Located in the extreme northeast corner of the United States, Maine consists largely of a coastal plain of eroded valleys, with more resistant rock forming the generally mountainous west (the Longfellow Mts., an extension of the White Mts. and part of the great Appalachian system), Mt. Desert and other islands in the east, and isolated peaks including Katahdin (5,268 ft/1,606 m), the highest point in the state. Receding glaciers deposited long drift ridges across the countryside and dammed the valleys to form more than 2,200 lakes (Moosehead Lake is the largest) and to establish new, rugged watercourses for more than 5,000 streams and rivers. The major rivers are the St. John (which, with the St. Croix, forms part of the international boundary with New Brunswick), the Penobscot, the Kennebec, the Androscoggin, and the Saco. The sea has encroached on the low coastal valleys, leaving a jigsawed coastline of 3,500 mi (5,630 km), including numerous irregular and rocky islands offshore. East of Casco Bay the coast of Maine is rugged and wild, but farther west the shoreline has sandy beaches and marshy lowlands.
Over 80% of Maine is forested with great stands of white pine, hemlock, spruce, fir, and hardwoods. Sheltered by the woods and with abundant water from numerous lakes, particularly in the northern counties, wildlife includes moose, deer, black bear, and smaller animals; fish and fowl are also plentiful.
The population of Maine is centered on the cleared land along the coast and major rivers. Augusta is the capital; Portland, Lewiston, and Bangor are the largest cities. Maine's two great parks are Acadia National Park on and around Mt. Desert Island; and Baxter State Park, which includes the northern end of the Appalachian Trail at Mt. Katahdin in the N Maine wilderness.
The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.