Appalachian Mountains

Appalachian Mountains

The Appalachian Mountain System

The Northern Appalachians start from Newfoundland Island, pass through the Canadian provinces of Quebec and New Brunswick, then across the United States to New York State, where the watershed between Northern and Southern Appalachia is marked by the Hudson-Mohawk Valley and the Hudson-Champlain Depression. The Southern Appalachians begin in the same state. The Northern Appalachians are low relative to the Southern Appalachians; in the northern zone, they can be described as a hilly plateau, above which rise individual remnants, such as Mount Monadnock (1,000 m). Farther south in the Northern Appalachians are individual higher massifs, such as the Adirondack (1628 m), the Green Mountains (1338 m), and the White Mountains, the highest point of which is Mount Washington (1916 m). In many places in the Northern Appalachians, especially in the Adindorack Massif, there are signs of the passage of the mainland glacier: in the east their tops are rounded, as if smoothed, the valleys, on the contrary, are deep; there are many moraine deposits. This is an isolated and elevated fragment of the Canadian Shield, with which the Northern Appalachians are bordered to the northwest by a major fault (Logan Line). Approaching the Atlantic Ocean, the Northern Appalachians form numerous large and small peninsulas and islands. Between the Nova Scotia Peninsula and the mainland lies the Bay of Fundy, a world record-holder in terms of high tides (up to 18 m).

The Southern Appalachian Mountains are divided into the Foothills, Blue Mountains, Ranges and Valleys, and Appalachian Plains landscapes. If you draw an axis through the Southern Appalachians, you will see that they consist of parallel ridges and massifs, separated by wide valleys; this zone is adjacent to the Piedmont Plateau on the east and the Appalachian Plateau on the west; the highest point of the Southern and all Appalachians is 2037 m (Mount Mitchell).

The Southern Appalachians are more varied in appearance. Their surface was formed mainly by erosion processes that created the so-called Appalachian type of relief – elongated valleys with ridges gradually growing above them, a kind of “spine” of the area. The lowest part of this zone is the Great Valley. It spreads mainly at an altitude of 250-300 m, and the ridges around it rise to 1100-1200 m. In the central part of the Southern Appalachian Mountains rise ridges formed by Lower Paleozoic rocks, with sharp ridges, asymmetric structure, and mostly steep eastern slopes. Here are such mountain ranges as the Blue Mountains, with Mount Mitchell at its highest point, the Great Smoky Mountains (Great Smoky Mountains), the Alleghany Plateau, and the Cumberland. This area is the watershed between the Atlantic Ocean and the Mississippi River Basin. Above the Atlantic Plain is the Piedmont Plateau, which ranges in elevation from 250 to 400 meters. The rivers flowing from the peaks (Delaware, Susquehanna, Potomac, James, and Roanoke) carry their waters across this plateau. At the eastern edge of the plateau, they form what is known as the Falls Line, beyond which the Atlantic Lowlands begins. From the southwest the plateau is joined by the Mexican lowland, divided by the vast floodplain of the Mississippi River.

New York City, at the mouth of the Hudson River on Long Island, is Appalachia’s largest city. Located north of it on the Atlantic Ocean, Boston and Baltimore on the Chesapeake Bay, like New York City, are major ocean ports. Ocean-going ships can also reach the port of another major city, Philadelphia, 160 kilometers from the ocean, thanks to the Delaware Bay. On the Potomac, one of the largest rivers of the Appalachian Mountains, is the capital of the United States, Washington, D.C. The Hudson, the Potomac, and the Delaware are of the same character, swift and full-flowing, as their many smaller sisters. In southwestern Appalachia, the left tributaries of the Mississippi River, the most significant of which is the Ohio River with its Tennessee tributary, are full for the most part. When the snows on the slopes of the Appalachian Mountains begin to melt at the same time as cyclones bring rain over the basin, the water level in the Ohio can rise by 15 to 20 meters, and in the lower Mississippi by 5 to 6 meters. Hence the frequent floods in its floodplain.

Appalachian vegetation is predominantly forest, beginning with forest-tundra in the north. In the south, the most ancient forests of the continent (sequoia, pseudotussura, cypress, magnolia, tulip tree, lianas) are preserved in the more humid conditions. The main plant wealth of Appalachia is the forests growing in tiers. The lower tier is dominated by chestnut and chestnut oak, ash, and linden. Above the chestnut forests are mixed forests; sugar maple, yellow birch, beech, hornbeam, and conifers (spruce, fir, and white pine) are most common here. Above – only conifers, and above them stretches thickets of rhododendron and high-mountain meadows. The animal life of Appalachia is also rich, from polar wolves and foxes in the north to alligators in the Mississippi floodplain. Elk, deer, bears, wolves, bobcats, wolverines, and porcupines are typical inhabitants of the mountain forests. The forest bison used to live here, but they have survived only in wildlife refuges.

The mountains give Appalachia a lot of minerals. Its 165,000-km2 coal basin accounts for more than a tenth of the world’s hard coal deposits and yields about 70 percent of total coal production in the United States, including 95 percent of anthracite. The magnetic and clayey ironstone runs from Canada to Alabama, but mainly to the south. There are copper, silver, and lead deposits in the Black and Blue Mountains. Oil and gas are produced in Canada and Pennsylvania. Appalachia’s solonchak strata are a major source of gypsum.

