A to Z Geography: Alabama

Caitlin Dempsey

Updated:

Alabama is a state located in the southeastern region of the United States. It is bordered by Tennessee to the north, Georgia to the east, Florida to the south, and Mississippi to the west.

Alabama has a total area of 52,419 square miles, making it the 30th largest state in the country.

Alabama is known for its varied geography, which includes coastal beaches, rolling hills, and dense forests. The state is also home to several large rivers, including the Tennessee River, the Alabama River, and the Mobile River, which all flow into the Gulf of Mexico.

Alabama is home to several large lakes, including Guntersville Lake, Wheeler Lake, and Lewis Smith Lake.


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Here is an alphabetical list of words that relate to Alabama and its geography.

Fact sheet with Landsat image for the state of Alabama.

A

Alabama is the 22nd largest state by area in the United States.

The Alabama River flows through the state and empties into the Mobile Bay.

Alabama was named after the Alibamons tribe of Native Americans.

B

Birmingham is the largest city in Alabama and known for being a major center of the Civil Rights Movement.

C

The Coosa River runs through Alabama and is a major tributary of the Alabama River.

D

Dauphin Island is a barrier island located off the Gulf coast of Alabama.

Dauphin Island, which separates the Mississippi Sound and Mobile Bay to the north from the Gulf of Mexico to the south, is 15 miles (24 km) long from east to west.

The barrier island is an important resting point for birds migrating north from South America and is home to the Audubon Bird Sanctuary.

An aerial view of Dauphin Island, Alabama, shows a thin strip of road partially covered by sand, with undeveloped beach in the foreground and developed beach in the background. Photo: Karen Morgan, USGS. Public domain.
An aerial view of Dauphin Island, Alabama, shows a thin strip of road partially covered by sand, with undeveloped beach in the foreground and developed beach in the background. Photo: Karen Morgan, USGS. Public domain.

The state of Alabama is located in the Deep South region of the United States. There are five core states universally recognized as being part of the Deep South: Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, Georgia and South Carolina. Some sources also consider Texas and Florida to be part of this region.

An egret walks in the shallow surf of an undeveloped beach on Dauphin Island, Alabama, with buildings viewed in the background from a different area on the island. Photo: Soupy Dalyander, USGS. Public domain.
An egret walks in the shallow surf of an undeveloped beach on Dauphin Island, Alabama. Photo: Soupy Dalyander, USGS. Public domain.

E

Elmore County, Alabama is home to Lake Martin, a large man-made lake with over 44,000 acres of water. Lake Martin is a 39,000-acre (178 km²) reservoir enlarged by the establishment of the Martin Dam on the Tallapoosa River.

The Eastern Shore of Mobile Bay is a popular tourist destination in Alabama known for its scenic beaches, shopping, and recreational opportunities.

F

The state flower of Alabama is the Camellia. The Japanese camellia (Camellia japonica L) was officially named the state flower of Alabama in 1959, replacing the Goldenrod. The flower was presumably picked due to its immense popularity as a garden flower in the state.

Red camellias on a green bush.
Camellia flowers. Photo: Caitlin Dempsey.

Family farmland is central to agriculture in Alabama. 97% of farms are family owned according to the 2017 Census of Agriculture. According to the USDA’s 2021 State Agricultural Overview for Alabama, there are 38,500 farms in operations for a total of 8,200,000 acres.

G

Gulf Shores, Alabama is a popular tourist destination located on the Gulf of Mexico.

H

The highest point in Alabama is Mount Cheaha, which stands at 2,413 feet above sea level.

Cheaha Mountain, the highest point in Alabama, viewed from Skyway Mountainway, April 2018. Photo: Cheaha Mountain, Alabama - Skye Marthaler, CC BY-SA 4.0 Wikimedia
Cheaha Mountain, the highest point in Alabama, viewed from Skyway Mountainway, April 2018. Photo: Cheaha Mountain, Alabama – Skye Marthaler, CC BY-SA 4.0 Wikimedia

I

The state of Alabama is bisected by the Intercoastal Waterway, which is a navigable water route along the Atlantic and Gulf coasts of the United States.

The United States’ 3,000-mile (4,800-kilometer) Intracoastal Waterway (ICW) runs from Massachusetts southward along the Atlantic Seaboard, around the southern point of Florida, and then along the Gulf Coast to Brownsville, Texas.

