Introduction to Geography of New Hampshire

New Hampshire, one of the New England states of the United States. It is bounded on the north by the Canadian province of Quebec; on the east by Maine and the Atlantic Ocean; on the south by Massachusetts; and on the west by Vermont. Among the states New Hampshire ranks 46th in size with an area of 9,351 square miles (24,219 km 2).

New Hampshire'sNew Hampshire's state bird is the purple finch.
New Hampshire in brief
General information
Statehood: June 21, 1788, the ninth state.
State abbreviations: N.H. (traditional); NH (postal).
State capital: Concord, the capital since 1808. Other capitals were Portsmouth (1679-1774), Exeter (1775-1781), and several different towns between 1781 and 1808.
State motto: Live Free or Die.
Popular name: The Granite State.
State song: "Old New Hampshire." Words by John F. Holmes; music by Maurice Hoffmann.
Symbols of New Hampshire
State bird: Purple finch.
State flower: Purple lilac.
State tree: White birch.
State flag and seal: New Hampshire's state flag, adopted in 1909, bears the state seal on a blue background. A laurel wreath with nine stars shows that New Hampshire was the ninth state to approve the U.S. Constitution. The seal, adopted in 1931, displays the Revolutionary War frigate Raleigh, which was built in Portsmouth. The American flag of 1777 flies at the ship's stern. A granite boulder in the foreground symbolizes the state's rugged terrain and the character of its people.
Land and climate
Area: 9,283 mi2 (24,044 km2), including 314 mi2 (813 km2) of inland water.
Elevation: Highest--Mount Washington, 6,288 ft (1,917 m) above sea level. Lowest--sea level along the Atlantic coast.
Coastline: 18 mi (29 km).
Record high temperature: 106 °F (41 °C) at Nashua on July 4, 1911.
Record low temperature: –47 °F (–44 °C) at Mount Washington on Jan. 29, 1934.
Average July temperature: 68 °F (20 °C).
Average January temperature: 19 °F (–7 °C).
Average yearly precipitation: 42 in (107 cm).
Population: 1,235,786.
Rank among the states: 41st.
Density: 133 per mi2 (51 per km2), U.S. average 78 per mi2 (30 per km2).
Distribution: 59 percent urban, 41 percent rural.
Largest cities in New Hampshire: Manchester (107,006); Nashua (86,605); Concord (40,687); Derry (34,021); Rochester (28,461); Salem (28,112).
Chief products
Agriculture: beef cattle, milk, nursery and greenhouse products.
Manufacturing: computer and electronic products, fabricated metal products, machinery.
Mining: crushed stone, granite, sand and gravel.
State government
Governor: 2-year term.
State senators: 24; 2-year terms.
State representatives: 400; 2-year terms.
Counties: 10.
Federal government
United States senators: 2.
United States representatives: 2.
Electoral votes: 4.
Sources of information
For information about tourism, write to: New Hampshire Division of Travel and Tourism Development, 172 Pembroke Road, P.O. Box 1856, Concord, NH 03302. The Web site at also provides information.
For information on the economy, write to: Department of Resources and Economic Development, 172 Pembroke Road, P.O. Box 1856, Concord, NH 03302. The state's official Web site at also provides a gateway to much information on New Hampshire's economy, government, and history.

Physical Geography

New HampshireNew Hampshire is one of the New England states that lie in the northeastern United States.

New Hampshire lies in the northernmost section of the diverse Appalachian region of the United States. It is an old, eroded area where glaciers formed or modified many of the physical features in recent geologic time. Advancing ice sheets smoothed hills and mountains and in places leveled the land. Receding, they dammed rivers, created lakes, and left widespread debris in such forms as moraines and drumlins.


There are three major physical regions in New Hampshire:

The Seaboard Lowland is a relatively narrow strip of land in the southeast. Sandy beaches and rocky promontories line the coast. Inland, the terrain consists of flat to rolling land dotted by occasional low hills. Seven miles (11 km) offshore are the barren Isles of Shoals, three of which are part of New Hampshire and the rest of Maine.

