Bald Mountains By Brian Stansberry -Wikimedia

Top 15 Facts about the Appalachian Mountains


 

Originally published by Lilian in August 2020 and Updated by Ruth in August 2022

The great Appalachian Mountains are found on the eastern side of the United States. They are some of the oldest natural landmarks in the US. The mountains provide a rich source of natural resources and spill over to Canada.

The mountain range is massive such that it is divided into three sections, the northern, central and southern. These mountains are a source of many rivers and lakes, home to a variety of plants and animals.

The natural beauty bestowed by this mountain range has earned it a place in so many people’s hearts. Several people visit the mountain for hikes, camping and other recreation activities. It is no wonder then that it is among the most visited natural reserves.

Being amongst the top wonders of the world, I have gathered 15 facts about the Appalachian Mountains.

1. The Appalachian Mountains extend to Canada

By Shenandoah National Park from Virginia – Wikimedia

These mountains are not only found in the United States but also the southwestern side of Canada. The mountains start from Alabama and end in Newfoundland, Canada.

That is not all about these mountains, the range extends in 14 states making it 2,200 miles long. The states are Georgia, North Carolina, Tennessee, Virginia, West Virginia, Maryland, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, New York, Connecticut, Massachusetts, Vermont, New Hampshire and Maine.

It is also interesting to note that the mountain range is divided into five geological provinces defined by its formation. One of the provinces is Adirondack, while this forms part of the geological province, they are different mountain ranges.

The other four provinces are the Appalachian Basin, the Blue Ridge Mountains, the Piedmont Province and the New England Province.

2. The Appalachian Mountain range is the oldest in America

These Mountains form the oldest mountain chain in North America. They stretch for 1,500 miles in Canada and the United States. Geologists estimate that the mountains are 480 million years old.

The mountains were formed during the Ordovician period from the Palaeozoic era, this was way before the Ice age period.

Would you also believe that the highest peak was as high as the Himalayas! Well, it is no longer the case because of consistent erosion that has weathered it down.

Its highest peak today stands at 6,684 feet. How it got its name was through the Indian tribe called the Apalachees that lived around it.

3. The Appalachian Mountains has a humid climate

The weather of the Appalachians changes with the time of year. However, the weather is mostly pleasant and humid. This is loved by many tourists and hikers that go up the mountain.

This beautiful climate and weather have provided a conducive environment for wildlife and plant species. Animals found in the forest around the mountain range include black bears, moose, white-tailed deer, foxes, chipmunks and a variety of birds.

This does not mean that there are no extremes. An example is the White Mountains in Canada that have arctic climate while Mount Washington experiences strong hurricane winds for the most of the year.

The soil in the Appalachian valley is said to be the most fertile in the United States.

4. The Appalachian Trail is the longest in America

By Billy Hathorn – Wikimedia

The Appalachian Trail is said to be the longest footpath in the United States, it is approximately 3,500 kilometres long. It extends from the Springer Mountain in Georgia to Mount Katahdin in Maine.

If one was to walk the entire trail, they would have taken 5 million steps. Walking or hiking up the trail one will be part of unspoiled scenery of wooded, pastoral, wild and clean crisp air.

A large part of the trail is found in Virginia while the shortest segment of the trail is in Maryland.

5. The Appalachian Mountains is rich with minerals

These Mountains are rich with major mineral deposits of coal, petroleum and natural gas.  The coal found here is initially formed as anthracite found in northeastern Pennsylvania.

Western Pennsylvania and western Maryland have the sedimentary form of coal.

Other minerals found here include iron, zinc, natural gas, and petroleum. Petroleum was discovered in 1859 in western Pennsylvania, soon after commercial quantities were ready for production.

The discovery of natural gas also led to commercial production of the same.

6. The Appalachian Mountains features different wildlife

By Ken Thomas – Wikimedia

The Appalachian forests are thick and are home to more than five species of tree squirrels. Other unique and rare species of wildlife live here such as moose, black bears, foxes, bobcats, coyotes, porcupines, bats, raccoons, white-tailed deer, skunks, weasels, beaver, chipmunks, and rabbits.

Birds such as flycatchers, wrens, warblers and hawks can also be found here.

Other interesting animals found here are the wild horses. They are related to domesticated horses but have adapted to their life in the wild. They have lived in the forest since the early 1600s.

7. Tallest Appalachian Mountain Mount Mitchell

The tallest peak from the Appalachians is Mount Mitchell found in North Carolina. It stands at 2,037 meters above sea level. This is the highest point in eastern North America.

The summit of this mountain has mild summers and cold winters. The weather patterns around Mount Mitchell is similar to south-Eastern Canada.

