Compared to the mountainous east and west stretches of the United States, the country’s Midwest and Great Plains regions are often seen as vast, empty expanses of fields and farms. Many people think Kansas is the flattest state in the U.S., as it seems to be a lot of openness and wind farms. Many say that Kansas is “flatter than a pancake.” Parts of Kansas are very flat, but other U.S. states are flatter than Kansas.
Geographers Professor Jerome Dobson and Joshua Campbell from the University of Kansas published a paper in 2014 titled, “The Flatness of U.S. States.” The geographers conducted a “geomorphometric analysis” - essentially a measure of lumps and bumps- of the contiguous United States. Dobson and Campbell developed a method for reckoning flatness, creating an algorithm that allowed them to develop a comprehensive estimate of states’ relative flatness.
Their focus was on the human perception of flatness since the study’s purpose was to combat the general perception of Kansas’s flatness. To estimate geographical flatness as perceived by the human eye, Dobson and Campbell applied math to the experience of looking toward the horizon and seeing a rise of land. From there, they created a simulation that approximates what you would see if you stood in a spot and turned 360 degrees. They then framed each finding into four categories: not flat, flat, flatter, and flattest.
The study does not include Hawaii or Alaska because they already knew that those two states were not the flattest in the U.S. Dobson and Campbell said that they conducted the study because people’s perceptions of a flat state like Kansas are generally unfavorable. Dobson stated that people don’t apply for jobs or plan to move to a state like Kansas because they think it’s flat and boring.
Based on the difference between the highest and lowest elevations in the state, the ten flattest states in the U.S. are:
Delta Between Highest + Lowest (ft)
Highest Elevation (ft)
Lowest Elevation (ft)