The New England Upland is a rolling to hilly plateau region covering the rest of the southern half of the state. Elevations increase toward the west, and range generally betweeen 500 and 1,500 feet (150 to 450 m). Rising even higher are numerous isolated mountains called monadnocks. In the southwestern corner of the state stands Monadnock Mountain, from whose name comes the term for all such mountains.

The White Mountains form a picturesque highland region in northern and central New Hampshire. Chief among the ranges is the Presidential Range, which trends northeast-southwest. Generally rounded but occasionally rugged, the White Mountains contain high peaks, deep ravines, and huge U-shaped troughs or passes locally called notches. Among them are Crawford, Franconia, and Pinkham notches. Mount Washington, in the Presidential Range, rising well above the timberline to 6,288 feet (1,917 m) above sea level, is the highest peak in New England and one of the loftiest in the eastern United States.

New Hampshire'sNew Hampshire's state tree is the white birch.

Five major rivers, with their tributaries, drain the state: the Connecticut, Merrimack, Piscataqua, Saco, and Androscoggin. The Connecticut from its source in the north flows south along the Vermont-New Hampshire border, draining the west. Central and southern New Hampshire is drained by the Merrimack. The short, tidal Piscataqua, on the Maine-New Hampshire border in the southeast, funnels the waters of numerous rivers into the Atlantic. In the north, the Saco and Androscoggin rivers flow eastward and reach the Atlantic through Maine.

Dotting the state are more than 1,000 lakes, mostly of glacial origin. The largest is Lake Winnipesaukee. Other lakes include Newfound, Ossipee, Squam, Sunapee, Umbagog, and Winnisquam. As in the rest of New England, many of the small lakes are called ponds. The chief reservoirs are Francis and First Connecticut lakes and Moore and Blackwater reservoirs.


New Hampshire has a continental climate similar to that occurring throughout New England. It is marked by long, cold winters; short, warm summers; highly changeable weather; and ample rainfall evenly distributed throughout the year. In the south, the Atlantic Ocean has a tempering effect, especially along the coast. The climate is more severe in the north because of the latitude and increased elevation.

Average January temperatures range from about 10° F. (-12° C.) in the north to 25° F. (-4° C.) in the south. Except along the coast, temperatures often drop below 0° F. (-18° C.). July temperatures average 65° to 70° F. (18° to 21° C.) throughout most of the state. Only occasionally are there readings of more than 90° F. (32° C.).

Some mountainous areas receive more than 70 inches (1,780 mm) of precipitation each year. Most of New Hampshire, however, gets 40 to 45 inches (1,020 to 1,140 mm). Deep snow covers the ground all winter, particularly in the mountains. Among the destructive storms that occasionally strike the state are hurricanes, northeasters, and tornadoes.


Although virgin forests were cleared long ago, New Hampshire retains most of its native vegetation. Forests are composed of mixed deciduous hardwoods and conifers. Sugar maple, birch, beech, and various oaks and hickories predominate; spruce, fir, and eastern white pine are also common. A great variety of wild flowers, including daisies, violets, and goldenrod, grow throughout much of New Hampshire.

New Hampshire'sNew Hampshire's state flower is the purple lilac.


The New Hampshire quarterThe New Hampshire quarter features an image of one of the state’s best-known symbols, the Old Man of the Mountain. The rock formation in the Franconia Range resembled the profile of a man until it crumbled in 2003.

Service industries are New Hampshire's leading economic activity. Major activities within the service industries include education, health care, real estate, retail trade, and tourism. Manufacturing also ranks high among the economic activities. In addition, a flourishing tourist industry is a mainstay of the economy. Ski resorts, ocean beaches, placid lakes, and colorful autumn foliage attract most of the visitors.

Service Industries

The leading service industry in New Hampshire is finance, insurance, and real estate. Other major activities within the service industries include education, health care, real estate, retail trade, and tourism. Manchester is the major financial center. The White Mountains and the lake and coastal areas of New Hampshire have many resorts.


