The states that make up the Mid-Atlantic are New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Delaware, Maryland, Virginia, and West Virginia. Washington, D.C. is also located in the Mid-Atlantic region, but despite being the United States capital, it is considered a district and not a state. The Mid-Atlantic is located south of New England and north of North Carolina.
While that is the main definition of the Mid-Atlantic, it’s not quite that simple. There are several other governmental definitions of the region we’ll explain in this article.
We’ll also recap the fascinating history of the region — as well as some fun trivia, facts, mysterious lore, and spooky folklore. Did you know, for example, that one of the first European settlements in the Mid-Atlantic mysteriously vanished without a trace? Read on to learn more …
- What States Make Up the Mid-Atlantic?
- History of the Mid-Atlantic States
- Facts About the Mid-Atlantic Region
- Places to Visit in the Mid-Atlantic States
- Geology & Landscape of the Mid-Atlantic Region
- Mid-Atlantic Lore & Mysteries
- FAQs About the Mid-Atlantic States
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What States Make Up the Mid-Atlantic?
The Mid-Atlantic refers to the region of the United States south of New England and north of North Carolina. It includes the following states and districts:
- New York
- New Jersey
- West Virginia
- Washington, D.C.
However, the definition of the Mid-Atlantic region can vary according to the source. For instance, the U.S. Census Bureau defines the Middle Atlantic Region as only New York, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania. It categorizes Delaware, Maryland, Virginia, and West Virginia as part of the South.
Others consider the Mid-Atlantic to include 5 states and a district: New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Delaware, Maryland, and Washington, D.C. The northernmost states (New York, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania) are often considered part of the Northeast Region.
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History of the Mid-Atlantic States
Original Inhabitants of the Mid-Atlantic Region
Before Europeans settled in the Mid-Atlantic states, various groups of Native Americans lived in what is now the Mid-Atlantic region. The Powhatan group – a confederation of over 30 tribes united by a common language – was located near what would later become the settlement at Jamestown, Virginia. In the Appalachian Mountain Range, multiple tribes belonged to the Iroquoian Group. Although the Iroquoians spoke different languages, they were united by a similar culture.
European Colonization in the Mid-Atlantic
English settlers founded their first permanent settlement in North America in Jamestown, Virginia. They developed a rocky partnership with the Native Americans there that allowed for some cooperation. This relationship broke down around 1609, when a severe drought strained both communities.
A wide range of Europeans continued to settle in the Middle Atlantic during the mid-seventeenth century. The Dutch founded New Netherland in modern-day New York.
The Swedish colonized New Sweden around present-day Wilmington, Delaware.
English Catholics, persecuted for their religion in Great Britain, sought refuge in Maryland. Quakers, members of a Protestant sect, settled in Pennsylvania. This diversity of both religion and ethnicity remains a defining feature of the region.
Each European settlement fell to British rule in the leadup to the American Revolution of the 1770s. These settlements became known as the Middle Colonies (New York, New Jersey, Delaware, and Pennsylvania) and Chesapeake Colonies (what would become Virginia and Maryland).
The Mid-Atlantic Region’s Role in the American Revolutionary & Civil Wars
During the Revolutionary War, the area that is now the Mid-Atlantic region continued to play an important role for the new nation. For instance, the Founding Fathers signed the Declaration of Independence in Philadelphia, located about halfway between the northern and southern colonies along the Atlantic coast.
The Mid-Atlantic states split between slave states and free states. Ultimately the region became a central point of tension and fighting during the American Civil War. Virginia was the only Mid-Atlantic state to join the Confederacy, although both Maryland and Delaware were considered border states (slave states that did not secede from the Union).
Economic Industrialization in the Mid-Atlantic Area
During the late 19th Century and early 20th Century, the Mid-Atlantic states became a central source of industrialization in the United States. The rise of heavy industry in the area also attracted a significant amount of immigration to the region.
Today, the Mid-Atlantic area is home to several of the largest urban areas in the United States, some of the country’s top ports and shipping centers, as well as a number of important US National Parks.
Facts About the Mid-Atlantic Region
Here are some interesting and fun factions about the Mid-Atlantic region:
- All but one of the Mid-Atlantic states were part of the Thirteen Original Colonies.
- New York has the largest population (20,365,879 in 2022) and Delaware has the smallest (1,008,350 in 2022) of the Mid-Atlantic states.
- The Chesapeake Bay is the largest estuary in the United States. An estuary is an area where saltwater and freshwater mix.
- New York City is the largest city in the United States and is located on a world-famous harbor, New York Harbor. The city also has the largest population in the U.S.
- A few cities in the Mid-Atlantic Region are located on the Great Lakes. Buffalo, NY and Erie, PA are located on Lake Erie, while Rochester, NY is located on Lake Ontario.
- Washington, D.C. is the nation’s capital. It is home to the President’s abode, the White House, and many other landmarks of national importance. One example is the Washington Monument.
- The region lays claim to many prestigious universities, including Princeton University (New Jersey), University of Pennsylvania (Pennsylvania), Cornell University (New York), Columbia University (New York), Georgetown University (Washington, D.C.), and Johns Hopkins University (Maryland).
- Several Mid Atlantic States (New York, New Jersey, Delaware, Maryland, Virginia, and Washington DC) are also among the states considered the East Coast.
