Absolute Location: Between 33 degrees North and 37 degrees North latitude; between 75 degrees West and 85 degrees West longitude.
Relative Location: North Carolina is located in the southeast region of the United States. The state is bordered by Virginia to the north, Tennessee to the west, South Carolina to the south, and Georgia to the southwest. The Atlantic Ocean forms North Carolina's eastern border.
There are three distinct landforms of the Southeast and of North Carolina: the Coastal Plain, the Piedmont, and the Appalachian Mountains.
The Coastal Plain is low, flat to gently sloping land that extends along the Atlantic Ocean and the Gulf of Mexico. Much of the Southeast lies within in the Coastal Plain.
The Piedmont, characterized by hilly, rolling land, borders the Coastal Plain. The Piedmont extends from Virginia to Alabama.
The Appalachian Mountains, the largest range in the eastern United States, stretch from Canada to northern Alabama.
The three landforms of North Carolina make up the three major geographic regions of the state: the Coastal Plain, the Piedmont, and the Mountains.
North Carolina's Coastal Plain is low, flat land along the Atlantic Ocean. It is often divided into two parts - the Outer Coastal Plain and the Inner Coastal Plain.
The Outer Coastal Plain is made up of the Outer Banks and the Tidewater region. The Outer Banks are a string of barrier islands separated from the mainland by sounds or inlets. The largest islands in the Outer Banks are Bodie, Hatteras, Ocracoke, Portsmouth, and the Core Banks. Three capes are part of the Outer Banks: Cape Hatteras, Cape Lookout, and Cape Fear. Near these capes are dangerous shoals, or underwater sandbars which are hazards to ships. Cape Hatteras is known as the Graveyard of the Atlantic because shifting sand has caused many ships to run aground. The Outer Banks stretch more than 175 miles along the coast.
The Tidewater is the area along the coast close to sea level. The mouths of the major streams and rivers empty into sounds or the ocean. There are seven sounds in the Tidewater region: Pamlico, Albemarle, Currituck, Croatan, Roanoke, Core, and Bogue Sounds. This region has many low-lying areas called wetlands, where water covers the land. The Great Dismal Swamp, a series of swamps scattered from Virginia, to North Carolina, South Carolina, and Georgia, is North Carolina's largest wetland area. It covers about 750 square miles, making it one of the largest swamps in the United Swamps. The Tidewater is the only place in the world where the Venus Flytrap plant grows naturally.
The Inner Coastal Plain, a higher, drier area, begins west of the Tidewater. The rich, sandy soil here is some of the state's best farmland. In the southwestern corner of the Inner Coastal Plain are the Sandhills, a subregion of rolling, sandy hills. This area has the highest elevation on the Coastal Plain, ranging from about 900 to 1,000 feet above sea level. Longleaf pines are native to this area.
The Piedmont is the middle region of the state, located between the Coastal Plain and the Mountain regions. Piedmont is a French word meaning "foot of the mountain." The elevations of this region range from about 300 feet in the western Coastal Plain to about 1,500 feet near the mountains. The boundary between the Coastal Plain and the Piedmont is called the fall line or fall zone. Along this are, rivers flow from the older, harder rocks of the Piedmont to the softer rocks of the coastal Plain. Along the fall line, rivers form shoals, low waterfalls, and rapids. Below the fall line, streams are usually sluggish and smooth-flowing. Above the fall line, the streams are rocky and shallow, making boating difficult. The land of the Piedmont is called a plateau because it is high and mostly flat.
The western part of the state is the Mountain region. It is smaller in area that the Piedmont and Coastal Plain. The elevation in this region reaches to more than one mile high. The Blue Ridge Mountains separate the Piedmont from the Mountain region. Other ranges in the Mountain region include the Bald, Balsam, Black, Brushy, Great Smoky, Iron, Pisgah, Stone, and Unaka. All of these ranges are part of the larger Appalachian Mountains, possibly the oldest mountains in the United States. North Carolina has at least 40 mountains that rise to 6,000 feet and 100 that rise more than 5,000 feet. Mount Mitchell in the Black Mountain range is 6, 684 feet high. This is the highest point in North Carolina and the highest in the United States east of the Mississippi River. The Eastern Continental Divide runs east from those flowing west. Rivers on the eastern side of the divide flow east toward the Atlantic Ocean. Rivers that run on the western side of the divide flow toward the Tennessee and Ohio rivers and into the Gulf of Mexico.