North Carolina is a state in the southeastern region of the United States. The state borders South Carolina and Georgia to the south, Tennessee to the west, Virginia to the north, and the Atlantic Ocean to the east. North Carolina is the 28th most extensive and the 9th most populous of the U.S. states. The state is divided into 100 counties. The capital is Raleigh. The most populous municipality is Charlotte, which is the third largest banking center in the United States after New York City and San Francisco.
North Carolina is bordered by South Carolina on the south, Georgia on the southwest, Tennessee on the west, Virginia on the north, and the Atlantic Ocean on the east. The United States Census Bureau places North Carolina in the South Atlantic division of the southern region.
North Carolina consists of three main geographic regions: the Atlantic coastal plain, occupying the eastern portion of the state; the central Piedmont region, and the Mountain region in the west, which is part of the Appalachian Mountains. The coastal plain consists of more specifically-defined areas known as the Outer Banks, a string of sandy, narrow barrier islands separated from the mainland by sounds or inlets, including Albemarle Sound and Pamlico Sound, the tidewater region, the native home of the venus flytrap, and the inner coastal plain, where longleaf pine trees are native.
So many ships have been lost off Cape Hatteras that the area is known as the "Graveyard of the Atlantic"; more than 1,000 ships have sunk in these waters since records began in 1526. The most famous of these is the Queen Anne's Revenge (flagship of the pirate Blackbeard), which went aground in Beaufort Inlet in 1718.
The coastal plain transitions to the Piedmont region along the Atlantic Seaboard fall line, the elevation at which waterfalls first appear on streams and rivers. The Piedmont region of central North Carolina is the state's most populous region, containing the six largest cities in the state by population. It consists of gently rolling countryside frequently broken by hills or low mountain ridges. Small, isolated, and deeply eroded mountain ranges and peaks are located in the Piedmont, including the Sauratown Mountains, Pilot Mountain, the Uwharrie Mountains, Crowder's Mountain, King's Pinnacle, the Brushy Mountains, and the South Mountains. The Piedmont ranges from about 300 feet (91 m) in elevation in the east to about 1,500 feet (460 m) in the west.
The western section of the state is part of the Appalachian Mountain range. Among the subranges of the Appalachians located in the state are the Great Smoky Mountains, Blue Ridge Mountains, and Black Mountains.The Black Mountains are the highest in the eastern United States, and culminate in Mount Mitchell at 6,684 feet (2,037 m), the highest point east of the Mississippi River.
North Carolina has 17 major river basins. The five basins west of the Blue Ridge Mountains flow to the Gulf of Mexico, while the remainder flow to the Atlantic Ocean. Of the 17 basins, 11 originate within the state of North Carolina, but only four are contained entirely within the state's border – the Cape Fear, the Neuse, the White Oak, and the Tar–Pamlico basin.