New Jersey is surrounded by water except along the 50 mi (80 km) of northern border with New York state. The northern third of the state lies within the Appalachian Highland region, where ridges running northeast and southwest shelter valleys containing pleasant streams and glacial lakes. Beyond the crest of wooded slopes are long-established farms given over to dairying and field crops. The Kittatinny Mts., with the state's highest elevations (up to 1,803 ft/550 m), stretch across the northwest corner of New Jersey from the New York border to the Delaware Water Gap. In 1961 New Jersey, along with three other states and the federal government, signed the Delaware River Basin Compact, providing for the control of water resources and rights throughout the Delaware River basin.
Southeast of the Highlands lie the Triassic lowlands or piedmont plains, extending from the northeastern border to Trenton, the capital, and encompassing every major city of the state except Camden and Atlantic City. The monotony of the lowlands is broken by ancient trap-rock ridges that extend to the Palisades of the Hudson, and many commuter towns lie along the wooded slopes. East of Newark, the largest city, and Hackensack acres of tidal marshes have been converted to industrial, office, and commercial use. This area, called the Meadowlands, also contains a huge sports and entertainment complex. Drainage is provided by the state's major rivers, the Passaic, the Raritan, and the Hackensack.
The busy lowlands give way in the southeast to the coastal plains, which cover more than half the state. The coast itself is highly developed as a resort area. Offshore barrier islands make large harbors impractical but provide 115 mi (185 km) of sheltered waterways that have made possible a superior combination of bay and ocean facilities. Inland from the coast lie the Pine Barrens, a vast area of forests, small rivers, and few settlements.