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Middle Atlantic States of the United States border the Atlantic Ocean or have port cities that are accessible to it. These states include Connecticut, Delaware, Maryland, New Jersey, New York Pennsylvania, and Rhode Island. All have temperate climates with four distinct seasons, though winters are colder in the western areas, with summers hotter in the coastal areas.
Connecticut is 110 miles long and 70 miles wide. With only 5,544 square miles, it is one of the smallest of the American states. The highest point in Connecticut is Mount Frissell (2,380 feet), located in the extreme northwest corner of the state in the Berkshire Hills. Connecticut is bounded on its western boundary by New York. Rhode Island separates it from the Atlantic. To the north lies Massachusetts, with the Long Island Sound on the south.
Connecticut has five different land regions: The Taconic Section, the Western New England Upland region, the Connecticut Valley Lowland, the Eastern New England Upland and the Coastal Lowland. The Coastal Lowlands are a section of the New England Coastal Lowlands that cover the coast of New England. In Connecticut they are a narrow strip of land that is only 6 to 16 miles wide. The area is found along the southern shore beside Long Island Sound. The area has low ridges, beaches, some swampy areas, and harbors and its shoreline is 618 miles. Most of Connecticut’s population lives in the Coastal Lowlands. The two major exceptions are the cities of Hartford and Waterbury.
The Eastern New England Upland area covers most of eastern Connecticut. The area is the southern end of the same land formation that extends through New England to Maine. It is a heavily forested area with many rivers, valleys, and low hills. It is a fertile region where farmers grow tobacco, corn, potatoes, oats, blueberries, and wheat. Poultry farming is also an important agricultural activity.
The Connecticut Valley Lowland runs through the center of Connecticut and is on average only 30 miles wide. The area is distinguished by basalt lava ridges and low hills. The Connecticut River is wide as it flows through the area on its way from Massachusetts to the sea. There are many small rivers that are tributaries and the area is fertile. Farmers raise potatoes, vegetables, corn, strawberries, blueberries, and other fruits. Grass is plentiful, contributing to dairy farming.
The Western New England Upland covers the western third of Connecticut and stretches into Massachusetts and Vermont. It rises from 1,000 feet to 1,400 feet above sea level and slopes down from the northwest to the southeast. It is a hilly region with many rivers and favorable conditions for the raising of beef cattle and for dairy farms. Crops grown in the area include corn, berries, and vegetables harvested as truck crops especially for urban markets such as New York City and Boston. The Taconic section of Connecticut is a small loop in the northwestern corner of the state. It lies between the Housatonic River and the New York border and extends north into Massachusetts.
Connecticut’s climate is humid with abundant rains throughout the year. The proximity to the sea and the protection of the western hills provide a temperate climate with more moderate temperatures in winter and summer than are experienced by the rest of New England. Occasionally severe winter storms strike the area.
Rhode Island is the smallest of all U.S. states at only about 40 miles long and 30 miles wide. It has a land territory of only 1,045 square miles, but a water area of 500 square miles. It was founded by Anne Hutchinson and Roger Williams. It was also the place where the first Jewish congregation was organized in the English speaking colonies.
Located in the southern tier of the New England states, its neighbors are Massachusetts to the north and east and Connecticut to the west. The great Narragansett Bay is its opening to the sea, which lies on the south. There are two main land regions in Rhode Island-the Coastal Lowlands and the New England Upland. The Coastal Lowlands cover more than half of the mainland and include some of the islands in Narragansett Bay.
The Coastal Lowlands lie east of Narragansett Bay and are a part of the same coastal lowland area that stretches to Maine. The coastline of Rhode Island is only 40 miles long; however, its total shoreline including all of its islands and bays is 384 miles long. The Eastern New England Upland covers the northwestern third of Rhode Island. It is an area dotted with small lakes, ponds, and a terrain that is generally rough. Hay, dairy cattle, poultry and fruits are raised in the area. Jerimoth Hill is in the area and is the tallest point in the state.
The major rivers in Rhode Island are the Providence, the Sakonnet, the Seekonk, the Pawtuxet, and the Potowomut. The climate is temperate with temperatures moderated year round by the proximity to the sea.
New York touches the Atlantic Ocean and the Great Lakes. It also separates New England from the Mid-Atlantic States. Its Atlantic coastline is 127 miles long. Its shorelines on Lakes Erie and Ontario are 371 miles long. Its total area is 49,108 square miles (124,189 square kilometers), which includes inland waterways, but excludes Lakes Erie and Ontario.
There are eight land areas in New York. In the east are the Atlantic Coastal Plain and the New England Upland areas. The Atlantic Coastal Plain includes Staten Island and Long Island. These islands are part of a low flat coastal plain that stretches from Massachusetts to Florida. Some of Long Island and all of Staten Island are part of New York City, which is the largest city in the United States.
Long Island, which is over 100 miles long, is a center for recreation. It is also a major farming area for truck crops along with fruit, flowers, poultry, and other crops and livestock. Its fisheries are a major source of food for New York City.
The New England Upland area is a region of low mountains and hills that forms a belt along New York’s eastern mainland area. The Taconic Mountains, the lower Hudson River Valley, and the Hudson Highlands are part of this region, as is Manhattan Island.
The Hudson-Mohawk Lowland is comprised of the Hudson and Mohawk River valleys and some adjoining areas. It is the only navigable waterway through the Appalachian Mountains. The valleys are filled with fruit orchards and dairy farms as well as other agricultural operations. The Mohawk and Hudson Rivers rise in the Adirondacks. The Adirondack Upland is about 100 miles across and is roughly circular in shape. It is an area that was rugged and remote enough to have been barely explored as late as the mid-1800s. Today it is an area visited in winter for winter sports, and the Winter Olympic Games have been held at Lake Placid twice.