The Appalachian Mountains were named by the Appalachian Indian tribe, alas, not extant. Not counting the inhabitants of large cities, but only those whose home is in the mountains, they are a very peculiar people, who have retained the features of that romantic image of the American pioneer, which is sung in their country ballads. They themselves are excellent at reading trails, hunting, fishing, and surviving in all conditions. This breed of people is not particularly inclined to accept metropolitan civilization in principle. Lumberjacks, miners, and truck drivers communicate in a Midland dialect of English that slips in Old English, Scottish, and Native American vocabulary.

General Information

  • Mountain system of North America.
  • Main regions: Northern and Southern Appalachians.
  • Countries where the mountain system is located: Canada, USA.
  • The main geographic sites through which the Appalachians pass: Canada: the islands of Newfoundland, St. Pierre and Miquelon, Nova Scotia, provinces: Newfoundland and Labrador, Quebec and New Brunswick; USA: the states – Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont, Massachusetts, Connecticut, New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Maryland, Virginia, West Virginia, Ohio, Kentucky, Tennessee, North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, Alabama.
  • Major rivers: Hudson, Delaware, Potomac, Susquehanna, Ohio, Tennessee.
  • Major plateaus: Piedmont, Alleghany, Appalachian.
  • Area: 760,000 km2.
  • Population: about 24,800,000 (2010), not including the megacities of the notional U.S. region called Appalachia.
  • Population density: 32.6 people/km2.
  • Length: 2,600 km.
  • The highest point: Mount Mitchell (2037 m)


  • Natural resources: deposits of coal, oil and gas, iron ore, copper, cobalt, silver, lead, titanium, gypsum and other minerals, logging. The Appalachian Mountains are part of the “industrial belt,” stretching from the Great Lakes in the north to the mouth of the Mississippi River in the south.
  • Industries: mining, lumbering in the north, food processing in the whole region, metallurgy (center in Pennsylvania): hydroelectric power. In large U.S. cities in general – the whole range of industries of the country.
  • Agriculture: growing of grains, corn, in the south – tobacco and cotton; cattle breeding, poultry farming.
  • Fishing.
  • The sphere of services: tourism, mountain-skiing resorts, sport fishery, rafting on rivers, educational excursions.

Climate and weather

  • Temperate in the north, central and subtropical in the south, in some parts influenced by the sea (Atlantic Ocean, especially the Gulf of Mexico).
  • Average temperatures range from -12°C in January in the north to +8°C in the south, while July temperatures range from +18°C to +26°C.
  • Annual precipitation is 1000-2300 mm (strong variations are possible – under the influence of the summer monsoon coming from the Gulf of Mexico).
  • The upper belt of the mountains gets very cold in winter and receives a lot of snow, while there are thunderstorms in summer. Summers are humid, cloudy, with heavy rain, especially on the western slopes.
  • The clearest weather is in late summer and early fall (“Indian summer”).


  • National Parks of Canada: Gros Mor, Nyfoundlandy Labrador; Cape Breton (Nova Scotia);
  • U.S. National Parks: Appachee Trail, Acedia (Maine), Great Smoky Mountains (North Carolina, Tennessee), listed as a UNESCO Natural World Heritage Site, Mammoth Cave (Kentucky), Pike Lake Park, and Kaiohogo (Ohio).

Fun Facts

  • Appalachian endemic animals include the puffins, or porculin, tree porcupine, Virginia deer, Virginia opossum, and a number of bats.
  • In the Appalachian Mountains grows the original wild variety of leek, a bittersweet-tasting onion. The mountain dwellers rejoice like children when the first sprouts appear, saying that there is no better condiment for meat dishes in the whole world.
  • Every year in October-November and February-March at sunset near Mt. Westside (1503 meters) on the border of North Carolina and Tennessee you can take a unique picture: the shadow of the mountain exactly like the silhouette of a giant bear.
  • Rednecks, or rednecks, is an American slang term for the residents of the Appalachian Mountains and foothills. But not everyone, but those who wear red scarves (rednecks – that’s literally: “red-necks”) and lead, shall we say, not too law-abiding lifestyle.At the same time the rednecks themselves are not embarrassed by this nickname, even proud of the fact that they have their own subculture: songs and dances. If to make an analogy, it is something close to our street folklore or so-called chanson. Although talented people can be found everywhere, including among the performers of redneck songs. As odious characters who like to wave their fists at the slightest opportunity, rednecks like to be used by the creators of computer games.
  • The news, reported by scientists in the American Journal of Geology, concerns the deep past of Appalachia, sending us back 440 million years, when the Earth was in what geologists call the Ordovician-Silurian period. That’s when these mountains were formed. The rise of rocks is accompanied by weathering. At the same time, the maximum amount of rock particles fell into the ground Plants began to intensively recycle these particles, turning them into carbonaceous compounds. Accordingly, less carbon remains for the formation of C02 – carbon dioxide. And the layer of this gas, like a film in a greenhouse, helps to maintain temperatures in the Earth’s atmosphere that are favorable for the development of living organisms. In addition, the activity of volcanoes, also “heating” the planet, has decreased. It has become colder, the radiation situation has changed (isotope analysis showed the presence of radioactive strontium isotopes in soils in the Appalachian region). As a consequence of all this, many protozoan animals, then just emerging, died. If it were not for this. it is quite possible that the development of animal life would have gone very differently. The authors of this hypothesis claim to be sensational, but it is worth remembering that not only the Appalachians are “blamed” for the negative impact on the biogeocenosis of the Earth. Similar conclusions have been sounded before, in connection with the geological history of other mountain systems of the Earth. Including the Permian system (the Ural Mountains) and the Himalayas.
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