Virginia is the 35th largest state in the United States, covering 110,784 sq km (42,774 sq mi), including 2,606 sq km (1,006 sq mi) of inland water and 4,475 sq km (1,728 sq mi) of coastal waters over which the state has jurisdiction. It is roughly triangular in shape and has a maximum extent from east to west of 755 km (469 mi) and a maximum from north to south of 323 km (201 mi). Its mean elevation is 290 m (950 ft). Virginia is bounded on the east by the Atlantic Ocean, on the north and east by Maryland and the District of Columbia, on the west by West Virginia and Kentucky, and on the south by Tennessee and North Carolina.
Five natural regions, or physiographic provinces, extend across Virginia in a general northeast to southwest direction. They are, from east to west, the Coastal Plain, the Piedmont, the Blue Ridge province, the Ridge and Valley province, and the Appalachian Plateaus. The natural regions are part of two larger divisions of the eastern United States.
The Atlantic-Gulf Coastal Plain is a broader lowland area that extends along the entire coast of the continent from New York to Mexico. The Piedmont, the Blue Ridge province, the Ridge and Valley province, and the Appalachian Plateaus are subdivisions of the Appalachian Region and the Appalachian Mountains.
Virginia’s Coastal Plain extends inland as far as the Fall Line, a narrow zone of small waterfalls and rapids that occurs at the point where the major rivers pass from the resistant granites and other ancient rocks of the Piedmont to the more easily eroded sands, clays, and shales of the Coastal Plain. Low hills rise to elevations of about 90 m (about 300 ft) along the Fall Line, but wide areas of the Coastal Plain are flat and low-lying. Tidal swamps and marshes border the rivers as far as the Fall Line, and the Coastal Plain in Virginia is commonly referred to as the Tidewater area. Part of the Great Dismal Swamp occupies the extreme southern area of the plain.
Chesapeake Bay divides the southern tip of the Delmarva Peninsula, which is known locally as the Eastern Shore, from Virginia’s mainland areas, which are located west of the bay. The mainland in turn is divided by the James, York, Rappahannock, and Potomac rivers into three necks, or peninsulas. From north to south, the peninsulas are named Northern Neck, the Middle Peninsula, and the Williamsburg or James River Peninsula, often simply called The Peninsula. Chesapeake Bay is one of the world’s largest estuaries, a bay where freshwater and tidal saltwater mix. The Piedmont is divided into two separate units, the Piedmont Upland, or Piedmont Plateau, which extends over most of the area, and the Piedmont Lowlands, a small wedge-shaped area between the Potomac and Rappahannock rivers.
The Piedmont Upland is mostly rolling hill country, which rises from about 90 m. (about 300 ft) above sea level along the Fall Line to about 150 to 300 m (about 500 to 1,000 ft) and in places to 600 m (2,000 ft) at the eastern foothills of the Blue Ridge province. The Piedmont Lowlands have an average elevation of about 90 to 120 m (about 300 to 400 ft) and have more fertile soils.
The Blue Ridge province consists of a long narrow string of thickly forested mountains, which form a prominent and nearly continuous ridge from Harpers Ferry in West Virginia southwestward across Virginia to the Carolinas. The Virginia section of the Blue Ridge province reaches an average elevation of about 900 m (about 3,000 ft) above sea level in the northern sections to more than 1,200 m (more than 4,000 ft) in the southern sections. White Top Mountain rises to 1,682 m (5,520 ft). Mount Rogers, the highest point in Virginia, has an elevation of 1,746 m (5,729 ft). While very narrow in the north, the Blue Ridge widens south of Roanoke and becomes about 100 km (about 60 mi) wide near the North Carolina border. This triangular area of rugged, high elevation is known as the Blue Ridge Plateau.
The Ridge and Valley province consists of a series of narrow, elongated, forested knobs and ridges, which are aligned parallel to one another in a northeast-to-southwest direction. These ridges are separated by lowlands and river valleys, which are generally cleared and used for farming. Most of the ridges attain elevations of about 900 to 1,200 m (about 3,000 to 4,000 ft). Among the more prominent are Massanutten Mountain, Shenandoah Mountain, Brushy Mountain, Walker Mountain, and Clinch Mountain. The most prominent valley is the Great Appalachian Valley. The Shenandoah Valley is part of the Great Appalachian Valley. The Appalachian Plateaus comprise a small area in the extreme western section of the state. The northernmost part of this area is part of the Kanawha Plateau.
The southern part is the Cumberland Plateau, which lies east of Kentucky’s Cumberland Mountains. Most of the area is from about 600 to 900 m (about 2,000 to 3,000 ft) above sea level and contains valuable deposits of bituminous coal. "Virginia" © Emmanuel BUCHOT, Encarta, Wikipedia.
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