Another Way To See the US: Map of Where Nobody Lives

There are more than 300 million people living in the United States today, but America is such a huge country that we still have staggeringly vast areas that are completely devoid of humans. This map illustrates those places. Everything colored green is a census block with zero population.

Map by Nik Freeman of

The eastern US is pretty well populated except for a few spots in mountains and swamps. There’s plenty of rural land, plenty of forests, but you’re never far from a farm, if not a town.

The west is a completely a different story. It’s covered with enormous stretches of land that are simply empty of people. There are towns along major roads, rivers, and rail lines, but vast emptiness between.

And Alaska’s emptiness makes even the western contiguous states look densely populated. Those green areas near the Arctic Circle look bigger than entire states.

Map by Nik Freeman of

By | 2016-12-27T20:46:19+00:00 April 17, 2014|Categories: Demographics, Parks & Public Spaces|Tags: , |11 Comments


  1. Ken Schroeppel April 17, 2014 at 2:07 pm

    Cool, Dan! This also reflects how the West is particularly urbanized.

  2. Overload in CO April 17, 2014 at 2:27 pm

    I’d be interested to see this map overlaid with one showing where people CAN’T live. That is, government land. This would then show where people could legally live, but don’t.

  3. Lance Newcomb April 17, 2014 at 6:16 pm

    Thats why I love Colorado and Utah.

    • Lance Newcomb April 17, 2014 at 6:35 pm

      And it looks like nobody wants to live in North Dakota? Any particular reason?

      • Nathanael April 26, 2014 at 6:23 pm

        It’s cold. And there’s nothing exceptionally attractive about it to compensate.

  4. BoulderPatentGuy April 18, 2014 at 9:31 am

    Looks like NV and UT make up about 1/4 to 1/3 of all continental-US zero-population census tracks, by area.

    • Nathanael April 26, 2014 at 6:25 pm

      That would be the uninhabitable deserts, and some uninhabitable mountains.

      You’ve got a lot of that in Arizona too. Extremely ill-thought-out water schemes have allowed Phoenix to exist, however.

  5. Jim Nash April 20, 2014 at 4:27 pm

    East and West so starkly different. Draw a line, north to south, down from the Dakotas, west of Omaha, Kansas City, Amarillo, Austin and San Antonio. The merging of Great Plains into the High Plains on the north, from Texas flatlands to the deserts in the Southwest. The arid lands. The difference between farms and ranches, between mostly corn — irrigated — to mostly wheat, dry land. All of it rising to the spine of the continent, the Rockies.

    In front of the mountains, people in towns, squared-off land, lights at night in fly-over America. Cities glowing, but spaced-out, and so much more remote than back east. To the west, darkness, almost no lights down there. Not until you hit greater Phoennix or Vegas, then more darkness, then the endless wash of urban lights, on the coast, north and south. Between Denver and LA, the Great Basin, the most rugged land in America, punctuated at night by Vegas and Reno, but mostly empty, high and dry. Denver the gateway to the Great West, then on to California, the Golden State promise of our national expansion. In between, all the protected lands, the peaks and canyons and roaring rivers. The places loved by millions, and bracketed by Denver and the West Coast. Continuously, the place to be. More people coming…

  6. Ted April 24, 2014 at 7:03 pm

    What I’m finding really fascinating is the way that you can see state borders reflected in this map. I know that census blocks would naturally conform to these lines anyway, but there are a few points on that map where it really shows up. The Colorado/New Mexico border is one example I’m looking at. What accounts for this? Why does an arbitrary political boundary have such a noticeable effect on settlement patterns? The North/South Dakota line is another one that comes through very clearly.

    • Nathanael April 26, 2014 at 6:28 pm

      Also Minnesota / North Dakota. Interesting, isn’t it?

      What makes one side of the border “good” for population? In the NM case, I think a lot of the land is reserves and preserves right up to the Colorado border, and then private for-sale land right after the border.

      I really have no idea what’s going on with North Dakota.

  7. Jeremy Rogers May 14, 2014 at 1:31 am

    Pretty sad when ya think about it…if the federal government wasn’t so busy squandering our dollars to lobbyists and foreign investors. ..we could decrease poverty and unemployment by re enacting the homestead initiative. .. im sure American companies would thrive to those areas to take advantage of workers that have the will to better thier lives and harvest and/or utilize the local natural resources. We as a nation have fallen so far from a position of bettering our citizens without raping them of the dream of making thier own way with an initial gift.

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