New Hampshire Geography
New Hampshire is part of the New England region of the United States. It is bounded by Quebec, Canada, in the north and northwest; Maine and the Atlantic Ocean in the east; Massachusetts in the south; and Vermont in the west. New Hampshire’s major regions are the Great North Woods, the White Mountains, the Lakes Region, the Seacoast, the Merrimack Valley, the Monadnock Region, and the Dartmouth-Lake Sunapee area. New Hampshire has the shortest ocean coastline of any U.S. coastal state, with a length of 18 miles. New Hampshire was home to the rock formation called the Old Man of the Mountain, a face-like profile in Franconia Notch, until the formation fell apart in May 2003.
The White Mountains range in New Hampshire spans the north-central portion of the state, with Mount Washington the tallest in the northeastern U.S. – site of the second-highest wind speed ever recorded – and other mountains like Mount Madison and Mount Adams close by. With, on average, hurricane-force winds every third day and more than 100 recorded deaths among visitors, the climate on the upper reaches of Mount Washington has inspired the weather observatory on the peak to claim that the area has the “World’s Worst Weather”.</p>
In the flatter southwest corner of New Hampshire, the landmark Mount Monadnock has given its name to a class of earth-forms – a monadnock – signifying, in geomorphology, any isolated resistant peak rising from a less resistant eroded plain.
Major rivers include the 110-mile Merrimack River, which bisects the lower half of the state north-south and ends up in Newburyport, Massachusetts. Its tributaries include the Contoocook River, Pemigewasset River, and Winnipesaukee River. The 410-mile Connecticut River, which starts at New Hampshire’s Connecticut Lakes and flows south to Connecticut, defines the western border with Vermont. The state border is not in the center of that river, as usually the case, but at the low-water mark on the Vermont side; meaning that the entire river along the Vermont border (save for areas where the water level has been raised by a dam) lies within New Hampshire. Only one town – Pittsburg – shares a land border with the state of Vermont. The “northwestern most headwaters” of the Connecticut also define the Canadian border with New Hampshire.
The PiscataquaRiver and its several tributaries form the state’s only significant ocean port where they flow into the Atlantic at Portsmouth. The SalmonFallsRiver and the Piscataqua define the southern portion of the border with Maine. The Piscataqua River boundary was the subject of a border dispute between New Hampshire and Maine in 2001, with New Hampshire claiming dominion over several islands (primarily Seavey’s Island) that include the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard. The U.S. Supreme Court dismissed the case in 2002, leaving ownership of the island with Maine.
The largest of New Hampshire’s lakes is Lake Winnipesaukee, which covers 71 square miles in the east-central part of New Hampshire. Umbagog Lake along the Maine border, approximately 12.3 square miles, is a distant second. Squam Lake is the second largest lake in New Hampshire.
New Hampshire has the shortest ocean coastline of any state in the United States, approximately 18 miles long. Hampton Beach is a popular local summer destination. About 7 miles offshore are the Isles of Shoals, nine small islands (four of which are in New Hampshire) known as the site of a 19th-century art colony founded by poet Celia Thaxter, as well as the alleged location of one of the buried treasures of the pirate Blackbeard.
New Hampshire is the state with the second highest percentage of timberland area in the country, after Maine. New Hampshire is in the temperate broadleaf and mixed forests biome. Much of the state, in particular the White Mountains, is covered by the conifers and northern hardwoods of the New England-Acadian forests. The southeast corner of the state and parts of the Connecticut River along the Vermont border are covered by the mixed oaks of the Northeastern coastal forests. The upper slopes of Mount Washington are conspicuous with krumholtz (dwarf, matted trees).
The northern third of the state is locally referred to as the “North Country” or “North of the Notches,” in reference to White Mountain passes that channel traffic. It contains less than 5% of the state’s population, suffers relatively high poverty, and is steadily losing population as the logging and paper industries decline. However, the tourist industry, in particular visitors who go to northern New Hampshire to ski, snowboard, hike and mountain bike has helped offset economic losses from mill closures.