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  8. Upper South


The states of West Virginia (separation from Virginia during Civil War), Virginia (1st permanent settlement), North Carolina (original colony), Kentucky (ceded by the French to the British), Tennessee, and Arkansas form the Upper South.

Geographically, these states include the mountains, hills, plateaus, and basins of the Appalachians and Ozarks. The Upper South were antebellum-era slave states that only joined the Deep South’s Confederate succession after the Union’s civil war attack on Fort Sumter, except Kentucky, which remained a Union state. Political differences between the lowlands and uplands within these states often caused internal conflicts during the Civil War, such strife caused the division of Virginia as West Virginia separated to become a new state.

While the lowlands and basins are fertile (tobacco plantations were common, particularly along the pre-civil war Atlantic seaboard), the extensive mountains and hills are abundant in ore, particularly coal, iron, and copper. Logging, dominated by deciduous hardwood forests, and textiles also formed an important part of the economy in this region.

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West Virginia

Charleston (state capital), Wheeling, Appalachian Mountains, bluegrass music, coal mining, logging


Richmond (state capital), Alexandria, Washington’s Mount Vernon, Charlottesville, Jefferson’s Monticello, Shenandoah Valley, Blue Ridge Mountains

North Carolina

Raleigh (state capital), Charlotte, Greensboro, Durham, Asheville, Appalachian Range (Great Smoky Mountains and Black Mountains), Kitty Hawk (Wright Bros.)


Frankfort (state capital), Louisville, Lexington, horse racing, bourbon, bluegrass music, tobacco


Nashville (state capital), Memphis, Appalachian Mountains, music (country, blues, soul, rock-n-roll, gospel)


Little Rock (state capital), Fayetteville, Ozark and Ouachita Mountains



Harper’s Ferry
Photo by Kevin Ku on Unsplash

West Virginia

West Virginia is a photographer’s paradise set entirely in the Appalachian Mountains, where outdoor enthusiasts can discover wilderness adventures, mountain resorts, and farm-to-fork dining.

West Virginia became the 35th state when it separated from Virginia during the Civil War. Charleston is the state capital. Wheeling is an orginal British settlement and historic industrial city. The state is particularly known for bluegrass music, coal mining, and logging due to its mountains.

See the official West Virginia Tourism pages.


Monticello, Charlottesville
Photo by Ali Giaudrone


South of Washington DC, between the Chesapeake Bay to the East and the Appalachian Blue Ridge Mountains and Shenandoah Valley to the West, is Virginia, a state brimming with historical landmarks and idyllic historic towns. Richmond is the state capital.

Step back in time to Alexandria, just beyond the bustle of Washington DC, on the west bank of the Potomac River with Washington’s Mount Vernon nearby. Alexandria is a southern city is infused with well-preserved 18th- and 19th-century architecture and small-town charm. Independent restaurants and boutiques line historic streets leading to a picturesque waterfront.

Jamestown, the first permanent English settlement of the Americas in 1607, was the original 17th-century colonial capital of Virginia (which moved to Williamsburg in 1799). Eight U.S. Presidents were born in Virginia, including Thomas Jefferson (1743-1826), the 3rd US President.

In Charlottesville, Jefferson built his iconic home, the Monticello, where he wrote the Declaration of Independence, and established the University of Virginia’s Academical Village. These National Historic Landmarks have been declared UNESCO World Heritage Sites for their historic significance.

See the official Virginia Tourism pages.


Beach Lifeguard Tower
Photo by Kristina Gain on Pexels.com

North Carolina

Inhabited for thousands of years, Carolina Algonquian-, Iroquoian-, and Siouan-speaking tribes lived in the area when Europeans first arrived. The colony was first named after the Stuart King Charles I of England, Scotland, and Ireland whose son Charles II first chartered the original Carolina colony in 1663, which was later split to form the colonies of North and South Carolina in 1712. Many natives, including half of the Cherokee, died during the 1738 smallpox epidemic.

Raleigh is the state capital and second-largest, while Charlotte is the state’s most populous. During the antebellum era since 1800, cotton and tobacco supported the state’s growth and prosperity using slave labor and were the primary products of North Carolina, one of the original thirteen states.

The industrial city of Durham has been home to Duke University since 1892 but was originally founded by Methodists and Quakers in 1838. Built at the end of the 19th century, the Biltmore Estate from the Vanderbilt Guilded Age is in Asheville, a town in the Appalachian Blue Ridge Mountains, Great Smoky Mountains, and Black Mountains of the western state. In Kitty Hawk, an Atlantic coastal town, the Wright Brothers first took flight in 1903.

See the official North Carolina Tourism pages.


Estate Purebred
Photo by Pat Whelen on Pexels.com


Ceded by the French to the British in 1763, Kentucky was originally a county of the original state of Virginia but separated to become the fifteenth state in 1792. Although Frankfurt is the state capital, Louisville and Lexington are the state’s largest cities. Once inhabited by the Mississippian culture through their maize-based agriculture, today, the state is known for horse racing, bourbon, bluegrass music, and tobacco.

See the official Kentucky Tourism pages.


Photo by Shane Raynor on Pexels.com


Cherokee natives inhabited the land prior to European settlements of the 1770s. Tennessee was originally part of North Carolina, then named for the Cherokee town of Tanasi when admitted as the 16th state in 1796. The state is geographically and culturally divided into three Grand Divisions: Appalachian East with the Tennessee River forming in Knoxville; the Highland Rim Middle includes the second Tennessee River bisector on its western edge and Nashville, the state capital and largest city; Lowland West includes Memphis, the state’s second-largest city, and is bound between the Mississippi River to the west and the Tennessee River bisector to the east.

See the official Tennessee Tourism pages.


Hawksbill Crag at Whitaker Point
Photo by Derek Livingston on Unsplash


Part of the 1803 Louisiana Purchase, the western highlands of Arkansas consists mostly of the Ozark Mountains with the Ouachita Mountains south of the Ozark Plateau. The eastern border is bound by the Mississippi River of the eastern lowlands. Little Rock, the state capital and largest city, sits on the banks of the Arkansas River where it flows through the mountainous region into the basin of the Mississippi Plain.

See the official Arkansas Tourism pages.

Read More

All About the Upper South

Monticello: Jefferson’s Iconic Virginia Estate

Inspired by the classics, Thomas Jefferson’s iconic home in Charlottesville, Virginia–whose name Monticello means “little mount” in Italian–has become an American icon. In 1987, 200 years after it was built, Jefferson’s Monticello was named a UNESCO World Heritage Site (along with the University of Virginia’s Academical Village that he also designed). This beautifully maintained example of Neoclassical architecture was…