By value, the major product groups are computer and electronic products, metal products, and machinery. Most of the manufacturing is done in Manchester, Nashua, and other communities in the southeastern part of the state. There is little manufacturing in the north.


Greenhouse and nursery products are New Hampshire's most important agricultural activity. Plants for gardens and homes, and Christmas trees are leading products from this category. Dairy farming is another important agricultural activity.

Hay, used mainly on farms to feed livestock, is the most widely grown crop. Apples are the chief fruit crop. The Connecticut and Merrimack river valleys and the lowlands along the coast are the areas most suited for farming. Numerous farmers supplement their income by making maple syrup and sugar from the sap of maple trees on their land.

Forestryand Mining

Forests cover about 85 per cent of the state. Timber is cut mainly for lumber. Softwoods, particularly white pine, hemlock, and spruce, make up much of the timber cut. Hardwoods such as birch, oak, maple, and beech are also a portion of the annual cut.

New Hampshire has few mineral resources. Sand and gravel, stone, and granite account for virtually all the value of the state's mineral output.


New Hampshire relies heavily on automobile and railroad transportation. Interstate highways and two turnpikes in the southeast are the prime thoroughfares. Railway freight service is provided for most parts of the state, and there is also passenger service. Manchester has scheduled airline service.

The People

New Hampshire ranks 41st in population. The population density is 137.8 persons per square mile (53.2 per km 2), about 1.7 times that of the United States as a whole. Whites make up 96 per cent of the population. Blacks, the largest nonwhite group, account for 0.7 per cent.

Annual events in New Hampshire
Winter Carnivals in Franconia, Hanover, Lincoln, Plymouth, and other communities (January and February); Ski races at all mountains (January through March); Annual Sandwich Notch Sled Dog Races in Center Sandwich (February); Annual World Championship Sled Dog Derby in Laconia (February).
Annual Sheep and Wool Festival in New Boston (May); Market Square Days Celebration in Portsmouth (June).
Prescott Parks Art Festival in Portsmouth (July and August); League of New Hampshire Craftsmen's Fair at Mount Sunapee State Park in Sunapee (August); Riverfest Celebration in Manchester (September); Annual New Hampshire Highland Games in Hopkinton (September); Fall Foliage Festival in Warner (October); Sandwich Fair (October); Candlelight Stroll at Strawbery Banke in Portsmouth (December); First Night New Hampshire in Portsmouth and Wolfeboro (New Year's Eve).


School attendance is compulsory from age 6 to age 16 (to age 14 in a school district that lacks its own high school). A commissioner of education is the chief state education official. The commissioner is nominated by the state board of education and appointed by the governor. The members of the board of education are appointed by the governor.

The University of New Hampshire is a state-controlled institution. Its main campus is at Durham; there is a branch at Manchester. The university was chartered in 1866 as part of Dartmouth College and called New Hampshire College of Agriculture and Mechanic Arts. It was located in Hanover from 1868 to 1893. Its present name was adopted in 1923. It is part of the University System of New Hampshire, as are Keene State College, Plymouth State College, and the School for Lifelong Learning, at Durham. Dartmouth College, at Hanover, is one of the nation's outstanding private colleges.


New Hampshire's State CapitolNew Hampshire's State Capitol is in Concord, the capital since 1808.

New Hampshire is governed under its 1784 constitution, the second in its history. The legislature, called General Court, consists of a Senate of 24 members and a House of Representatives of 400 members. All members are elected for two-year terms. New Hampshire's House of Representatives is the largest state legislative body in the United States. The legislature meets annually.

The governor is elected for a two-year term and is assisted by an executive council of five members, also elected for two-year terms. There is no lieutenant governor; if the governorship becomes vacant the president of the Senate succeeds to the office. The secretary of state and state treasurer are elected jointly by House and Senate. The heads of most other administrative agencies are appointed by the governor with the council's approval.

The judiciary is headed by a supreme court of five justices and includes a superior court and district and municipal courts. All judges are appointed by the governor with the council's approval.

New Hampshire has 10 counties. The state sends two senators and two representatives to the U.S. Congress.

Governors of New Hampshire