Encyclopedia Article


A region defined in different ways by different sources. Narrowly defined, the core Southwest is centered on the states comprising the Four Corners (Utah, Colorado, New Mexico, and Arizona), with parts of other states making up the beginnings and endings of the Southwest. Most of the Southwest was once part of the Viceroyalty of New Spain. What is now California, Arizona, Nevada, Utah, New Mexico, and portions of Colorado, Wyoming, Oklahoma and Kansas were part of Mexico before the Mexican-American War (1846-1848) and the Gadsden Purchase of 1853.

The Southwest features a semi-arid to arid climate, depending on the location. Much of the region is an arid desert climate, but higher elevations in the mountains feature alpine climates with varying amounts of snow. The term high desert is also synonymous with this region. This area of the desert land generally sits at a very high elevation, much higher than the normal desert land, and can receive very cold temperatures at night in the winter sometimes near zero degrees on very cold nights. Other areas of the Southwest may also be referred to as the high desert, such as the Colorado Plateau.

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Digital photograph courtesy of Stephanie Mack, Albuquerque, NM. Used with Permission.

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