The Physiographic Regions of Vermont

 

Words to Know

geographers

physiographic regions

moderated

precipitation

proximity

piedmont

monadnocks

bedrock

sparsely populated  

 

            Geographers divide our state into six physiographic regions.  These regions are determined by the age and type of rock in the area, by the landscape of the area, such as lowland, hills, or mountains, and by the climate of the area.

 

            Vermont's physiographic regions are:

1.      The Vermont Lowlands

2.      The Green Mountains

3.      The Taconic Mountains

4.      The Valley of Vermont

5.      The Vermont Piedmont

6.      The Northeast Highlands

  

Click Here to get a map of the regions

Click here for a printable word version of the map

 

The Vermont Lowlands

 

            The Vermont Lowlands are on the western side of the state.  The region extends from the Canadian border in the north to the Poultney River and the Brandon area.  The Adirondack Mountains to the west in New York, and the Green Mountains to the east rise high enough to protect the area from storms.  This factor, along with the low average elevation of the valley area, helps keep the climate milder than the rest of the state.  This region contains the largest amount of flat and gently rolling land in the state.  Most of the land lies below l,500 feet in elevation.

 

            Agriculture is important in this region.  There is a long growing season and the soil is fertile.  Franklin and Addison counties are the most important farming areas.  Chittenden County is no longer as important for farming as it once was due to urban development.

 

            Lake Champlain has a significant effect on the region.  The temperatures are moderated year round by the lake.  Cool breezes blow inland off the lake in the summer.  In the winter the lake holds more heat than the land and air, so nearby land areas stay warmer too.  Of all the regions, the Lowlands receive the least amount of precipitation (rain and snow).  (This site provided by NOAA lets you see the precipitation history of Vermont for over 100 years:  http://lwf.ncdc.noaa.gov/oa/climate/research/cag3/VT.html )

 

            Most of the rocks in the Vermont Lowlands are sedimentary or metamorphic.  Some of the most common sedimentary rocks include limestone and shale.  In certain areas, samples of metamorphic rock may be found where limestone has been changed over time into marble and shale into slate.  Many of these rocks are quarried for use in the building and construction industry.

 

The Green Mountains

 

            The Green Mountains are the backbone of Vermont.  They run the length of the state from Canada to Massachusetts.  This mountain range varies in width from 20 miles to 35 miles.  The Green Mountains are really part of the Appalachian Mountains which extend all the way from Alabama to the Gaspé Peninsula in Canada.

 

            The Green Mountains are made up of some of the oldest rocks on the face of the earth.  Scientists think that these mountains were formed over 400 million years ago and once were at least 8,000 feet higher than they are now.  They have slowly been eroded (worn down) by the powerful forces of wind, water and ice to become the mountains we can see today.

 

            The majority of rocks in this region are metamorphic.  The most common rock is green schist, which contains the mineral chlorite.  Igneous rocks, such as talc and asbestos, are also found in this region.

 

            The northern Green Mountains form a distinct chain pattern made up of individual peaks.  The Winooski River and the Lamoille River cut deep valleys through this spine-like chain of northern peaks.  Mt. Mansfield is Vermont's highest mountain.  It is 4,393 feet above sea level.  Mt. Mansfield and Camels Hump (4,083 feet) are both part of this northern range.

 

            The southern Green Mountains resemble a wide plateau.  Killington Peak (4,235 feet), the second highest peak in Vermont, is in the southern Green Mountains.  The southern Green Mountains have many large ski areas and tourist resorts.

 

            The Green Mountain region receives a large amount of precipitation.  This is probably due to a combination of its high elevation and proximity (closeness) to the Atlantic Ocean.  The temperatures are lower than most of the other regions.  Agriculture is not a major activity in this region because the soils are stony and thin.

Click here for information about the three main types of rocks: http://jersey.uoregon.edu/~mstrick/AskGeoMan/geoQuerry13.html 

 

The Taconic Mountains

 

            The Taconic Mountains are a jumbled collection of peaks and ridgelines in the south-western corner of Vermont.  These mountains also extend into New York and Massachusetts.  A number of peaks in this region rise above 3,000 feet.  Mt. Equinox (3,816 feet) near Manchester is the highest peak in the Taconics.  Dorset Peak (3,804 feet) is the second highest peak.

 

            The rocks of the Taconics are different from those found in the Green Mountains.  Most of the rocks found here are shale (a sedimentary rock) or slate (a metamorphic rock).  Slate and marble have been quarried in this area for many years.

 

 

The Valley of Vermont

 

            The Valley of Vermont is a narrow valley region between the Taconic Mountains on the west and the Green Mountains on the east.  The region is considered an extension of the Vermont Lowlands.  It runs roughly from the Brandon area at the northern end to Bennington in the south, a distance of 85 miles.  It is Vermont's smallest physiographic region.

 

            Most of the rocks in the region are limestone or marble.  Marble quarrying is an important activity here.  The Otter Creek flows north through much of the Valley.  The Batten Kill and the Walloomsac River drain the southern part of the Valley.  U.S. Route 7 runs the length of the region.

 

The Vermont Piedmont

 

            The Vermont Piedmont is an area east of the Green Mountains that runs the entire length of the state from Canada to Massachusetts.  It also includes most of Vermont's Connecticut River Valley and is the largest physiographic region in the state.  The word piedmont means "at the foot of the mountains" or "foothills".  This region is made up of rolling hills and valleys "at the foot" of the Green Mountains.

 

            The most common rock types in this region are sedimentary and metamorphic.  Igneous rocks are also found in the Piedmont region and make up the most common mineral deposits.  Granite quarrying is an important industry in the Barre area and was also once significant in Woodbury and Hardwick.

 

            Dotting the Vermont Piedmont are a number of mountains that rise above the surrounding landscape.  These isolated mountains are called monadnocks.  They are made of granite, a hard igneous rock that resists the forces of erosion.  Monadnock is an Indian word meaning "island mountain place".  Mt. Ascutney in Windsor is a good example of a monadnock.

 

            This large region contains many lakes which were formed by the glaciers.  The biggest lakes are in the northern part of the region.  They include Lake Willoughby, Crystal Lake, Seymour Lake, and Lake Memphremagog (which is partly in Canada).  Dairy farms abound in this lakes and hills region of northern Vermont.

 

The Northeast Highlands

 

            The Northeast Highlands are a rough, wild region located almost entirely within the borders of Essex County.  The geology of this mountainous area is similar to that of the White Mountains in New Hampshire.  Much of the bedrock is granite.

 

            Glaciers, the large masses of ice that covered all of Vermont thousands of years ago, had an important effect on the landscape in this region.  The glaciers deposited sand and loose rock material which still hinders the drainage of water.  This has created some of the largest swamps and bogs in the state, like Victory Bog in southern Essex County.

 

            The soils in this region are poor for farming.  Perhaps this is one reason why Essex County is so sparsely populated.  (Sparsely populated means that there are very few people per square mile of land area--the opposite of sparse is dense).  Fir and spruce trees cover the rolling landscape.  Winters in the Northeast Highlands are harsh due to the high elevation and the northern location of the region.

 

            These are the six regions within Vermont.  As you can see, they do differ from each other.  When you travel around the state, you might look for some of the different features that make each region unique.


Take a quiz on the physiographic regions of Vermont:
- Web Version
- Word Version

 

The Physiographic Regions Map Activity

Directions:  Each region on the map is labeled.  Lightly shade each region in a different color.  You may want to put a key on the map below the title.  Use the town outline map to locate your town on this map and shade it in.  In what physiographic region is your town located?  (Get map here)

 

Physiographic Regions Chart Activity

Fill in this chart using information from the text.