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Nature Inspires Many State Nicknames

Every U.S. state has a nickname that it uses to promote itself. Here are some more of them.

Idaho is known as "The Gem State," not because it's laden with diamonds or emeralds but because it believes it's the gem of the western Rocky Mountains.

Illinois is "The Land of Lincoln," Abraham Lincoln, the martyred 19th-century president who led the nation through a bloody civil war.

The Midwest state of Indiana is called the "Hoosier State," but nobody is quite sure why. One story is that pioneer settlers were a little nervous opening their doors. "Who's Zher?" they would say. No wonder the state legislature instead prefers to call Indiana "The Crossroads of America."

Iowa's nickname, the "Hawkeye State," is a tribute to Black Hawk, an Indian chief who actually spent most of his life in neighboring Illinois!

Kansas also has a "hawkish" nickname: "The Jayhawk State." Jayhawkers were ruffians who roamed the Kansas prairie during the turbulent years before the U.S. Civil War of the 1860s.

The mid-South state of Kentucky is "The Bluegrass State." Rich bluegrass, which is actually bright green but casts a bluish hue from a distance, feeds the state's renowned Thoroughbred horses.

Louisiana is "The Bayou State." A bayou is a sluggish stream. Hundreds of them meander through this Deep South state, and many are full of alligators!

Maine, up in the nation's northeast corner, is "The Pine Tree State" because it's virtually covered in evergreen woods. And directly across the country, on the Pacific Coast, the state of Washington has lots of conifers as well. Washington is "The Evergreen State."

The mid-Atlantic state of Maryland is called the "Free State." A Baltimore newspaper first called it that during the 1920s, when the manufacture and sale of alcohol were banned for a time. Maryland said it wanted to be free from this prohibition.

Massachusetts is the "Bay State." Its Atlantic inlet separates most of the state from famous Cape Cod. And its early settlers represented the "Massachusetts Bay Colony."

Six state nicknames are taken from native animals. Michigan is the "Wolverine State." A wolverine is a small, burrowing mammal with a nasty disposition. Those who gave Michigan this nickname admired the wolverine's ferocity.

Wisconsin's badger is a similar and equally feisty, creature, and Wisconsin is "The Badger State."

Neighboring Minnesota, "The Gopher State," takes its nickname from a much cuter animal. A gopher is a rodent that builds mounds and tunnels on the prairie. But Minnesota license plates refer to the state, without exaggeration, as "The Land of 10,000 Lakes."

North Dakota, on the Canadian border, gets its nickname, "The Flickertail State" not from some bird, but from a saucy little squirrel. And South Dakota takes its nickname, "The Coyote State," from a fox-like predator that thinks flickertails are delicious!

And Oregon, "The Beaver State," borrows its nickname from the large, flat-tailed rodent that gnaws trees until they fall, then builds dams with them.

Next time, we'll finish our list of state nicknames, including one that's all about people's feet!