What is Appalachia?

Photo by Tom Hansel

When you think of America's southern mountains – what comes to mind? Do you think of log cabins? Or maybe banjos and overalls? What about moonshine? This area, known as "Appalachia" can inspire many different ideas.

While this task is still difficult today, people from outside the Appalachian mountains have been trying to understand the region and its people for more than 150 years.

The Appalachian mountain system as an area of land includes the following regions: the Piedmont, Blue Ridge, Great Valley, Allegheny and Cumberland Mountains, and the Appalachian Plateau. In 1965 the Appalachian Regional Commission (ARC) established official boundaries for the region. The ARC defines 420 counties in 13 states: Alabama, Georgia, Kentucky, Maryland, Mississippi, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Tennessee, Virginia, and West Virginia. Most scholarly definitions include a "core" region of 164 counties in Georgia, North Carolina, Tennessee, Kentucky, West Virginia, and Virginia.