Salient (geography)

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A salient is an elongated protrusion of a geopolitical entity, such as a subnational entity or a sovereign state.

While similar to a peninsula in shape, a salient is not surrounded by water on three sides and connected to a geographical mainland. Instead, it is delimited by a land border on at least two sides and extends out from the larger geographical body of the administrative unit.

In American English the term panhandle is often used to describe Florida or a similar shape. Less common descriptors include chimney (if protruding northward, as a chimney does from a roof) and bootheel (if protruding southward, as the heel underneath a boot).


The term salient is derived from military salients. The term "panhandle" derives from the analogous part of a cooking pan, and its use is generally confined to the United States.

The salient shape is the result of arbitrarily drawn international or subnational boundaries, although the location of some administrative borders takes into account other considerations such as economic ties or topography.

Country-level salients





Subnational salients

Panhandles in the United States

Locations of panhandles within states of the USA
State Largest city Population Area (sq mi) Area (km2) Population density
(per sq mi)
Population density (/km2)
Alaska Juneau 71,616 35,138 91,010 2 0.77
Connecticut Stamford 224,284 96 250 2,336 902
Florida* Tallahassee 1,407,925 11,304 29,280 125 48
Idaho Coeur d'Alene 317,751 21,013 54,420 15 5.8
Maryland Frederick 492,950 2,194 5,680 225 87
Nebraska Scottsbluff 87,789 14,258 36,930 6 2.3
Oklahoma Guymon 28,751 5,687 14,730 5 1.9
Texas Amarillo 427,927 25,887 67,050 17 6.6
Eastern West Virginia Martinsburg 261,041 3,499 9,060 75 29
Northern West Virginia Wheeling 132,295 601 1,560 220 85

* This definition includes the following counties: Bay, Calhoun, Escambia, Franklin, Gadsden, Gulf, Holmes, Jackson, Jefferson, Leon, Liberty, Madison, Okaloosa, Santa Rosa, Taylor, Wakulla, Walton, and Washington.

This definition includes the following counties: Allegany, Frederick, Garrett, and Washington

Many people in the Pacific Northwest refer to the extreme northern section of Idaho's panhandle as "The Chimney", due to its resemblance to a chimney when viewed on maps.[citation needed]

The northern segment of the borough of Manhattan in New York City represents a geographic panhandle as well.[citation needed]

Although Utah, like Nebraska, has a protrusion from its otherwise straight border, it is not usually considered a panhandle.

See also


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