Encompassing only 1.212 square miles, Rhode Island and Providence Plantations is the smallest of the United States of America. Despite its size, it has a rich history, fascinating geography, and a diverse population of plants, animals and people.
Rhode Island‘s landscape as we know it today was formed, along with much of New England‘s, by glacial erosion. About 21,000 years ago, the Laurentide ice sheet stretched as far as Cape Cod. As it receded over the next several thousand years, the landscape of New England was carved out.
Since different parts of the glacier melted and receded at different rates, the weight of the cooler sections formed lakes, crevasses, and the many islands that dot the coast.
Rhode Island has 30 islands, the largest of which is Aquidnic Island. Rhode Island‘s land is relatively low. The highest pint is only 812 feet, which is why Rhode Island is famous for its beaches, not its skiing!
Rhode Island‘s longest rivers are the Blackstone and the Pawtuxet rivers, both in the northern part of the state. Most of Rhode Island‘s rivers flow south–east into the Narragansett Bay, home to many of the state‘s islands. This bay then flows into the Block Island Sound and eventually into the greater Atlantic Ocean.
A little–known fact about Rhode Island is that it not only borders Massachusetts and Connecticut, but also New York, by water.
Rhode Island shares its geological history with much of southern New England, covered in mostly sedimentary rock left behind by glacial recession. Rhode Island is unique, however, in that it sits on the microcontinent of Avalonia which once collided with the supercontinent Gondwana.
Rhode Island draws thousands of tourists each fall because of its oak forests. Over 50% of Rhode Island‘s land is forested, largely by various types of oaks. Small rodents such as squirrels, raccoons and skunks are among the most common mammals found in these forests, but the largest animal frequently found in Rhode Island is the white–tailed deer. Recently, however, black bears and moose have been found roaming the area.
The first known humans to settle in Rhode Island were the Wampanoag and Narragansett tribes who lived in “wetu” huts in the area. Giovanni Verrazzano was the first European explorer to land in Rhode Island in 1524. He landed on what is now Aquidneck Island in the Naragansett Bay. Verrazzano named it Rhod–Island, as it reminded him of the Isle of Rhodes in Greece.
After Roger Williams settled in Providence in the early 17th century, the then British colony was named “The colony of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations.” After Rhode Island became the first state to officially declare its independence from King George III of England, the State of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations was born.
The map from the featured image was downloaded from here.