From sandy flatlands to dissected plateaus and mountains of folded rocks, the landscape or physiography of Pennsylvania is intricately linked to its underlying geology.
Pennsylvania contains six physiographic provinces that reflect the geologic-topographic relationships. From the northwest to the southeast, these include the following:
- Central Lowlands
- Appalachian Plateaus
- Ridge and Valley
- New England
- Atlantic Coastal Plain
Three of the provinces -- the Appalachian Plateaus, the Ridge and Valley, and the Piedmont -- constitute more than 98 percent of the state.
Physiographic Map of Pennsylvania
The Pennsylvania Geological Survey publication Physiographic Provinces of Pennsylvania (PDF) shows a page-size state map of the six provinces and their subsections. The second page of the PDF (back side of the map) summarizes key features of each section:
- Dominant topographic forms
- Local relief
- Underlying rock types
- Geologic structures
- Minimum and maximum elevations
- Drainage patterns
- Geologic processes of origin
The relationship of Pennsylvania’s physiographic provinces and sections to the underlying geology can be further explored on the DCNR Pennsylvania Geological Survey web-mapping application, PaGEODE.
Go to the dropdown menu under “Map Layers”, “Other Geology” to turn on the physiographic areas, then turn on other layers (e.g., bedrock geology) to see how they compare.