The Appalachian Plateau covers about half of New York. The plateau rises from 800 to 2,000 feet (240 to 610 meters) in the western area. In the east it rises to 4,000 feet (1,200 meters) in the Catskill Mountains. The valleys here are usually deep, as are the lakes. This area is a center for recreation and a source of New York City’s water supply. The Appalachian Plateau area is generally so rugged that it supports only a few people.
The Tug Hill Plateau is a part of the Appalachian Plateau that is isolated from the main part. The Tug Hill area is flat and rocky; its northern part is across the Black River Valley from the Adirondack Upland. It is exposed to winter winds from Lake Ontario; lake effect snows often exceed 225 inches (572 centimeters) per year and have limited both farming and settlement.
The St. Lawrence Lowland lies on the south side of the St. Lawrence River, and north of the Adirondack Plateau. The area has some fertile soils and is level enough to be farmed; it produces fruit from orchards along Lake Champlain and dairy farms are common. The Erie-Ontario Lowlands are a major fruit growing region. Grapes, cherries, and other fruits are important crops. The Lowlands rise from the lakes but still have swampy areas. There are also areas in which glacial deposits called drumlins are mounded. The last ice age shaped the areas of New York with huge glaciers. The smooth flow of mountain ridges and deep lakes like the Finger Lakes are evidence of the enormous forces with which glaciers shaped the land.
New Jersey has four land areas. In the northeast is the Appalachian Ridge and Valley Region. The highest point in New Jersey is High Point, which rises to 1,803 feet. It is a part of the Kittatinny Mountains, the state’s major mountain range. The Delaware River cuts though the mountains to form the Delaware Water Gap, an area considered one of the most beautiful in the eastern United States. It is an important center for growing apples and other crops. The New England Upland region is sometimes called the Highlands. It lies to the southeast of the Ridge and Valley Region. The area is covered in many places with hard cap rock on the ridges. It also has many beautiful lakes. The Piedmont Plateau crosses the northern half of New Jersey in a northeast to southwest direction. While the plateau is only 20 miles wide it is where about three-fourths of the people live, mainly in industrial cities.
South of the Piedmont Plateau is the Atlantic Coastal Plain. It covers most of the southern and eastern parts of the state. Most of the area is characterized by gentle rolling lowlands that are not much above sea level. Many places in the area are farmed to produce truck crops. The Delaware River forms the western border with Pennsylvania and Delaware. The eastern area is a zone in which the sandy soil produces little besides pine trees. Much of the southern area is swampy and marshy close to the coast or to the rivers, forested, and thinly populated. Along the Atlantic coast are excellent beaches such as the beach at Atlantic City. The beaches have become popular enough to stimulate the development of a number of resort cities and towns.
Pennsylvania lies west of New Jersey across the Delaware River. It is bordered on the south by Maryland and on the north by New York. Its main cities are Philadelphia and Pittsburgh, which are at its western and eastern ends. It has an area of 46,058 square miles (119,751 square kilometers).
Pennsylvania’s Lowlands are in the northwest and the southeast. The lowlands in the northwest are part of the Erie Lowland region that borders Lake Erie. The land has a rich soil that produces potatoes, grapes and other crops. The southeastern Lowlands area is a corner of the Atlantic Coastal Plain. The Delaware River is at sea level where the Schuykill River empties into the Delaware at Philadelphia. Beyond it to the west is the Piedmont Plateau area.
Most of Pennsylvania is covered by the Appalachian Mountains. The Blue Ridge Mountains, the Pocono Mountains, and the Allegheny Mountains are part of the Ridge and Valley Region. Much of the region has produced hard anthracite coal. The Wyoming Valley is an important area in eastern Pennsylvania and was the site of the Pennamite Wars.
In western Pennsylvania the Allegheny and Monogahela Rivers flow together at Pittsburgh to form the Ohio River. The western region is a major coal producing area. It was also in northwestern Pennsylvania that the first oil well was drilled in 1859.
Delaware And Maryland
Delaware is bordered by the Delaware Bay and River to the east and by the Atlantic Ocean. It is bordered by Maryland to its west and by a small area touching Pennsylvania in the north that is a part of the Piedmont Plateau. Some dairy farming and large estates are located in this hilly area. The only part of Delaware that is not part of the Atlantic Coastal Plain is its northern tip. Most of the state is barely above sea level. The state produces soy beans, corn, and other crops in its sandy loam soil. Seafood is also an important product.
Maryland is a relatively small state with a varied terrain. It has five land areas: The Atlantic Coastal Plain, the Piedmont, the Blue Ridge, the Appalachian Ridge, and the Appalachian Plateau. These areas are physically similar to those of states to the north, but there are some variations in the fauna and flora due to the milder temperatures of its more southern climate.
- James Kavanagh, New York Birds (Waterford Press, , 2001);
- Rene Laubach and Charles W.G. Smith, Nature Walks in Connecticut: AMC Guide to the Hills, Woodlands, and Coast of Connecticut (Appalachian Mountain Club Books, 2004);
- Raymond Leung, Connecticut Birds (Waterford Press, 2001);
- John Long, ed., Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, Rhode Island: Atlas of Historical County Boundaries (Scribner, 1995);
- Sylvia McNair, Rhode Island (Scholastic Library Publishing, 2000);
- Glenn Scherer and Don Hopey, Exploring the Appalachian Trail: Hikes in the Mid-Atlantic States-Maryland, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, New York (Stackpole Books, 1998);
- Alex Wilson and John Hayes, Quiet Water Massachusetts, Connecticut, and Rhode Island: Canoe and Kayak Guide (Appalachian Mountain Club Books, 2004).