Alabama covers 135,765 sq km (52,419 sq mi), including 2,476 sq km (956 sq mi) of inland water and 1,344 sq km (519 sq mi) of coastal water over which the state has jurisdiction. It is the 30th largest state in the Union. Roughly rectangular in shape, Alabama has a maximum distance north to south of 533 km (331 mi) and a maximum distance east to west of 338 km (210 mi). The mean elevation is about 150 m (500 ft).
From plateaus and uplands in the northeastern section of the state, the land slopes gradually southward across forested ridges, rolling prairie, and fertile valleys to the delta of the Mobile River on an arm of the Gulf of Mexico. Alabama can be divided into five natural regions: the Appalachian Plateaus, the Ridge and Valley province, the Piedmont, the Interior Low Plateau, and the Gulf Coastal Plain. The Appalachian Plateaus, the Ridge and Valley province, and the Piedmont together make up part of the vast Appalachian Region, or Appalachian Highland. The Appalachian Region, in Alabama, extends across much of the northern half of the state in a northeast-southwest direction. The northwestern part of the region is the Cumberland Plateau, which is one of the Appalachian Plateaus. It is an almost level sandstone upland that averages about 400 m (about 1,300 ft) above sea level and is drained by the Tennessee and Black Warrior rivers.
The Ridge and Valley province is made up of sandstone ridges paralleled by fertile limestone valleys. The ridges impose a distinctive northeast-southwest trend on the local pattern of rivers, railroads, and highways.
The meandering Coosa River is the main stream of the Ridge and Valley province. Southeast of the Coosa lie the rugged Talladega Mountains, which rise to 733 m (2,405 ft) above sea level at Cheaha Mountain, Alabama’s highest point. Between the Talladega Mountains and the Georgia state line on the east is the Piedmont Plateau, a large area with numerous low hills and ridges.
The Interior Low Plateau extends southward into northern Alabama from Tennessee. It is a limestone region that is made up of low uplands and broad valleys. The region is drained by the Tennessee River.
The Gulf of Mexico portion of the Coastal Plain covers the remainder of the state. Sedimentary rocks, much younger than those of the Appalachian Region, underlie the Gulf Coastal Plain. The plain is by no means flat. Parallel bands of low, generally forested hills and ridges stretch across the plain from east to west. The ridges usually have a steep northern slope and a more gentle southern slope.
They are separated by broad level lowlands, including the well-known Black Belt, which is a gently rolling prairie, 40 to 80 km (25 to 50 mi) wide, that extends across the state into Mississippi. The Black Belt, named for its fertile dark-colored soils, is one of the major agricultural regions of Alabama. In the extreme southwest, near the Gulf of Mexico, the plain becomes very flat and swampy. The southeastern part of the plain is a flat area, dotted with pine forests. Extensive areas of these forests have been cleared to provide excellent farming lands. "USA" © Emmanuel BUCHOT, Encarta, Wikipedia
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