Another interesting peak is Mount Washington found in New Hampshire. It stands at 1,916 meters above sea level and is known for having extreme weather conditions. The mountain experiences strong tropical cyclones winds at the summit, about 100 days every year.

8. Millions of people visit the Great Smoky Mountains, National Park

By Aviator31 – Wikimedia

Millions of tourists and hikers visit the Great Smoky Mountains that is part of the Appalachian mountain range.

The national park welcomes more than 12 million people each year for different activities. This park has been a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1983.

The main attractions in this park include rivers, lakes, ponds, hiking trail, bird watching, skiing and other recreational activities. The park is made up of 76,000 hectares of old-growth forest.

This mountain is naturally foggy and from a distance, one would take it to be a cloud of smoke. The name smoky therefore refers to the fog.

At least a million people hike up the trail of the Smoky mountain national park every year.

9. The Appalachian Mountains are the best for recreational Sports all four seasons

During the winter season, the Appalachian Mountains turns into a paradise of snow sporting activities. There are snowmobiles, ice skating, tubing and skiing that tourists enjoy. The ski resorts have 849 ski lifts serving more than 100 snow slopes

The summer and fall seasons welcome several hikers and motorists using its hiking trails and parkways. The campers also take advantage of this and spend some quiet and pleasant time in the wild. Summer activities include rafting, fishing and balloon ride over the range.

10. The Appalachian region functions as a geographical divide

By National Park Service – Wikimedia

The Appalachian Mountains form a geographical boundary between the eastern seaboard and the Midwest. Its Eastern continental divide creates a border along the stretch between Georgia and Pennsylvania.

The northern section of the mountain range extends from Newfoundland in Canada to the Hudson River in New York.

In each region that the range crosses, the mountains have their names like Smoky mountains, Mount Mitchell in North Carolina, Mount Washington in New Hampshire, the Blue Ridge mountains among other names.

11. The oldest parts of the Appalachian Mountains are more than 1 billion years old

The Appalachian Mountains have been a fixture of the North American landscape for a long time. Mountains in the Appalachian region have cropped up several times only to erode again.

The first mountains that appeared did so a billion years ago, when North America and South America merged together as part of a supercontinent. After those mountains wore away, another set emerged about 450 million years ago, and the cycle continued. 

West Virginia University geology professor Steve Kite told West Virginia Public Broadcasting, that some areas are made up of rocks about 1.2 billion years old.

12. The Southern Appalachian Mountains formed when two continents collided

an oblique aerial view of the Appalachians in eastern America

An oblique aerial view of the Appalachians in eastern America by James St. John – Wikimedia Commons

Three hundred million years ago, the landmass that would become North America collided with something called Gondwana, a supercontinent made up of today’s Africa and South America. The result of the crash pushed Gondwana northward on top of North America, over which it slid for as far as roughly 186 miles.

A short 100 million years later, the two continents finally separated again, leaving the southern base of the Appalachians behind as a souvenir. 

13. The Appalachian Mountains contributed to the Ice Age

High levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere lead to a rise in global temperature. The huge number of volcanic eruptions that helped form some of the northern Appalachian Mountains 460 million years ago and spewed the most carbon dioxide the world had ever seen while they were at it didn’t lead to long-term high temperatures.

15 million years after the eruptions, the earth plunged into an ice age. As acid rain from the carbon-dense air hit the Appalachians, it created limestone that ultimately eroded into the now-disappeared Nevada sea, sequestering the carbon and driving the global temperature down.

14. Coal mining has destroyed some Appalachian Mountain peaks

Stony Creek Syncline in the Appalachian Mountains

Stony Creek Syncline in the Appalachian Mountains by James St. John – Wikimedia Commons

The Appalachian mountains include some of the most plentiful coal reserves in the world. In the 19th and early 20th centuries, miners reached these lucrative deposits by drilling into the mountains, but things have since taken quite a turn. 

In the 1990s, mining companies debuted the much more efficient strategy of blowing the tops off mountains to get at the valuable resources within. In the process, forests were destroyed, streams were polluted, and iconic mountain silhouettes were no more. 

New guidelines introduced in 2010 by the Environmental Protection Agency aimed to reduce the damage, and advocacy groups have pressured multiple companies to agree to cease the practice.

15. The oldest rivers in the world are found in the Appalachian Mountains

There are 3 rivers in the Appalachian Mountains that rank among the oldest rivers in the world, the French Broad River, the New River, and the Susquehanna River.

At approximately 300 million years old, all three of these rivers predate the more recent formation of the Appalachian Mountains.