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Coastlines of the United States, Atlantic Coastline

permanent English colony, Atlantic Intracoastal Waterway, Middle Atlantic states, European colonists, population of Miami

The Atlantic coastline stretches 3,330 km (2,069 mi), from the northern reaches of Maine to the southern tip of Florida. While the New England region is characterized by hilly, rocky terrain, most of the remaining eastern coastline lies on a broad coastal plain, dotted with many large bays and numerous rivers. Since the outer reaches of the coastal plain are almost at sea level, it is not uncommon for extensive coastal marshes to develop in areas where fresh water from rivers mixes with ocean salt water. Sandy barrier islands parallel much of the Atlantic shoreline.

Early European colonists landed on the coast of the Atlantic. The first permanent English colony was founded at Jamestown, Virginia, in 1607. Settlements quickly sprung up along the entire East Coast. Located most commonly in the New England and Middle Atlantic states, port cities grew and became increasingly more important. Colonists shipped crops and raw materials back to Europe, in exchange for manufactured goods. Cities such as New York, Boston, and Philadelphia became distribution centers, offering supplies to pioneers traveling westward by railroad, waterways, or trails. Immigration helped to increase the population of coastal cities.

Commerce along the East Coast uses the water transportation routes of the Atlantic Intracoastal Waterway, which maintains a channel for barges and other light vessels from Boston, Massachusetts, to Key West, Florida. The waterway also utilizes rivers, bays, coastal sounds, and canals to provide a navigable route with a minimum depth of 4 m (12 ft) throughout most of its length.

Today, numerous major urban centers can be found along the entire length of the Atlantic coastline. To the south, the population of Miami, Florida, has swelled with the flow of immigrants from Latin America. In the north, the Megalopolis region is home to the largest concentration of people in the United States, stretching from Maine to Virginia. Anchored by New York City, this area also includes Boston, Massachusetts; Philadelphia, Pennsylvania; Baltimore, Maryland; and Washington, D.C.

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