This waterway provides a crucial transportation link for commercial vessels and recreational boaters.

J

Jackson, Alabama is a city located in the northeastern part of the state, near the Tennessee state line. The nickname for Jackson is “Pine City” due to its origin as a timber town.

K

Alabama has many waterways, including rivers, lakes, and the Gulf of Mexico, which make for great kayaking locations. Kayaking in Alabama offers scenic beauty and plenty of opportunities for recreational activities on the water.

Some popular destinations for kayaking in the state include the Tennessee River, Mobile Bay, and the Gulf State Park. The Little River Canyon National Preserve is home to whitewater kayaking of a world-class level; members of the United States Olympic team have trained on this river.

A person in a yellow kayak going over the falls on a river.
A kayak in Little River Canyon National Preserve. Photo: NPS / Matt Switzer, public domain.

L

The state tree of Alabama is the Longleaf Pine.

The Longleaf Pine (Pinus palustris) is a tree species native to the southeastern United States, including Alabama. It is a large, tall tree that can grow up to 100 feet or more in height. The Longleaf Pine is known for its long, needle-like leaves that can grow up to 18 inches in length. The tree also produces large cones and has a distinctive reddish-brown bark.

In Alabama, the Longleaf Pine once dominated large portions of the state’s landscape, but extensive logging and land-use changes have reduced its range. Today, the Longleaf Pine is considered a threatened species and is being actively restored and protected. Conservation efforts focus on restoring the species’ habitat and promoting the growth of new Longleaf Pine forests. The Longleaf Pine is also a critical habitat for numerous species of wildlife, including the endangered Red-cockaded Woodpecker.

M

Mobile, Alabama is the third largest city in the state and is home to the Mobile Bay.

Montgomery is the capital of Alabama.

N

The North Alabama region is known for its rolling hills and scenic beauty.

O

Ozark, a small town in the Wiregrass Region of Alabama, was named by a traveler who felt the area reminded him of the Ozark Mountains in Arkansas.

P

The port city of Mobile is the only saltwater port in the state.

Q

The Quad Cities, which includes the cities of Florence, Muscle Shoals, Tuscumbia and Sheffield, is a metropolitan area in Alabama.

R

Alambama is known as the “river state” thanks to its roughly 77,242 miles of river.

The Red Mountain Park is a large park in Birmingham, Alabama that features hiking trails and scenic views.

S

The state capital of Alabama is Montgomery.

The state motto of Alabama is “Audemus jura nostra defendere,” which translates to “We dare defend our rights.”

T

The state of Alabama is home to the Talladega National Forest, which is located in the eastern part of the state. The forest covers over 400,000 acres and is known for its diverse ecosystems, including longleaf pine forests, hardwood bottomlands, and mountain streams.

Tuscaloosa, Alabama is the fifth largest city in the state and is home to the University of Alabama.

U

The University of Alabama is a well-known university located in Tuscaloosa and is the flagship campus of the University of Alabama System.

V

Vulcan Park and Museum in Birmingham is named after the Roman god of fire and features a statue of Vulcan, the largest cast iron statue in the world.

W

Alabama is known for its warm climate, with temperatures frequently reaching into the 90s during the summer months.

X

The Alabama Xtreme Bass Trail is a bass fishing tournament held in various locations throughout the state.

Y

The Yellow River runs through Alabama and is a tributary of the Coosa River.

The Yellowhammer is one of the state birds of Alabama. This Alabaman term for the northern flicker (Colaptes auratus) or common flicker stems from the brilliant yellow cloth found on the uniforms of newly arrived Confederate soldiers from Alabama during the civil war who earned the nickname after a member of a different company yelled out,  “Yellowhammer, Yellowhammer, flicker, flicker!” 

Northern Flickr.  Photo:  Jeff Lemons, USFWS, public domain.
Northern Flickr. Photo: Jeff Lemons, USFWS, public domain.

Z

Alabama has no cities that start with the letter “Z” although Johnsonville, Alabama was historically referred to as Zeru by the US Postal Service which maintained a post office there between 1893-1908.

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About the author
Caitlin Dempsey
Caitlin Dempsey is the editor of Geography Realm and holds a master's degree in Geography from UCLA as well as a Master of Library and Information Science (MLIS) from SJSU.