Unit 2
Geographical Features
Continent – One of the seven major landmasses on Earth. They are: North America, South America, Antarctica, Europe, Asia,
Africa, and Oceana
Island – A relatively small landmass (compared to a continent, for example) completely surrounded by water. Ex: Galveston
Island, Isle of Britain
Archipelago – A chain or group of islands; sometimes formed by underwater mountain/volcano ranges; others are groups of
coral islands. Ex: Hawaii, the Bahamas
Peninsula – An area of land nearly, but not completely, surrounded by water. Ex: Florida, Italy, the Iberian Peninsula
Isthmus – A narrow neck of land that connects two larger land masses together. Ex: the Isthmus of Panama
Delta – Landmass that is created when the soil, silt, sediment, etc. carried by a river slowly builds up over time at the mouth
of the river where it meets a lake or ocean. Advantages: fertile soil for farming. Disadvantages: Erodes, sinks easily. Ex:
Mississippi River Delta; Nile River Delta
Desert – An area of land with little or no precipitation or vegetation. Two types: true deserts (no sources of precipitation or
water; ex: Sahara and Atacama Deserts) and semi-arid deserts (some precipitation; ex: American Southwest)
Plain – a flat area of land, typically near sea level, with moderate to heavy amounts of precipitation and vegetation, usually
grasslands. Ex: The Great Plains
Canyon – A narrow, deep valley, generally through areas of sedimentary rock, eroded away by a moving stream of water such
as a river over a long period of time, typically millions of years. Ex: Grand Canyon, created by the flow of the Colorado River
Plateau – A large, flat, elevated area of land. Ex: The Edwards Plateau in central Texas.
Mesa – A flat, rocky hill with steeply sloping sides; Often created through the process of erosion over long periods of time.
Similar to a plateau only much smaller.
Forest – Any large area of land covered in trees and other forms of vegetation. Different types of forests: deciduous (seed
bearing), coniferous (cone bearing, found typically at higher altitudes), and rainforests (dense tropical forests also known as
Tundra – Cold area of land with a permanently frozen layer of topsoil called permafrost. Typically very little vegetation since
roots cannot penetrate the frozen soil. Ex: much of the area near the Arctic Circle is made up of tundra.
Mountain - An elevated portion of the Earth’s surface, usually part of a chain, with steep sides that rise to a high peak or
summit. Ex: Mount Everest in the Himalaya Range.
Valley – A low lying area between elevated areas.
Examples of Landforms
Rainforest (Jungle)
Coniferous Forest
Bodies of Water
Bay – An inlet of the ocean or part of the ocean bordering on land and partly surrounded by land. Ex:
Galveston Bay
Bayou – A slow, sluggish stream usually used to describe inlets from the Gulf of Mexico or from the
Mississippi River. Ex: Buffalo Bayou
Canal – A man-made channel filled with water used for navigation, irrigation, or drainage. Ex: Panama
Channel – A narrow strip of water, usually one that ships use because of its greater depth. Ex: Houston
Ship Channel
Fjord – A deep, narrow inlet of the sea, between high, steep banks; most are located near the polar
regions of the planet. Ex: Fjords in Scandinavia.
Glacier – A large sheet or stream of ice that flows from high elevations, where temperature is low, to
lower, warmer elevations
Gulf – An area of water bordering on, and lying within a curved coastline, usually larger than a bay and
smaller than a sea. Ex: Gulf of Mexico
Harbor – A sheltered body of water where ships anchor and are protected from storms
Inlet – A small opening between a small and a larger body of water.
Lagoon – A pool of shallow water connected to the sea by an inlet; water enclosed by coral islands
Lake – An inland body of water of usually considerable size
Ocean – One of the five major bodies of saltwater on Earth. Ex: Pacific Ocean
Reservoir – A man-made lake, usually made by damming a stream or river. Ex: Lake Mead in Nevada
River – a large stream of water of natural origin, which drains an area of land and flows into another
river or body of water. Ex: Mississippi River
Sea – a body of water that has some type of geographical or natural boundary, but is rarely fully
enclosed and often composed of salt water. Ex: Caribbean Sea
Examples of Bodies of Water