Exploring Communities NY State's Physical Environment banner

We learned that as we explore communities around the world, we find that people live in many different types of environments.  An environment is the land, water, air, and living things that surround us.  We may also call these things physical features.  Let's go exploring right here in our own state of New York and learn about our physical environment.

The Location of New York

New York State is located in the country of the United States of America on the continent of North America.  It is north of the equator, which makes it part of the Northern Hemisphere.  North America is also part of the Western Hemisphere.


new york state maps

New York is bordered by many states. Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Connecticut, Massachusetts, and Vermont are its "next-door neighbors."  Several bodies of water also form its boundaries.

The Landforms of New York

New York is somewhat triangular in shape.  It is a medium-sized state. New York is the 27th largest state in the 50 United States.  It is about 307 miles across from east to west, and 314 miles from north to south, at its longest part.

         Islip beach Long Island New York

While exploring New York State we will see many different types of landforms.  New York has mountains and valleys, forests and rolling hills.  We can find little streams, raging rivers with waterfalls, or we can even visit a beach on the ocean.  New York has great ranges in elevation.  The southeastern part of the state that touches the Atlantic Ocean is at sea level, or 0 ft. in elevation.  The highest part of New York is over 5,000 feet!


The land is generally flat along the bodies of water which form New York's borders.  The land forms gently rolling hills as we travel away from these bodies of water.


New York's highest mountains are the Adirondacks.  They are found in the northeastern part of the state.  They cover almost one-fourth of New York.  They are rugged and have several high peaks over 4,000 feet in elevation.  The highest mountain peak in the Adirondacks is Mt. Marcy.  It has an elevation of 5,344 feet!



The Catskill Mountains are located in the southeastern part of New York.  They are not as high as the Adirondacks.  Most of the mountains here are between 2,000 and 4,000 feet, but they are beautiful and provide scenery and outdoor activities for many visitors.

Bodies of Water

   Montauk Point
Atlantic Ocean at
Montauk Point Long Island 

The state of New York borders on many bodies of water.  The Atlantic Ocean is part of the state's southeastern border.  Harbors here are one of the state's greatest natural resources.  When we explore here, we will find over 120 miles of coastline.  Most of the coast is along Long Island, an island off the shore of New York City.  This large island that runs east-west.

Lake Ontario       Niagara Falls
Lake Ontario                                                           Niagara Falls

Two of America's five Great Lakes form the borders of New York.  Lake Ontario forms part of the state's northern border.  Lake Erie is on part of New York's western border.  The Great Lakes are the biggest lakes in the country. They are wonderful natural resources.  Niagara Falls at the eastern end of Lake Erie, is on the Niagara River.  It is the most powerful waterfall in North America.  It provides power for electricity.

Another important lake that helps form the border of New York is Lake Champlain. It is in the northeastern part of the state. It is 125 miles long.

 view of river through woods  river rafting Letchworth State Park waterfall  

Hundreds of rivers and streams make up the other bodies of water in New York State. The St. Lawrence River flows from Lake Ontario to the Atlantic Ocean.  It forms part of the boundary between New York and Canada.  The Hudson River, Mohawk River, and Genesee River are three other major rivers we can explore.

The Climate of New York


New York state experiences four very different seasons.  The temperatures can be extremely different depending on the season and the nearby landforms.  Most New Yorkers enjoy the changing seasons this type of climate offers.During the summer in New York, temperatures usually don't get much higher than the mid-80's.  During this nice warm weather, New Yorkers enjoy outdoor recreational activities such as swimming and picnicking. The highest temperature ever recorded in New York State was in the city of Troy, during the summer of 1926.  That summer, the temperature reached 108, Fahrenheit! 

The fall season is glorious in New York State.  People enjoy the cooler temperatures after a summer of hot weather.  They often travel throughout the state to see the beautiful fall leaves.  Shades of red, orange, and yellow colors blanket the hills and mountains of the state.


The long New York winters can be bitterly cold, and great amounts of snow may fall.  In some places it is not unusual to see 200 inches of snow in one winter.  That is almost 17 feet of snow!  The mountains of New York and the areas near the Great Lakes receive the greatest amounts of snow.  Many New Yorkers love the winter time.  They enjoy skiing and sledding. Temperatures usually remain below freezing during the winter.  In many places, temperatures often fall below zero.  The lowest temperature ever recorded during a New York  winter was in 1979.  That year in Old Forge, the temperature went down to -52 Fahrenheit!  

Most people look forward to the arrival of springtime and warmer temperatures.  Spring rains help to maintain the water levels of the rivers and lakes.  Wildflowers are plentiful in the fields, mountains, and woodland regions.

The Natural Resources of New York  

New York has many rich natural resources.  The soil, water, forests, and minerals found here, are all important to the state.


The waters of New York provide power to generate electricity.  They are also used as waterways for transportation and shipping goods.  The ocean, rivers, and lakes give New Yorkers fish to eat and sell to others.  Many people come to New York for the recreation they provide.

About one-third of the land in New York is used for farming.  The soil is rich, and many different types of crops are grown.

stacked lumber

New York is covered with forests.  Almost one-half of the state is woodlands. Many of these forests are in mountain areas.  Lumber, used for building and paper manufacturing, is an important natural resource.

Many minerals are found in New York.  Among these are talc, salt, gypsum, and garnet.  Sand, gravel, and clay are also found in the soil. 

New Yorkers enjoy the beauty their state offers.  They would agree that it is a wonderful place to explore.



community:  community:  a place where people live and work together.  It may be several neighborhoods, a village, or a town.


environment:  the land, water, air, and living things that surround us


physical features:  natural things such as the weather, land, water, plants, and animals


equator:  an imaginary line around the exact center of the earth separating the Northern and Southern Hemispheres


Northern Hemisphere:  the half of the earth north of the equator


Western Hemisphere:  the half of the earth that contains North and South America


elevation:  the height of the land above sea level, which is 0 feet in elevation


harbor:  a protected place in a large body of water where ships can safely stay away from high waves and winds


natural resources:  things found in nature that are useful to people; for example minerals, trees, and water


climate the average weather of an area over a long period of  time


mineral: a natural substance found in the earth.  It is neither plant nor animal.  Salt and diamonds are examples of minerals.


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