Mountain system in eastern North America, stretching about 2,400 km/1,500 mi from Alabama to Québec. The chain, composed of ancient eroded rocks and rounded peaks, includes the Allegheny, Catskill, and Blue Ridge mountains. Its width in some parts reaches 500 km/311 mi. Mount Mitchell, in the Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina, is the highest peak at 2,037 m/6,684 ft, and is the highest point in North America east of the Mississippi River. The eastern edge of the system has a fall line to the Coastal Plain where Philadelphia, Baltimore, and Washington stand. The Appalachians are heavily forested and have deposits of coal and other minerals.
Features The Appalachian Mountain system can be divided into a number of key components: the Piedmont plateau, a rolling upland stretching from Virginia to Georgia; the Blue Ridge, a steep-crested ridge which rises from the western edge of the Piedmont, and which broadens southwards to form the Great Smoky Mountains; the Ridge and Valley region, a series of parallel crests and vales, sometimes called the Great Appalachian Valley; and the Appalachian Plateaux, which consist of the Cumberland Plateau in the south, the Allegheny Plateau in the centre, and the Catskill Plateau in the north.
The chief rivers of the Appalachian system are the Hudson, Delaware, Susquehanna, Potomac and James, on the east; the Alabama flowing south, and the Tennessee, Cumberland, and Kanawha (which flow into the Ohio River).
History In colonial times, the Appalachians represented a frontier and a refuge for elements of the population seeking independence. Its forested ridges made passage difficult, and in consequence it became the homeland of a scattered, isolated population, largely Scottish and Irish in origin, who carried on subsistence farming and had little contact with the mainstream of American life as the frontier moved on past them to the West. It is this population which has become known as ‘hillbilly’.
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