The "Longest" Islands in the United States
Whidbey Island in Washington state is always calling itself the "longest
island in the United States", or "the longest island in the continental United
States", or, sometimes, "the longest saltwater-surrounded island in the
continental United States". This phrase and its variations are so often
repeated that most Washingtonians repeat it as if it were gospel.
However, these claims are totally unsupportable, as the following table
shows. It shows all islands in the U.S. over 40 miles long. Length is a
subjective concept, and the lengths given are approximate. If an island is
long, narrow, and straight, length is easy to determine. For rounded islands,
the longest possible distance between opposite shores was used. For bent or
crooked islands, like Whidbey, length was calculated by drawing a bent line
along the island's main axis from end to end. Thus, Whidbey's length in the
following chart could be considered a liberal estimate, since a straight line
across it would result in a lower number.
21 of the 29 islands on the following chart are in Alaska, and 3 more are
in Hawaii. Technically, Alaska actually is "continental", but even if the
more correct term "contiguous United States" is used to describe the "lower
48", Whidbey Island still ranks only 5th in length. Adding "surrounded by
saltwater" to the criteria only excludes Isle Royale. If hurricanes were to
chop up Padre and Hatteras Islands by cutting channels through their narrow,
sandy widths, that would still leave Long Island, almost three times longer
than Whidbey, at the top of the chart.
No reasonable condition can be applied to the process that would eliminate
Long Island but not Whidbey. Both are connected by bridges to the mainland,
and Deception Pass is just as narrow and salty as the East River. It is true
that there are two bridges connecting Long Island to the mainland, and that
the only bridge connecting Whidbey first passes over another island, Fidalgo.
However, that is counterbalanced by Long Island being far more out into the
ocean than Whidbey Island, trapped far inland in Puget Sound. Long Island
Sound is far wider than Possesion Sound, too.
One superlative remains: Whidbey Island is indeed the longest island on the
Pacific coast of the contiguous United States. This is mainly due to lack of
competition from the almost island-free coasts of California and Oregon,
|Rank||Island||State||Length (mi)||Group or Body of Water|
|1.||Prince of Wales||Alaska||130||Alexander Arch.|
|2.||Long||New York||118||Atlantic Ocean|
|4.||St. Lawrence||Alaska||100||Bering Sea|
|5.||Kodiak||Alaska||98||Gulf of Alaska|
|10.||Padre||Texas||74||Gulf of Mexico|
|18.||Hatteras||North Carolina||51||Atlantic Ocean|
|18.||Montague||Alaska||51||Gulf of Alaska|
|22.||Afognak||Alaska||45||Gulf of Alaska|
|22.||Isle Royale||Michigan||45||Lake Superior|
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