What Is Massachusetts’ Topography

The Cape Cod area was formed by ice sheets and ocean currents.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency divides the state of Massachusetts into 13 sections depending on the geological features of those areas. However, they generally describe parts of either the coastal region, the inland mountains, inland hills or Connecticut River valley areas. The state’s topography contains a range of features that can be traced back to environmental pressures through ice ages and thaws.


The area of Massachusetts that meets the Atlantic Ocean on the eastern seaboard does not reach over about 600 feet above sea level. Off the southeast coast are islands like Dukes’ Island and Nantucket. Cape Cod forms a curved protruberance from the coast. The islands and the Cape feature sandy beaches and dunes, but inland marshes, bogs and numerous lakes are also present, left by chunks of ice from the glaciation that created them. Outside the Cape, the Massachusetts coastline features rolling plains and low hills. The low topography of the coastal area includes rivers such as the Charles, Merrimack, Taunton and Ipswich rivers, which drain the rainfall from the land and into the ocean.


Boston is built in a lowland area of the state that holds many water sources like ponds and reservoirs. Much of the area directly inland from the coast is plains and low hills. At the western edges of the Boston lowlands, the land begins to rise into hills and the lowlands are left behind.


The western portion of the state is home to the Appalachian mountains, which enter the state from the south, and the Berkshire Hills and Taconic mountains, which are further north. The highest point in the whole state is a 3,487-foot peak named Greylock Mountain, which is located in the northwestern corner of the state. The Connecticut River valley marks the the eastern edge of the mountains in the state.

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The Connecticut River flows south through the state. Its valley has rolling low hills on either side. On the west are the mountains and land that ranges from 600 feet above sea level to almost 3,500 feet, and on the eastern edge the valley rises to lower hills that reach up to a maximum of 1,800 feet above sea level. These lower hills continue across the state, where the major rivers include the Chicopee, Blackstone, Quinebaug and Nashua, and begin to get lower as they approach the coastal lowlands.