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Land and Resources

Artibonite River, saltwater lake, Windward Passage, plantation agriculture, Hotte

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Haiti is bounded on the north by the Atlantic Ocean, on the east by the Dominican Republic, on the south by the Caribbean Sea, and on the west by the Windward Passage, a channel that separates the country from Cuba. Its area is 27,750 sq km (10,714 sq mi), about the size of the state of Massachusetts.

Haiti consists of two peninsulas, which are separated by the Gonave Gulf. Much of Haitiís land is mountainous. In all, five mountain ranges cross the country. The Chaine du Haut Piton, which runs along the northern peninsula, reaches a height of 1,183 m (3,881 ft). The Massif de la Selle, which begins just southeast of Port-au-Prince, reaches a height of 2,680 m (8,793 ft) at Pic la Selle, the highest point in Haiti. The Massif de la Hotte reaches a height of 2,347 m (7,700 ft) at the extreme western end of the southern peninsula. The other chains, which include the Massif des Montagnes Noires and Chaine des Cahos, and the solitary peak of Montagne Terrible, range between 1,128 and 1,580 m (3,701 and 5,184 ft) high.

Although Haiti is located on one of the most mountainous islands of the Caribbean, it has several large plains. These three inland plainsóthe Plaine du Nord, the Artibonite River valley, and the Cul-de-Sac Plainóare productive agricultural regions. Saumatre Lake, a saltwater lake in the Cul-de-Sac, is the nationís largest lake, while Peligre Lake, formed by a dam on the upper Artibonite River, is the largest freshwater lake.

The Gonave Gulf contains the largest of Haitiís offshore islands, the island of Gonave. The other islands include Ile de la Tortue (Tortuga) and Grande Cayemite. Haitiís shoreline is irregular, and there are many natural harbors. The countryís numerous riversómost of which are short, swift, and unnavigableóhave their sources in the mountains. Only the Artibonite River, Haitiís largest, is navigable for any length.

Natural Resources

Some 40 percent of Haiti is cultivated or used for plantation agriculture, even though years of poor farming techniques have depleted the soil. Bauxite was Haitiís most valuable mineral but extraction has ceased to be profitable in recent years. Small quantities of copper, salt, and gold exist but are not considered commercially viable.

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