The Southwest

Now let's drive out to the dusty Southwest. Unlike Florida, very little rain falls here — less than five inches of rain per year — so the skies are sunny and clear all year long. Nevada is the driest state, with fewer than nine inches of rain or snow per year. The saguaro cactus loves this kind of hot, dry weather and can grow as tall as fifty feet. That's a big cactus!

Cotton Cash

Our dollar bills are 75 percent cotton. When the cotton fibers are processed, they become very strong. Hold a dollar bill up to the light. Can you see the fibers? Don't try and sew the bills together to make a shirt, though, it'll be too expensive!

bluegrass

Tennessee is called the Bluegrass State because its meadows and fields are covered with a grass that grows a blue flower in spring. Bluegrass is also a kind of music that features stringed instruments like guitar, banjo, and fiddle.

SLAVE: A slave is a person who belongs to someone else and must do what that person demands. Black slaves in the South belonged to white landowners who forced them to work on their land for no pay.

History of the Southwest

The first people to inhabit the Southwest were the Pueblo — communities of Native Americans. They are famous for building adobe structures out of sand, clay, water, and sticks. The Navajo came next, and then Spanish settlers. In the 1800s, the area was controlled by Mexico. Although the region is now a part of the United States, the Hispanic influence is still seen today in the region's language, religion, architecture, and food.

In Oklahoma, in the 1930s, bad farming methods and a drought caused bad dust storms throughout the area. This gave Oklahoma the nickname “Dust Bowl.”

The major industries of the Southwest include mining, technology, tourism, oil, and space travel. NASA opened its space center, called the Lyndon B. Johnson Space Center, in Houston in 1961. Astronauts train there and engineers monitor space missions from inside the Mission Control Center.

A Grand Landscape

The Colorado River has been rushing through the famous Grand Canyon for millions of years. The canyon is 227 miles long and about a mile deep. Temperatures and weather vary quite a bit here, making hiking tricky, but Grand Canyon National Park is one of the world's top tourist attractions with about 5 million visitors each year.

Over in New Mexico you can find the Carlsbad Caverns located in the Guadalupe Mountains. These caves were not formed by water and limestone like Mammoth Caves. Instead, they were formed from an acid called sulfuric acid. There are more than 100 caves in the Carlsbad Caverns National Park. Some of the caves have unusual names such as Balloon Ballroom, Chocolate High, Hall of the White Giant, and Spirit World.

DID YOU KNOW?

Going Batty!

Austin, Texas, has the largest urban bat colony in the United States! About 1.5 million Mexican free-tailed bats gather at the Ann W. Richards Congress Avenue bridge. Batfest is a yearly event that features arts, crafts, food, music, and, of course, bats!

Tex-Mex Eggs?

The next time you have eggs, try adding some chili powder. Chiles are a big part of a style of cuisine called Tex-Mex, which is popular in the American Southwest. It is a little spicy, so don't add too much!

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