Exploring the Midwest Leaving New Orleans, we followed the Mississippi River north. Hundreds of miles later, we reached another large city. The map said it was St. Louis, in the state of Missouri.
Missouri is in the area that Americans call the Midwest. Also part of this region are the states to the north and east—Ohio, Michigan, Indiana, Illinois, Wisconsin, Minnesota, and Iowa. Rivers and lakes are major features of this region.
We stopped for a while in St. Louis. There, we took a ride on the river in a large wooden boat with smokestacks. The boat was built to look just like a paddlewheeler, one of the boats that used to travel up and down the Mississippi in the 1800s.
The most interesting thing we saw from the paddlewheeler was a huge shiny arch of steel standing on the riverbank. The guide on the boat called this the Gateway Arch. She said that it was the tallest monument in the United States—even taller than the Washington Monument.
Reading about the Midwest in the library, we found out that the area has always been very important for agriculture. In Iowa and Illinois, we saw many farms where they grow crops, such as corn and soybeans.
The cornfields were an especially impressive sight, with their thousands of tall green stalks laid out in neat rows. Later, we found out that a lot of the corn grown is actually not used as food for people. More than half of it is used to feed animals that are raised for their meat, or to produce a number of products.
Midwestern farmers raise animals for other things, too. North of Iowa and Illinois is the state of Wisconsin, which is called America’s Dairyland. It seems as if everywhere you go in Wisconsin, you see cows. These dairy cows are raised for their milk, which is a popular drink in America. The milk is also turned into other foods, such as cheese and butter.
But do not think that the Midwest is all cornfields and dairy farms, Admiral. It also has a number of big cities that are centers of commerce and industry. The states of Michigan, Wisconsin, Ohio, and Iowa are known for manufacturing all kinds of goods, including cars. Iowa is leading the way with a new kind of alternative energy—wind power. In fact, Iowa gets more than 30 percent of its energy from wind.
In the northern part of this region, there are huge bodies of water called the Great Lakes. There are five of these lakes: Lake Superior, Lake Michigan, Lake Huron, Lake Erie, and Lake Ontario. Rivers connect the lakes to the Atlantic Ocean. This makes it possible for Midwestern goods to be shipped all over the world. But the most amazing thing about the Great Lakes, Admiral, is their size. They were not kidding when they called them “great.” When we flew over them, they just went on and on—more like seas than lakes. We measured Lake Superior on the map and saw that it was more than 350 miles long. Later, we read that it is the largest freshwater lake on Earth.
Visiting the Windy City
Chicago, Illinois, is located on the southern shore of Lake Michigan. It is the largest city in the Midwest. Chicago is a center of transportation where railways from both sides of the United States come together. It is also a major port city.
Chicago is the third most populated city in the United States. Los Angeles, in California, is number two, and New York, as I said before, is number one. Chicago reminded us of New York. It is a big, crowded city full of skyscrapers. In fact, we learned that the first skyscrapers in America were built in Chicago back in the late 1800s.
We walked through the busy streets. Later, we walked along the shore of Lake Michigan. Wind from the water whipped against us, making us chilly even though the sun was shining. We had heard that Chicago was called the Windy City, and now we knew why. Or so we thought. Later, while studying in the public library, we found out the real reason for the city’s nickname.
Long ago, a newspaper writer from New York called Chicago the Windy City. He did so because he believed the people there were always boasting about how great their city was. You see, Admiral, when Americans think someone talks too much or brags, they say that person is a “wind bag,” or full of hot air.
We did not think the people we met were full of hot air, but we did notice that Chicagoans are very proud of their sports teams. You see, Admiral, in America the big cities compete with each other in sports. There are three main sports in America: baseball, basketball, and football. In Chicago, we went to a stadium called Wrigley Field to watch a baseball game. We enjoyed eating hot
dogs, drinking sodas, and yelling along with the crowd. After we left Chicago, we flew over the northern parts of Michigan, Wisconsin, and Minnesota. The land was covered with forests.
Not as many people live in this area. Lieutenant Koola had been reading about the animals of the region. She told us about an animal called a wolf, a kind of wild dog, which used to live in many parts of the United States. Over the years, hunters have killed so many wolves that now northern Minnesota is one of the very few places where wolves still live. Lieutenant Koola said that if we looked closely into the forests, we might also see moose and bears. We had no such luck. But, we were still in good spirits on our way to the next region—the Great Plains.