820 square miles (696,200 km2). Though 10 percent larger than France and almost twice as large as Germany or Japan, it ranks only 27th worldwide amongst country subdivisions by size. If it were an independent country, Texas would be the 40th largest behind Chile and Zambia.
Texas is in the south central part of the United States of America. Three of its borders are defined by rivers. The Rio Grande forms a natural border with the Mexican states of Chihuahua, Coahuila, Nuevo León, and Tamaulipas to the south. The Red River forms a natural border with Oklahoma and Arkansas to the north. The Sabine River forms a natural border with Louisiana to the east. The Texas Panhandle has an eastern border with Oklahoma at 100° W, a northern border with Oklahoma at 36°30′ N and a western border with New Mexico at 103° W. El Paso lies on the state’s western tip at 32° N and the Rio Grande.
With 10 climatic regions, 14 soil regions and 11 distinct ecological regions, regional classification becomes problematic with differences in soils, topography, geology, rainfall, and plant and animal communities. One classification system divides Texas, in order from southeast to west, into the following: Gulf Coastal Plains, Interior Lowlands, Great Plains, and Basin and Range Province.
The Gulf Coastal Plains region wraps around the Gulf of Mexico on the southeast section of the state. Vegetation in this region consists of thick piney woods. The Interior Lowlands region consists of gently rolling to hilly forested land and is part of a larger pine-hardwood forest.
The Great Plains region in central Texas is located in spans through the state’s panhandle and Llano Estacado to the state’s hill country near Austin. This region is dominated by prairie and steppe. “Far West Texas” or the “Trans-Pecos” region is the state’s Basin and Range Province. The most varied of the regions, this area includes Sand Hills, the Stockton Plateau, desert valleys, wooded mountain slopes and desert grasslands.
Texas has 3,700 named streams and 15 major rivers, with the Rio Grande as the largest. Other major rivers include the Pecos, the Brazos, Colorado, and Red River. While Texas has few natural lakes, Texans have built over 100 artificial reservoirs.
The size and unique history of Texas make its regional affiliation debatable; it can be fairly considered a Southern or a Southwestern state, or both. The vast geographic, economic, and cultural diversity within the state itself prohibits easy categorization of the whole state into a recognized region of the United States. Notable extremes range from East Texas which is often considered an extension of the Deep South, to Far West Texas which is generally acknowledged to be part of the interior Southwest.
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