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Relief of Massachusetts


Massachusetts landscape
Massachusetts landscape

Massachusetts, the sixth smallest state in the nation, covers 27,337 sq km (10,555 sq mi), including 1,096 sq km (423 sq mi) of inland water and 2,530 sq km (977 sq mi) of coastal water over which it has jurisdiction. It is roughly rectangular in shape, except for the peninsula of Cape Cod, which extends from the southeast. The state has a maximum dimension east-to-west of 295 km (183 mi). Including the offshore island of Nantucket, the maximum distance north-to-south in the east is 182 km (113 mi), while at the western border the distance is only 77 km (48 mi). The approximate mean elevation is 150 m (500 ft).

Nearly all of Massachusetts was once covered by glaciers. These glaciers rounded off mountains, changed the course of streams, and left hundreds of ponds and lakes. Glacial deposits in the form of clay, stones, and boulders cover most of the state.

Within Massachusetts are two distinct physiographic provinces. Most of the state is dominated by the New England Appalachians, an ancient mountain system that runs on a north-south axis. In Massachusetts the New England region is subdivided into the Taconic section, the Berkshire Massif, the New England Upland, the Connecticut Valley Lowland, and the Coastal Lowland. Massachusetts’s other natural region is the Atlantic Coastal Plain, and it is divided into two coastal ecologies. Jagged, forested coastlines with coves and bays shaped by glaciers define the Northeast Coast.

Meanwhile, the Middle Atlantic Coast of sandy beaches, grass-covered dunes, and marshes reaches as far north as Cape Cod and the islands of Martha’s Vineyard and Nantucket.

The Taconic section


The Taconic section, sometimes called the Taconic Hills or Taconic Range, occupies the extreme western part of the state and is one of its most rugged sections. The Taconics have an average height of about 600 m (about 2,000 ft). The mountains extend generally from northeast to southwest, with narrow valleys between. The Taconic section also includes the Berkshire Valley, a narrow, generally level valley just east of the highlands. Mount Greylock, at 1,065 m (3,495 ft), is the highest peak in the state. The Berkshire Massif extends through Massachusetts into Connecticut, and it is most commonly referred to as the Berkshire Hills.

Massachusetts picture
Massachusetts picture

These highlands make up a small region that is about 40 km (about 25 mi) wide in the northwestern part of the state, east of the Taconic section. The mountains are heavily forested and reach a height of about 760 m (about 2,500 ft).

The New England Upland


The New England Upland lies to the east of the Taconic section and the Berkshire Hills. The region is mostly hilly, with an average elevation of about 300 m (about 1,000 ft). The upland generally slopes downward very gradually to the east. Throughout the upland are occasional monadnocks, or isolated mountains. The Connecticut Valley Lowland cuts north and south across the west central part of the region. This river valley ranges from about 8 to 30 km (about 5 to 20 mi) wide, and in Massachusetts it is generally level. Alluvial deposits from the Connecticut River and clays from an ancient glacial lake help make this a fertile agricultural region. Occasional ridges, such as Mount Tom (366 m/1,202 ft), near Holyoke, are ancient lava flows that have been tilted and then eroded. The Coastal Plain makes up most of the eastern third of the state. This region is a level or gently rolling section that rises gradually to a height of about 150 m (about 500 ft) in the east central part of the state. The Coastal Plain has many ponds, swamps, and small rivers. There are a few rather low monadnocks throughout this region. In addition, small hills, called drumlins, which were formed by the glaciers, are found throughout the region. Perhaps the most famous of these drumlins are Breed’s Hill and Bunker Hill, where an early battle of the American Revolution took place.

The embayed section of the Coastal Plain in Massachusetts includes Cape Cod, the islands of Martha’s Vineyard and Nantucket, the Elizabeth Islands, and other smaller islands. This section is mostly level or rolling, although some hills formed by the glaciers rise to about 90 m (about 300 ft). Sand dunes, ponds, and marshes are common in this region. "Massachusetts" © Emmanuel BUCHOT, Encarta, Wikipedia

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