Maryland ranks 42nd among the states in size, with a total area of 32,134 sq km (12,407 sq mi), including 1,761 sq km (680 sq mi) of inland water. Also included is 4,773 sq km (1,843 sq mi) of Chesapeake Bay that is considered part of the state. Maryland has a maximum width from east to west, of 385 km (240 mi) and varies north to south from 3 km (2 mi) at its narrowest to 200 km (125 mi) on its eastern extreme. Chesapeake Bay, a large inlet of the Atlantic Ocean, divides the state into two sections. The section east of the bay, known as the Eastern Shore, occupies part of the Delmarva Peninsula. Maryland’s mean elevation is about 110 m (350 ft).
Maryland can be divided into five natural regions, or physiographic provinces, each of which forms a small portion of five of the principal natural regions of the eastern United States. Maryland’s natural regions are, from east to west, the Atlantic Coastal Plain, the Piedmont, the Blue Ridge province, the Ridge and Valley province, and the Appalachian Plateaus (locally called the Allegheny Plateau). The Atlantic Coastal Plain is a subdivision of the Coastal Plain. The other four natural regions are subdivisions of the larger Appalachian Region, or Appalachian Highland. However, the Piedmont is sometimes considered a separate region that is a transitional zone between the Appalachian Region and the Coastal Plain. The boundary between the Atlantic Coastal Plain and the Piedmont is known as the fall line, the zone where rivers pass from the more ancient and harder rock of the upland to the more easily eroded sands, clays, and shales of the Coastal Plain.
Rather than a clear, single line, the zone is actually a series of offset lines. In Maryland the fall line roughly follows an imaginary line linking the cities of Wilmington, Delaware, Baltimore, and Washington, D.C. Rapids and waterfalls occur in, at, or near the point where rivers cross the fall line.
The Atlantic Coastal Plain lies south and east of the fall line in Maryland. East of Chesapeake Bay, on the Eastern Shore, the plain is extremely flat and often swampy. Nowhere does the land rise to more than 30 m (100 ft) above sea level. West of the bay much of the land is flat, but there are gently rolling hills that rise to elevations of between 90 and 120 m (300 and 400 ft). The region in Maryland is primarily one of farmlands and small rural communities, except for the urbanized areas centered on Baltimore and Washington, D.C., in the west, and Salisbury and Ocean City in the east. The Piedmont is a rolling upland area of fertile valleys and low rolling hills that rises gradually westward.
Two prominent ridges, Parrs Ridge and Dug Hill Ridge, extend across the Piedmont in a northeast to southwest direction. Dug Hill Ridge rises to about 370 m (about 1,200 ft) above sea level on the Maryland-Pennsylvania state line. The Piedmont valleys are noted for their prosperous dairy farms. The Blue Ridge province in Maryland is a mountainous region less than 30 km (20 mi) wide. It is split into two prongs by the fertile Middletown Valley. The eastern prong is a ridge 60 km (37 mi) long known as Catoctin Mountain, which rises to about 580 m (1,900 ft) above sea level. The western prong is South Mountain, which reaches a maximum elevation at Quirauk Mountain, in Virginia, just south of the Maryland line. The entire Blue Ridge province in Maryland is sometimes referred to as South Mountain.
The Ridge and Valley province in Maryland consists of the broad Hagerstown Valley, which is part of the Great Appalachian Valley, in the east and a series of parallel forested ridges and deep narrow valleys in the west. The ridges generally trend in northeast-to-southwest directions and reach maximum elevations of about 600 m (about 2,000 ft). Hagerstown Valley, up to about 30 km (about 20 mi) wide, is a fertile farming area.
The Appalachian Plateaus in Maryland cover the westernmost section of the state, where they are represented by a section of the rugged and mountainous Allegheny Plateau. The eastern edge of the plateau is marked by the great escarpment of the Allegheny Mountains that is known locally as Dans Mountain. Backbone Mountain, a ridge in the Allegheny Mountains, rises to 1,024 m (3,360 ft) above sea level in the extreme west and is the highest point in the state. Backbone Mountain also divides the Potomac River drainage system from the westward-flowing Ohio River system. The Appalachian Plateaus region is a sparsely populated, picturesque area of forested mountains and steep-sided river valleys. The chief economic activities include farming, manufacturing, and tourism. Coal mining, once important, is on the wane. "Maryland" © Emmanuel BUCHOT, Encarta, Wikipedia
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