So exactly where is Appalachia? It’s a geographical and cultural region in the eastern United States. Named after the Appalachian Mountains, which help define the territory, Appalachia stretches from southern New York to the northern parts of Alabama, Mississippi, and Georgia.
The Appalachian Mountains themselves stretch all the way from Canada to Alabama, but the cultural region we call Appalachia traditionally only includes the central and southern portions of the range. Appalachia encompasses about 205,000 square miles of land, including all of West Virginia and parts of 12 other states: Alabama, Georgia, Kentucky, Maryland, Mississippi, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Tennessee, and Virginia.
Appalachia is home to over 25 million people, almost half of which live in rural areas. In the past, Appalachia relied heavily on mining, forestry, agriculture, and heavy industry, and as many as one-third of its residents lived in poverty.
Today, much of Appalachia has diversified into new manufacturing and service industries. As a result, the overall poverty level is much lower, but there are still stark differences between areas that have diversified and those that haven’t. Some areas have become successful, while others remain in a state of widespread poverty.
The people of Appalachia have often been portrayed as backward, uneducated “mountain men” given to feuding and violence. These stereotypes have been popularized by the media over time, but they don’t bear any resemblance to today’s residents of Appalachia, who live in and enjoy one of the most beautiful areas of the U.S.
In fact, Appalachian culture is known for its literature and music. Traditional Appalachian music developed from Irish and Scottish fiddle music. African-American blues musicians introduced the banjo in the late 1700s, and the instrument has become a prominent symbol of the music of the region. Appalachian music played an important role in the development of modern country and bluegrass music.
Another popular feature of Appalachian culture is its folklore. Created from a mixture of European, Native American, and Biblical influences, Appalachian folklore often features regional heroes such as railroad worker John Henry and frontiersman Davy Crockett.
Today, Appalachia is a popular tourist destination. Its mountain terrain, beautiful scenery, and outdoor recreational opportunities bring millions of visitors and billions of dollars to the area each year. Perhaps the most famous attraction in the region is the Appalachian National Scenic Trail, a hiking trail that extends between Springer Mountain in Georgia and Mount Katahdin in Maine. Generally known as the Appalachian Trail, it is almost 2,200 miles long and part of the Triple Crown of long distance hiking in the U.S.