North America is the 3rd largest continent on Earth, covering approximately
9,450,000 square miles (24,490,000 square kilometers). It makes up 4.8%
of the Earth's surface and consists of 23 countries.
North America touches three oceans — the Atlantic to the East, the
Pacific to the West and the Arctic to the North. North America and South
America are connected by the Isthmus of Panama.
Like South America, North America is named for Amerigo Vaspucci, an Italian
cartographer who was the first to suggest that the Americas were a new land
rather than being part of the East Indies.
North America features several gulfs. The Gulf of Mexico is the largest
such gulf, followed by Hudson Bay, the Gulf of St. Lawrence, and the Gulf of
It is also home to several large rivers. The Mississippi drains
midwestern United States and empties into the Gulf of Mexico. The
Colorado runs through southwestern U.S. and empties into the Gulf of
California. The Columbia drains the Pacific Northwest, emptying into
the Pacific Ocean. The Mackenzie flows through the Canadian northwest
and empties into the Arctic Ocean.
The Great Lakes, a grouping of five of the largest freshwater lakes, also lie
within North America. When combined with the St. Lawrence River, they
become the largest freshwater system in the world. They are located near
the U.S. and Canada border and surround the state of Michigan.
In the west, the Rocky Mountains cover over 2,000 miles, extending from Mexico
up to Canada and eastern Alaska. Also in the western portion of the
continent is Mt. McKinley, the highest point in North America, reaching 20,320
ft. (6,194 m.). It is situated in the Alaska Mountain Range that covers
much of south-central Alaska and continues into Canada's Yukon Territory.
The Appalachians in the east run about 1,500 miles and extend from Alabama in
the southern U.S. to the Canadian province of Newfoundland.
Parts of the continent's coastline are dotted with bayous, deltas, marshes,
mud flats and swamps.
The fertile Great Plains of North America are known as the heartland of the
continent and are covered with farms. The land is generally smooth and
treeless with sloping shallow river valleys.
Visitors flock to the sunny beaches on the coasts of North America, to large
cities like Toronto and Las Vegas, and to unique sites like the Niagara Falls
and the Grand Canyon.
North America Map
North American Countries
The table below lists the countries of North America and their capital cities,
and also features convenient links to maps and detailed information about
each North American country. For a detailed map and information about
North America's Caribbean Sea region, please visit
CIA World Factbook home page for information about
this helpful geopolitical resource, and visit this
map of North America
website for more North America maps and North American travel information.