Places to Visit in the Mid-Atlantic States
Popular Cities in the Mid-Atlantic
- New York City, New York (Museums, food, Wall Street, and Broadway)
- Philadelphia, Pennsylvania (American history, Independence Hall, Philly cheesesteaks)
- Baltimore, Maryland (Church spires, a prominent harbor, and Fort McHenry, the location of the battle that inspired the national anthem)
- Annapolis, Maryland
- Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania (Museums, bridges,
- Washington, D.C. (Walkable streets, free museums, National Mall)
- Richmond, Virginia (Revolutionary War sites, parks, historic streets)
National Parks & Lands in the Mid-Atlantic
- Shenandoah National Park, Virginia
- Monongahela National Forest, West Virginia
- Assateague Island National Seashore, Virginia
- New River Gorge National Park, West Virginia
- Great Falls Park, Virginia
- Prince William Forest Park, Virginia
Other Places of Interest in the Mid-Atlantic
- Pennsylvania Dutch Country, Pennsylvania (Amish culture, rural areas)
- Rehoboth Beach, Delaware (Beaches and camping)
- Ocean City, Maryland (Beach resorts)
- Atlantic City, New Jersey (Casinos, boardwalks, beaches)
- Williamsburg, Virginia (Colonial Williamsburg, Busch Gardens theme park)
- Gettysburg, Pennsylvania (Site of famous and bloody Civil War battle and Lincoln’s eponymous speech)
- Lake George, New York (Adirondacks, swimming, nature)
- Niagara Falls, New York (Famous waterfall)
- Saratoga Springs, New York (Horse racing, mineral springs)
- Montauk, New York (The Hamptons, surfing, water sports)
Geology & Landscape of the Mid-Atlantic Region
The Mid-Atlantic Region is home to multiple beautiful mountain ranges formed over billions of years. These include the Blue Ridge Mountains and the Appalachian Mountains.
About 600 million years ago, there was an ocean covering the area that is now the Shenandoah Valley. The saltwater left behind the mineral building blocks necessary to form the vast cave systems in the Shenandoah Valley today. There are seven cavern systems guests can visit.
The environment changes along the coast of the Atlantic Ocean. About 35 million years ago, a meteorite impact created a crater as deep as the Grand Canyon off the coast of present-day Norfolk, Virginia. Although the hole filled in over time, it helped determine the path the rivers would flow and the location of Chesapeake Bay. The Bay was filled with water after the Ice Age 10,000 years ago.
Off the coasts of Maryland and Virginia in the Atlantic Ocean are two well-known barrier islands. They are named Assateague Island and Chincoteague Island, and are famous for the herds of wild horses that run free there.
For early European settlers, a significant geologic feature was something called the “fall line” of the landscape. This is where the flat coastal plain encounters the gentle foothills of the Appalachian Mountains, locally called the Piedmont.
When navigating upriver by boat (of any of the local Mid-Atlantic rivers), the lower tidal stretches near the ocean would be smooth sailing. However, rapids and dangerous conditions would appear at the fall line. Often, early settlers would travel no further than this spot.
This explains why many important Mid-Atlantic Cities are located right at the fall line. Richmond is on the fall line of the James River; Georgetown and Alexandria on the fall line of the Potomac River; Philadelphia on the fall line of the Schuylkill; Wilmington on the fall line of the Brandywine River.
Mid-Atlantic Lore & Mysteries
Lost Colony of Roanoke
Jamestown has gone down in history as the first permanent English settlement in North America. Few know that title would have gone to the colony of Roanoke – if it hadn’t vanished.
Shortly after founding Roanoke, its mayor, John White, returned to England to request supplies and manpower. Upon his return to America, he found his settlement empty and his wife and child were gone.
The only clue to their whereabouts was a word carved into the trees: CROATOAN. This may have referred to an indigenous-inhabited island off the coast. The missing colonists may have joined forces with Native Americans living on Croatoan, which is now known as Hatteras Island. A storm prevented John White’s search, and the settlers were never found.
Washington Irving’s 1820 tale The Legend of Sleepy Hollow, about the superstitious schoolmaster Ichabod Crane, is set in the real town of Sleepy Hollow, New York.
While traveling through a purportedly haunted graveyard at night, Ichabod encounters a cloaked man on horseback with no head (the Headless Horseman). After a terrifying chase, the Headless Horseman throws his head at Ichabod, who falls from his own horse.
The story of the Headless Horseman has been retold in many forms and mediums and lives on today as powerful New York lore. The real Sleepy Hollow, New York, retains an air of eerie mystery in the public eye. It embraces the legend through an annual festival and a large sculpture of the Headless Horseman.
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FAQs About the Mid-Atlantic States
How Many States Are In The Mid-Atlantic Region?
There are seven states and Washington, D.C. (a district) in the Mid-Atlantic region.
What Are The State Capitals Of The Mid-Atlantic States?
Each state capital for the middle Atlantic states is:
– Albany, New York
– Trenton, New Jersey
– Harrisburg, Pennsylvania
– Dover, Delaware
– Annapolis, Maryland
– Richmond, Virginia
– Charleston, West Virginia
What Is The Mid-Atlantic Known For?
The Mid-Atlantic region is known for:
– Large cities, like bustling New York City, the “Big Apple” and the largest city in the U.S.
– A mixing pot of diverse nationalities, with a wider range of people and backgrounds than other regions of the country
– Iron, glass, steel, and other industries
– The serenity of the Blue Ridge and Appalachian Mountains
– Boardwalks and beach cities like Atlantic City
– Pristine coastal areas
– Colonial American history sites like the Liberty Bell in Philadelphia
– Civil War sites like Gettysburg and Antietam
– The nation’s capital and its many federal monuments, museums, and government buildings on capitol hill
– New York pizza, Maryland crabs, Philly cheesesteaks
In conclusion, “what states are in the Mid-Atlantic?”
While the definition may vary depending on who you ask, the region is often defined as: New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Delaware, Maryland, Virginia, West Virginia, and Washington, D.C. It is considered a typically American region with a lot to offer: from stellar museums to great nature and awesome food.