The Geography of North Carolina How have regional

The Geography of North Carolina
How have regional variations of land, climate,
and resources in NC affected patterns of
settlement and the economy?
General Facts and Characteristics
• NC belongs to the geographic
region of the US called the
• It shares a border to the north
with Virginia, to the south by
South Carolina and Georgia, to
the west by Tennessee, and to
the east by Atlantic Ocean.
• NC ranks 28th among the 50
states in size. The total land area
is 48,711 square miles.
• It’s climate is described as
• There are 100 counties within
North Carolina.
• Raleigh is the state’s capital city.
North Carolina’s Land Regions
NC’s topography, or physical terrain,
is divided into three geographical
regions. A geographical region is
described as being a large area or
land with a common set of features.
The three regions are the
Mountains, Piedmont, and the
Coastal Plain. The Coastal Plain has
been divided further into the inner
coastal plain and the outer, or
Elevation is used to identify these
three major regions.
The Tidewater and the Coastal Plain
Stretching for approximately 150 miles, the
broad, flat region called the Coastal Plain has an
elevation of 500ft. to sea level.
One of the most identifying characteristics of the
Coastal Plain is the Tidewater and the Outer
The Outer Banks refers to the long chain of sandy
barrier islands that form NC’s eastern coastline.
These islands are ever shifting and vary in size
due to tides and wind patterns.
Among the barrier islands are some famous
capes. A cape is a pointed piece of land that juts
out into a sea, ocean, lake, or river.
NC’s capes include Cape Hatteras (northernmost),
Cape Lookout, and Cape Fear (southernmost).
Places where the ocean flows between the Outer
Banks toward the mainland are called inlets. The
currents are very strong in these areas.
The Outer Banks has often been called the
“Graveyard of the Atlantic” because of the
regions violent storms, strong currents and
Wilmington and Morehead City are NC’s 2 major
The Tidewater
Cape Hatteras
Cape Lookout
Cape Fear
The Tidewater and the Coastal Plain
The Atlantic Ocean impacts the state
in various ways. There are two main
currents that meet off our coast line.
The Labrador Current flows south and
brings cold water. The Gulf Stream is
a warm water current that flows north
and veers out to sea near Cape
These two currents meet off of Cape
Hatteras along the continental shelf,
an underwater plain that extends out
from the continent.
This area is home to a rich fishing
ground and also may be a source for
off shore gas and oil.
The shallow areas along the
continental shelf are called shoals.
They can be tricky for ships to
navigate through, causing many to run
The Tidewater and the Coastal Plain
Several large sounds, or channels of brackish
(mixture of salt and fresh water) water separating
the islands of the Outer Banks from the mainland
are found here.
Major NC Sounds: Pamlico (largest & deepest),
Albemarle, Core, Currituck, and Bogue.
Much of the Coastal Plain is very rural and has
some of the best farmland due to its rich, sandy
soil. Tourism is also vital to the economy as
beaches are a major draw.
Many swamps, rivers and natural lakes provide
good water resources for the region. Lake
Mattamuskeet is the largest natural lake in NC.
Major rivers of the area are the Roanoke, TarPamlico, Neuse, and Cape Fear. The Cape Fear is
the only NC river to flow directly to the Atlantic
Ocean. All other Coastal Plain Rivers flow into
the sounds.
On the southwestern edge of the Coastal Plain is
an area of flat, rolling hills called the Sandhills. It
has the poorest soil in the state and is know for
its golf courses (Pinehurst).
The largest cities of the region are: Fayetteville,
Wilmington, Greenville, and Jacksonville.
The Piedmont
Fall Line
The Piedmont climbs in elevation from
500ft to 1500ft at its western border.
The region is separated from the
Coastal Plain by the Fall Line, or the
point at which rocky rapids and
waterfalls form, thus making
movement difficult.
Piedmont is a Latin word that means at
the foot of the mountain, hence the
region is often referred to as the
The Piedmont is the most urban region
where the vast majority of the state’s
population, cities, and industries are
The 5 largest cities in the Piedmont
are: Charlotte, Winston-Salem,
Greensboro, Durham, and Raleigh.
The Piedmont
Two distinct features of the Piedmont
region are red clay soil and
monadnocks, a point of land that
stands out due to the erosion of
surrounding land. Pilot Mountain is an
example of a monadnock.
Major rivers of the region: YadkinPeeDee and Catawba (flow into SC)
Largest man-made lake in NC is Lake
Abundant hydroelectric power in the
region gave rise to the manufacturing
center of the state. Historically, the
three major industries were textiles,
tobacco, and furniture (High Point).
Recent developments have led to the
development of such industries as
tech, food, pharmaceuticals,
machinery, banking, and chemicals.
The Mountains
The mountain region is the furthest west in
NC and is very rural.
The Appalachian Mountains form this region
in NC. The Appalachian Mountain range
stretches for over 2,000 miles, from
Newfoundland in Canada to the state of
The mountains were given their name in
1540 by Hernando de Soto, who became the
first European to step foot in the region.
The Blue Ridge Mountains form the eastern
boundary of the Appalachain Mountains.
The Great Smoky Mountains form the
western boundary of the Applachains.
The elevation ranges from 1500ft to well
above 6000ft and most scientists believe
that these mountains may be the oldest
mountains in the world.
Mount Mitchell is the highest peak east of
the Mississippi River at 6684 feet.
The Mountains
The eastern continental divide runs
through the mountains. Rivers east of
the divide flow into the sounds. Rivers
west of the divide stream into the
rivers that feed the Ohio River.
Major rivers of the region are the
Hiwassee, Little Tennessee, French
Broad, Watauga, and the New.
Fontana Lake is the largest man made
lake in the region and provides
hydroelectric power to the area.
Agriculture (wheat, vegetables, apples,
Christmas trees) and tourism (Blue
Ridge Parkway, Appalachain Trail,
Biltmore House, Cherokee) are the
region’s main industries.
Asheville is the largest city in the
NC’s Climate
NC’s climate is described as humid subtropical and mild, producing distinct
changes of seasons and supporting various flora and fauna throughout the
The Atlantic Ocean impacts the climate of the Coastal Plain keeping temps mild
in the winter and moderate in the summer. The ocean has less of an impact in
the Piedmont and Mountain region.
Annual rainfall is between 44 inches in the northern Piedmont to 70 inches in
the southern mountains.
Periodic droughts do occur.
Temps vary from the coast to the mountains.
Thunderstorms, tornadoes, and hurricanes are three types of windstorms that
impact the state.