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For other uses, see Panhandle (disambiguation).
Locations of panhandles within states of the USA

A panhandle is an American English informal geographic term for an elongated arm-like protrusion of a geo-political entity, such as a subnational entity or a sovereign state.


The term "panhandle" derives from the analogous part of a cooking pan, and its use is generally confined to the United States. A term used elsewhere is salient, derived from military salients. While similar to a peninsula in shape, a panhandle 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.

The panhandle 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. In the United States, a protrusion with a less elongated shape is informally called a bootheel. Examples of bootheels in the United States include the regions of southeastern Missouri, southwestern Alabama, southwestern New Mexico, and northwestern Oregon.

United States of America panhandles[edit]

StateLargest cityPopulationArea (sq. mi)Population density
(per sq. mi)
IdahoCoeur d'Alene317,75121,01315
Eastern West VirginiaMartinsburg261,0413,49975
Northern West VirginiaWheeling132,295601220

* 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.

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

Panhandles outside the USA[edit]

Outside the United States, the term is not in common usage, with the arguable exception of the nearby New Brunswick Panhandle. Nonetheless, the following territorial protrusions could be considered panhandles, or may be known as corridors. Such shapes can be a result of linguistic (or ethnic) lines or come about as the result of geographic features among other reasons. Notable examples include:






See also[edit]