Chapter 1 Overview
Regions of Alabama
The great state of Alabama is bordered by Tennessee in the north, Georgia in the east, Florida and Mobile Bay in the south, and Mississippi in the west. Five major land areas make up the Alabama landscape with more than two thirds of the state covered by the East Gulf Coastal Plain. These areas are Piedmont (Appalachian Highlands Region), the Tennessee Valley (Appalachian Highlands Region), the Cumberland Plateau (Appalachian Highlands Region), the Coastal Plain (Coastal Plain Province), and the Highland Rim (Interior Plain Region).
The Piedmont extends through central North Carolina, South Carolina, and Georgia and into eastern Alabama. This area is characterized by lopsided plains hills, and occasional plateaus. A little bit of the Appalachian Piedmont also skirts into the east-central portion of Alabama. By most accounts, Piedmont forests were dominated by hardwoods at the time of early European settlement, and the extent far exceeded what exists today.
However, the Piedmont was by no means entirely forested prior to European settlement. Eastern grasslands and savannas were extensive and present as late as the 1700’s. Because Native American settlements were apparently common in the Piedmont, agricultural fields were historically part of the landscape. The Piedmont, in the central eastern part of the state, is a hilly area with Alabama’s highest peak, the 2,407-foot Cheaha Mountain.
The Highland Rim in the northwest is where you’ll find the Tennessee River Valley, while the Cumberland Plateau in the northeast is named for its flat-topped plateaus. The Tennessee Valley is located in northeast through northwest Alabama, Tennessee, and northwest Georgia. Northwest of the Piedmont lies the Appalachian Ridge and Valley region of Alabama.
Sometimes called the Appalachian Plateau, the Cumberland Plateau lies to the northwest of the Appalachian Ridge and Valley region. This is a largely forested, gently rolling plateau. Just southeast is the Appalachian Ridge and Valley, which includes the Coosa River and iron-rich Red Mountain.
The rest of the state is called the East Gulf Coastal Plain, which contains both flatlands and hills plus the Alabama, the state’s largest river at 314 miles long. This area covers the southern two thirds of Alabama, except for the Black Belt. The Gulf Coastal Plain itself is composed of varying landscapes. In the southwest around Mobile, the land is low and swampy. The southeast plain is called the Wiregrass region because of the tough grass that once grew there among the pine forests. The Black Belt cuts a path between the southern and northern Coastal Plain. The Black Belt was the home of many of Alabama’s large plantations. The soil in this area is very fertile, black, and sticky and were once supported by many acres of cotton crops until the boll weevils infestation in 1915.
Chapter 1 overview from The Future Emerges from the Past, Celebrating 200 Years of Alabama African American History & Culture.