Alabama

  • Grades: 6–8, 9–12

Alabama, one of the southern states of the United States, is largely rectangular in shape and is landlocked except for a short coastline along the Gulf of Mexico. It is bordered by Tennessee on the north, Georgia on the east, the Florida panhandle on the south, and Mississippi on the west. The state was visited by Spaniards in the early 16th century, but the first permanent white settlement (present-day Mobile) was not established until 1711. Alabama became a state in 1819, and during the U.S. Civil War it was a member of the Confederacy. The state was profoundly affected by the civil rights movement of the 1950s and '60s. Long a primarily agricultural area, Alabama by the end of the 20th century had a diversified economy, dominated by manufacturing and service industries. The state is named for the Alabama River, whose name was derived from the Alabama Indians, a small Muskogean-speaking group that formerly lived on its banks. The word Alabama probably means "I make a clearing."

Land and Resources
About two-thirds of Alabama is made up of a low-lying coastal plain, which merges, toward the northeast, into regions consisting of medium-altitude hills and mountains. The highest point in the state is Cheaha Mountain (733 m/2,405 ft), and the lowest elevation is sea level, along the Gulf of Mexico.

About two-thirds of Alabama is made up of a low-lying coastal plain, which merges, toward the northeast, into regions consisting of medium-altitude hills and mountains. The highest point in the state is Cheaha Mountain (733 m/2,405 ft), and the lowest elevation is sea level, along the Gulf of Mexico.

Physiographic Regions. Alabama may be divided into four physiographic regions. The Gulf Coastal Plain covers the southern half of the state and much of the northwest. The plain includes the famous Black Belt, an area of productive prairie soils that forms a narrow east-west belt across the middle of the state. The southeast also has good farmland, but the soils of the rest of the coastal plain are generally deeply weathered and are of limited agricultural value. A second region, separated from the coastal plain by the fall line, is the Piedmont Plateau, located in the east central part of the state. It is rolling to hilly, with highly eroded red soils.

The Appalachian Region encompasses much of northeastern Alabama. Its eastern portion is an area of sandstone ridges separated by fertile limestone valleys. The western portion, a continuation of the Cumberland Plateau, is a hilly, forested area of poor soils. The fourth region is the Highland Rim, a section of fertile, rolling plains in the north, astride the Tennessee River. Numerous sinkholes and caverns have formed in the limestone bedrock of the Highland Rim and the Appalachian Mountains as a result of limestone solution in the humid climate.

The Appalachian Region encompasses much of northeastern Alabama. Its eastern portion is an area of sandstone ridges separated by fertile limestone valleys. The western portion, a continuation of the Cumberland Plateau, is a hilly, forested area of poor soils. The fourth region is the Highland Rim, a section of fertile, rolling plains in the north, astride the Tennessee River. Numerous sinkholes and caverns have formed in the limestone bedrock of the Highland Rim and the Appalachian Mountains as a result of limestone solution in the humid climate.

Rivers and Lakes. Alabama has several major rivers. The main rivers flowing north to south are the Alabama River (507 km/315 mi long), formed by the confluence, near Montgomery, of the Coosa and Tallapoosa rivers, and the Tombigbee River, which rises in Mississippi. The Alabama and Tombigbee meet in the southwestern part of the state and then form the Mobile and Tensaw rivers, which continue south to Mobile Bay (an inlet of the Gulf of Mexico). Other important rivers are the Chattahoochee, which forms part of the eastern border of Alabama, and the Tennessee, which flows west across nearly all of the northern part of the state. Alabama has no large natural lakes. Dams on rivers, however, have created several extensive artificial lakes, the largest being Guntersville Lake (272 km2/105 mi2), on the Tennessee River.

Climate. Alabama has a humid, subtropical climate. Summers are hot (average July temperature, 27° C/80° F) and humid, with frequent heavy thunderstorms. Winters are cool (average January temperature, 7° C/45° F), with considerable precipitation, including some snow in the north. The amount of annual precipitation generally increases from north to south, ranging from 1,321 mm (52 in) at Huntsville to 1,600 mm (63 in) at Mobile. Southern Alabama is occasionally affected by hurricanes in the late summer. Tornadoes are most common in the months of March and April.

Vegetation and Animal Life. About two-thirds of Alabama is covered by forests, largely made up of southern yellow pine, red cedar, and other conifers. The most common deciduous trees are hickory, sweet gum, and several species of oak. Alabama has a varied wildlife population with numerous deer, foxes, bobcats, game birds, and other animals. Large numbers of migratory ducks and geese winter in the state.

Alabama has deposits of several important minerals. Coal, iron ore, and limestone - all used in the production of iron and steel - are found in north-central Alabama, notably around Birmingham. Crude-petroleum fields are in the southwest, and bauxite deposits are in the southeast.

Mineral Resources. Alabama has deposits of several important minerals. Coal, iron ore, and limestone - all used in the production of iron and steel - are found in north-central Alabama, notably around Birmingham. Crude-petroleum fields are in the southwest, and bauxite deposits are in the southeast. Alabama has deposits of several important minerals. Coal, iron ore, and limestone - all used in the production of iron and steel - are found in north-central Alabama, notably around Birmingham. Crude-petroleum fields are in the southwest, and bauxite deposits are in the southeast.

  • Subjects:
    Cities and States, Civil Rights Movement
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